“I am not interested in a second date,” I said. “I don’t feel that we’re a good fit, and I don’t want to waste either of our time,”
Jen was sitting on my couch watching tv. She looked over and rolled her eyes at me.
“No. It’s nothing that you said or did. I wish you the best of luck finding the right person," I said.
I hung up the phone and met Jen’s gaze. “Was that the guy with no teeth and a hip replacement that Ally set you up with?” she asked.
“He has two teeth,” I said. “One on top and one on the bottom,”
She threw back her head and roared with laughter, the kind of laughter in which her whole body took part. She slapped one thigh, lay down on the couch and kicked her stocking feet into the air as if she were riding a bicycle. I giggled, not sure if I was laughing with or at her. Ally, who was on my balcony smoking a cigarette heard our ruckus and came to investigate.
“Kit just dumped your no teeth friend,” Jen said.
“He had teeth when I saw him two years ago,” Ally said.
“Well sweetheart, he showed up without his dentures,” Jenn said.
“How many times do I have to apologize?”
“Just promise never to set me up again,” I said.
“Why did you even call just to tell him that you don't want to see him again? What's wrong with you?” Ally asked. “I hope you didn’t say anything about his teeth,”
Why did I call Nelson to tell him that I had no interest in seeing him again? The Houdini or disappearing act is a standard break-up method that some men and women use to avoid the this is not working out discussion. I am guilty of pulling the Houdini a time or two when I was a clueless teenager. I did not think that I was doing anything wrong until as an adult, I dated a man who one day, and without warning, disappeared on me without a word at a time when I thought that we were at a good place in the relationship.
At first, worry consumed me that something may have happened to him. Was he in a fatal or serious car accident like the tragic twist in An Affair to Remember where Deborah Kerr did not show up at the Empire State building to meet Cary Grant because she had been in a horrible car accident that left her paralyzed?
My emotions changed from worry to confusion before I settled into a throbbing sense of disappointment when I realized that instead of telling me that he didn’t want to continue our relationship, he pulled a Houdini. I was devastated, not because he left, but because of the sickening way it made me feel and thought about him. He called me a few months later – he said he was emotionally unavailable and needed time to figure himself out.
“Why didn’t you just say that?” I asked.
A pregnant pause ensued as if I'd asked a most difficult question. “I didn’t want to hurt you,” he said.
“It may have hurt me, but at least I would’ve respected you,” I said.
I rejected his offer to reconnect and never spoke with him again. Much can be learned about a person in the way they handle tough situations. Can they tell the truth and do the right thing even though it may be difficult, or do they weasel their way out of making tough decisions using whatever underhanded method they can find?
This behavior is a character flaw that at this point in my life I find hard to overlook – a weakness that I can’t respect, and an ending, that I don’t know how to repair. The worst part was wasting my time worrying about someone who did not have the decency to send me a text which would have been perfectly fine. I accept all forms of break-up communication.
Whether it’s one date or eight years, teeth or no teeth – as uncomfortable as it is to break-up with someone, I won’t ever just disappear without a word. I find this the most disrespectful way to end a relationship - right up there with those who treat you badly to get you to dump them. What the fuck?
And so, through make-ups and break-ups, old lovers and new, heartbreaks and healing, destruction and rebirth, I place great value in how I end my relationships. A person whom I cared enough to fuck - with whom I laughed and cried and shared my life - and have taken the time to share a meal, deserves more than a disappearing act. I have found that nothing beats being honest with someone. They may feel hurt at first, and it may take time, but when the dust settles on the relationship, they respect you for it. This is how I have managed to remain friends with most of my exes.
“I called him because I like to end things on good terms,” I answered Ally. “The least I can do is thank him for his time and wish him well,”
She stared at me. “This good ending stuff that you've been talking about lately, are you still bruised because you think that Michael cheated on you?"
“I don't know.," I said. "It saddens me that when I think of Michael, despite all the years we spent together and the good times we had, all I think of is him as a cheater. I feel robbed of the good memories of us. You know what I mean?"I asked.
"No," she said.
Michael and I had a good relationship. We traveled a lot, was affectionate with each other, if he wanted to talk, I listened, we kissed, held hands, enjoyed many cozy evenings by the fireplace, fucked a thousand times - We fought little and compromised a lot for each other. We weren’t the happiest couple, we had issues like everyone else, but we were many lifetimes from the worst. We shared deep tenderness, love, and mutual respect. I thought we understood each other enough to trust that when or if the time came to end our chapter, we would do it respectfully. I figured that he knew me well enough to know that I would've let go gracefully.
In fact, the day we ended, I walked away with my head held high, chest out in what he called my queenly strut, in red, four-and-a-half-inch heels and never looked back. I understand that everything has its time, and season – even love. If Michael wanted to explore a new relationship, my place in his life had come to an end. It also meant that the man in my next chapter was waiting for me to start ours.
Ellen Goodman said, “There’s a trick to the 'graceful exit.' It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.”
I have long learned not to try and hold on to anyone for love when it finds a home is given freely. I find that when I try to hold on to things and people, my world shrinks into a painful little knot. And when I let go, my world expands to not only include that thing I was holding onto, but so much more because nothing that is mine can be taken from me.
"He and I didn't have to end on a sour note. There was no need for betrayal. I would've liked to keep the happy memories of us,” I told Ally.
“I’ve never had a break-up that was friendly,” Ally said. "Everyone hurts you, in the end, Kit."
I paused for a moment, wondering if that was true. I don’t think all love stories are destined for tragic endings. Painful yes, the end of anything always brings pain even when the ending is good for us. William Shakespeare said, "Parting is such sweet sorrow."
The thing about tragic endings, they infect the good memories like a computer virus corrupts and destroys valuable data. That's why endings are so important. It is seldom the beginning of a love affair that remains with a person when the love affair takes a dive.
That's why I called a man I met once, to say I will not be coming back. It may not have been his best moment - it wasn't mine, but I felt that it was still the compassionate and respectful thing to do.
“At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou