Sometimes we even take pride in how little we know or learn. We can be a little irritating that way.
But some men, at least, have learned from their mistakes. Published in trade paperback, Things I’ve Learned from Women Who’ve Dumped Me is an anthology of essays by the likes of professional funny guys Steven Colbert and Patton Oswalt.
It collects a number of these hard-earned nuggets of wisdom, such as “Dating a stripper is a recipe for perspective.”
The more we thought about it, though, the more we realized it was in no way comprehensive. “Dirty girls make bad friends” and “I am a gay man” (by Dan Savage) are all valuable lessons. But the book’s 46 entries are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what can be learned through suffering, trauma and stomach-churning regret.
So, inspired by the book, we asked some male friends what character-builders, if any, they had taken away from their more memorable, if unpleasantly savage, breakups.
Know Your Budget
“What do you get someone who you just started going out with?” asks Michael K. “I had no idea, so I panicked and started acting like a big shot and told her we could go to the mall and I’d take her out shopping and she could get whatever she wanted.
“Being in Grade 11 and making $3.65 an hour dish-pigging (aka: doing grunt work in a restaurant kitchen), there really wasn’t much I could have bought her but I thought that was what dudes did. Much to my surprise, and later relief, she broke things off saying things were moving too fast. Don’t start dating someone who’s about to have a birthday, and don’t do dorky things like offer to take them shopping.”
It’s Not About Her
“What I learned from the time I was dumped by my first wife — when I thought I was mourning the loss of her, I was actually grieving the loss of self-esteem, the public humiliation, and the truths about myself I had to confront,” writes Adrian M. “Which took far longer to deal with than getting over someone, which is relatively easy.”
Okay, It Could Be About Her
“I was going out with this girl, and I’d gone through all these changes for her, and then she broke up with me for another guy,” says Robert D. “I couldn’t figure it out. It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t anything to do with me; she was just a possessive, jealous bitch. Not that I’m bitter.”
Everyone’s Got an Agenda
“Later that same year I dated a girl named Tonya (with an o) for a few months,” writes Michael K. “She was a bit of a rocker, which was kind of hot, and a year older than me and could drive, which I couldn’t.
A few weeks before she dumped me, she asked if I could make a copy of her friend’s Def Leppard Hysteria cassette tape for her, since I had one of those double cassette ghetto blasters. I gladly obliged. And the day after I gave her back her tapes, she dumped me. I felt used. Moral: don’t copy your girlfriend’s Def Leppard Hysteria tape out of the blue and assume things are going swimmingly.”
Pay Attention to Red Flags
After the unraveling of his 12-year marriage, and losing his wife to a cult, Eugene O. is a veritable fount of lessons learned. Besides watching for excessive alcohol/drug consumption, he looks for signs of New Age religion. “New Age shit is shit.
Carol (name changed) always looked for cures, except from professionals, because that requires confessions to people who know how to help you find your own answers. Also, every meditation group is a front for a cult. I have little doubt about this now.”
Be Careful What you Wish for
Michael K. again: “I went out with this girl for two or three years. During that time she and some girlfriends went to Australia for six months, so we decided that we would ‘take a break’ and resume things once she got back.
Apparently, she really ‘took a break’ and boinked a whole bunch of Australian guys. For some reason I thought I would be OK with this, but the more I thought about it the more of a passive-aggressive prick I became once she got back.
“I started asking her about the dudes she had been with, and then I started criticizing her family’s materialism and critiquing her mom’s goose-themed country kitchen. I was young and in college and increasingly resentful. And to no one’s surprise except mine, she rightfully dumped me. Moral: don’t agree to ‘take a break’ unless you are prepared to really ‘take a break,’ and don’t become a passive-aggressive prick and don’t take your resentful feelings out on your girlfriend’s family and their goose-themed country kitchen.”
Don’t Put Her on a Pedestal
After breaking up with a pretty Australian philosopher, Jeff O. maintained a friendship with her. Ten years later they started going out again, and this time, instead of teasing and making fun of her, the way he once did, he was worshipful.
It lasted three months. “If I’d made fun of her the way I used to do, it might have worked,” says Jeff.
No Matter how Much Time has Gone by, She can Still F*** you up
Mike S. tells the story of coming home after a long day at work, and just wanting a hot bath. However, before he can get into the tub, his common-law wife tells him that “Cindy called.” Cindy, his ex, whom he hadn’t talked to for 25 years, who had dumped him, who had been “abusive,” says Mike, “and made me feel like shit. And who I pined for, for a year.”
“So I said, ‘I don’t want to call Cindy, I just want to have a bath.’ And here’s Georgina, the woman I love, telling me to call my ex. So then I’m having a bath and the phone rings and it’s Cindy, and Georgina hands me the phone! So now I have to talk to Cindy! And it turns out she’s calling for a job reference. And then she starts criticizing me, saying things like, ‘Are you still a slob?”’
So what did he learn? “After 25 years,” says Mike, “they can still call up and ruin your night.”
By Shawn Conner