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    You say you hunger / For something you can’t name at all

    You could subtitle this one “How to Break up with a Friend of Sean’s.”

    I should start by saying that if you’re lucky enough to be with one of my friends, I don’t recommend breaking up with him. My friends are stand-up, interesting, fun guys, and (while this obviously isn’t a characteristic I screen for in establishing friendhood) they’re pretty cute, too.

    Next I should probably say that I have no interest in passing judgment on whether your reasons for breaking up are valid. Most, or at least a lot, of us go through a kind of compressed adolescence after coming out, because we didn’t spend our teenage years gradually growing into our sexuality and the all the possibilities for give-and-take with guys. My friends in their mid-20s tend to have boyfriends of around the same age, and while it’s great to see someone find the love of his life right then, it’s also perfectly natural to be restless. Not a phenomenon I’m unacquainted with.

    So, if I might kind of secretly agree with you that giving my friend the heave is ultimately all for the best, what am I about to get crabby about? Just this: That too many men seem to be looking for a relationship-ender that they don’t have to feel guilty about. They don’t want to be the bad guy. Kind of understandable, maybe, but the thing is, if you’re bent on recapturing the freedom to see what happens with that hottie across the bar who’s giving you The Look by breaking it off with someone who’s been happy with you (and to whom you gave every indication that you were happy with him), I’ve got news for you, honey: YOU. ARE. THE. BAD. GUY. Even if you can’t see any other way and you feel you’re going to lose your mind if you have to spend one more claustrophobic second in this relationship. Deal with it, and act like it.

    I’m not saying you should, like, really sink your teeth into the bad-guy role and steal all of my friend’s CDs and deface his coffee table books. Wrecking property isn’t gentlemanly, and besides, I may have been planning to borrow it later. But you have to leave out all the backing and filling that you perversely think softens the blow, particularly such knife-twists as: “I still love you” and “I never meant for this to happen” and “I can’t tell you how bad this makes me feel” and “It’s your happiness I’m interested in; you deserve someone who can give you 100%.”

    Because you know what happens then? Friend of Sean comes to Sean to unload and says, “Of course, he still loves me” and “He’s got to recognize, soon, that this is all a mistake” and “It’s so obvious how guilty he feels” and “I think he just needs time apart to figure out what I really mean to him,” and spends an hour talking about the pathetic little shards of (utterly baseless) hope he’s managed to pick out of the rubble.

    And then Sean has THE WORST time explaining why no, the relationship actually is clearly kaput, and yes, sweetie, you need to take some down time and then soldier on and look for a new boyfriend. In fact, sometimes it has to be explained every Friday night for several weeks in a row. This is inefficient. If, when breaking up with a friend of mine, you just stopped at “I’m sorry, but I need to do this, and I’ll clear out as soon as I can,” and then matched deed to word, then I would be able to proceed straight to “God, what a perfidious little bitch. Better to be rid of him sooner rather than later. You’ll do much better next time.” Not that that fixes everything, but as Miss Manners (and presumably Dad?) has been trying to tell you for eons, the faster the dumpee realizes the dumping is permanent and non-negotiable, the faster he can move on to the hottie across the bar who’s giving him The Look.

    And after all, it’s his happiness you’re interested in, right?

    3 Responses to “You say you hunger / For something you can’t name at all”

    1. Connie says:

      Only correct/debate one aspect. This is NOT unique to gays.

      Man-o-man, this is NOT unique to gays. (Especially the bit about breaking the coffee table.)

      If I had a dollar for everyone of these I’ve been through, I’d have at least $3.00.

      Here’s what I say: “I don’t want to know your reasons. I am not interested nor is it your business to make your business my business. Don’t tell me, especially since you MIGHT change your mind later, and then you’ll feel strange that you told me all this. The fact of the matter is, you don’t want to be in this relationship anymore. PERIOD. End of discussion. Say that. Have the guts to be honest with the person and yourself. I’ll back you up.”

      And if they do break the coffee table or run off with his/her CDs I end the relationship.

    2. Toby says:

      How about, “It’s not me, it’s you”, or you could send a text message saying, “Welcome to Dumpsville, population you”.

      Seriously, though, you’re right. You just have to bravely grit your teeth and say, “I don’t want to do this any more”.

      BTW – my Yahoo! account doesn’t like Japanese characters at all so how about pasting in “Take that hippy!” here?

      I hope that excel sheet got finished in time…

    3. Sean Kinsell says:


      Excel sheets never get finished in Japanese offices; they just become the jumping-off points for further Excel sheets. But お蔭様で, I filed what I was supposed to on time.

      I posted my response to your question on the post where you originally asked it; sorry about the mail character-set thing. (That happens all the time, and you’d think I’d learn to take the possibility into account.) But JIC you’re reading here already and don’t feel like chasing it, here it is:

      Okay, you were talking about “Take that, hippie!” right? Probably the closest equivalent is 「これでも食らえ!」(kore de mo kurae: which is literally more like “take this” or “eat this” or even “have a nice, hot cup of this”). That’s from a Japanese colleague who looked it up. What I came up with initially based on context was 「いい気味だな」(ii kimi da na: “serves you right, huh!”), which is an expression you hear more often but isn’t as close an equivalent. Hippies are just called ヒッピー (hippii).

      And those lines of yours? Man, I thought I was a cold SOB.


      Yeah, I know straight people have trouble with that stuff, too; they just haven’t been taking the opportunity to add third-party tedium to my life with it lately.

      What’s amazing is the way guys will bathe in all the ineffable ways their new honey delights them and be perfectly comfortable with the fact that a lot of it is non-rational and instinctive…and then in the end, when break-up time comes, they suddenly go into corporate litigator mode and feel they have to clobber their soon-to-be-ex with a watertight argument in favor of leaving, complete with Power Point slides, graphs, and affadavits from mutual acquaintances.

      And you’re right–it’s ten times worse when they come after you and try to explain it and you have to be like, “Hello?! Why is this any of my business? I’m not the one you’re dumping!”

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