Saturday, April 3, 2010

Queen of Hearts

What I'm about to confess may seem shocking, even enviable, but I'm here to argue that it's actually a burden. Here goes: I've never been dumped.

Okay, this is not entirely true. I was dumped by my very first boyfriend, Pat M—, in ninth grade. That courtship lasted approximately 11 days, during which time we saw one movie (his sister drove us), talked on the phone a few times, and never even kissed. I remember being sad for a few days afterwards. His reason for dumping me? He wanted to date my friend Jessica S— instead. I can't really blame him. While she and I shared similar attributes: we were both in Advanced Math, were thin and had brown hair—Jessica was endowed with the more ample chest. And while she and I shared the same circle of friends, she had the edge when it came to popularity. She had her pick of guys, which is probably why she and Pat never went out. Good thing too, or my misery may have extended a whole week.

Also, in college there was Hoosier Guy, who cut me loose. But he was never really my boyfriend; we never even lived in the same state. Upon reflection, I realize there wasn’t much I really liked about him; I just thought he was really good looking. Then there was Freckles, M.D., who was funny, smart, and who I liked a whole lot. But he never became a boyfriend either. We got close, were physically separated by an ocean, and then were emotionally ripped apart by the death of a friend. But that's another story, and one that's not really mine to tell.

So, maybe I am operating under a pretense of truth here. But I maintain that I've never been dumped by any of my actual boyfriends, not in the way that counts.

So what's my case for the fact that it's harder to be the dumper than the dumpee? I've thought about this a bit recently while witnessing a friend go through a difficult breakup. While never being dumped may seem like a blessing, it's really a curse. Because it means this (quite obvious) fact: you're always the one doing the dumping. You're always the bad guy. When you deliver the bad news to someone, someone you may still even love, and watch his face crumple—you know it's your doing. (Yes, I believe you must always do this in person, and have stuck by that.)

In addition to dealing with the fact that you are a horrible person, the pressure of "never" tends to build up. What if, in a larger sense, it means I'm never satisfied? Never content? This was the case made by one of my dumpees, Religious Rocker, who, as the alias implies, was super-Christian and played in a rock band. We split for the age-old reason of, “we wanted different things.” To him, my dreams of leaving my small township in the hopes of something better weren't symptomatic of self-improvement, but selfishness. He believed my problem wasn't where I lived, but the fact that I couldn't appreciate what I had. A rationale that could (conveniently!) be applied to our relationship. Needless to say, I disagreed. We parted ways. He’s now married to a nice Christian girl and continues to live in our hometown.

And though I can no longer be classified as a “nice Christian girl” myself, my other never-been-dumped fear has its roots in my churchgoing days, and the ideas that you reap what you sow, the wicked shall be punished, etc. Specifically, the hurt I've inflicted on others will come back to bite me at some point. What if missing out on all these heartbreaks means I'm building up to a big one? What if the person who I think is The One* only turns out to be the one who finally dumps me?

All of this reminds me of something I learned in Marriage & The Family—a class I took my senior year in college to earn an easy "A" and sit next to football players—but which has been surprisingly applicable to real life. In that class, I learned it's the person who has less invested in the relationship (i.e., less love, if that can be quantified) has the most power.
And while having the power is an advantage—in work, athletics, etc.—there are times when it’s not. Sometimes you’d rather be the one risking it all, taking a gamble—and love is one of those situations.

In that instance, I'd rather be the one putting all my chips on the table than the one holding all the cards.

*I'd like to come clean and say I don't actually believe in "the One." I believe there are probably quite a few people out there we could live reasonably happy lives with. In this case, I mean "the One" as the person I would consider marrying, if I were to ever want to get married.

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