The Blurt Diaries #2: A Broken Breakup

If hindsight is 20/20, I’m pretty sure that some of my former boyfriends wish it was more like 20/300. I don’t mean to diss my younger self. I’m just saying—certain experiences could stand a bit of dementia blur. From where I stand now, what happened with “Humphrey” (not his real name) is pretty darn hilarious.

X-ray of a male chest showing one broken red heart

I met Humphrey at a club in Minneapolis, shortly after a burst appendix landed me in the hospital, followed by 30 days of bed rest. So sick of lying around, I took a friend up on her offer to hit the town. I was 22, and hadn’t yet had my first alcoholic drink. (Calories. It’s a long story.) This night called for let-loose-age.

Naive girl’s dating lesson #1: Never judge a date by your drunken brain’s perception.

There I was at the Gay Nineties, watching male performers with legs and dance moves I’ll never hold a candle to, when this cute, muscular blond (think surfer dude, with a preppy haircut and dress pants) sat down beside me. When he offered to buy me a drink, I chose what seemed like the healthiest menu option—Long Island Ice Tea. (Hello. Antioxidants!) The alcoholic hodgepodge gave me a free feeling I’d never before experienced. The world appeared softer, sparklier and lighter. So did I. During an otherwise turbulent time body image-wise, I could look at my reflection in a bathroom mirror and think, “Damn! I look HOT!”

The next day, Humphrey called, thanking me for the wonderful time. Though I couldn’t recall many details of our shared time, I’d retained that sense of wonder. I also mistook it, as Humphrey did, for falling-in-love type chemistry. On our first official date, we sat across the table from each other at a restaurant, me talking, Humphrey listening. The quieter he was, the more gregarious I became, and vice versa; I suppose I felt the need to fill the air, or balance things out. Once the alcohol started flowing, Humphrey spoke up and my boredom dissipated. (Welcome back, wonder!)

Every date with Humphrey played out similarly. And soon, signs of our incompatibility cropped up like a weed-plague overtaking a rose garden. He was an accountant; I was a psych. major/artist not-otherwise-specified. He envisioned marriage and children; I dreamed of backpacking through India and starting non-profits. He loved steak; I preferred legumes. He was a night owl; I preferred dawn. When we had sex, it was as though we were in separate rooms, trying to make love to a person we couldn’t find. Alcohol was our only mutual path to “enjoyment.”

After a Valentine’s date gone wrong, I knew it was time to part ways. So I did the logical thing. I wrote him a breakup song.

The next night I arrived at his place, clutching my guitar, feeling brave yet tender. It was time, I told myself, and though breakups are never fun, we could handle this like responsible adults—move on and chalk our time together up to shared learning experiences. Surely he felt our dissymmetry, too.

With perspiring hands, I plucked the strings on my guitar and chirped my “Dear John” letter-like lyrics, avoiding eye contact. I’d envisioned him holding me afterward, saying “thank you” and that he understood. Perhaps we’d shed a few tears then share one last kiss, knowing we’d closed the book on a story that should’ve ended at the preface.

I strummed my last chord then looked up at Humphrey. He was…smiling, and blushing. And silent. He finally broke the quiet, saying something about being speechless. I was right about the thanking and holding me bit. And our last kiss was probably our best.

Presuming that there was nothing more to say, I left, feeling relieved. The following night I performed with Propinquity, a folk-rock band I was part of during high school and sporadically after. I stood up on stage and introduced my new number, Came and Went (I still can’t believe I failed to recognize that awkward pun…). “I also call it the ‘breakup song,’ because that’s what it is,” I explained. I heard a “huh?” type sound from somewhere in the audience, then watched in horror as Humphrey stood up, his jaw slightly ajar.

Mid-performance I realized what had happened. After the show, it was confirmed. Humphrey had no idea that I’d intended the song as our breakup. He thought we were still together. (Youch, I know.)

When my own hindsight kicked in, I looked back and saw countless additional flaws in our partnership, some of which reduced the guilt I felt over the not-quite-obvious-enough breakup. Of course, those flaws weren’t fully clear to me until I wrote them into a song.

What’s the wackiest breakup you’ve been through? What lesson did your younger dating self teach you? What’s your take on breakup songs? (I may have matured, but I still see the value. ;)) Share away. I love hearing from y’all. Oh, and in case you missed it, the Blurt Diaries is a series in which I let my blurty mouth and fingers go wild.