Ranking My Five Favorite Break Ups

I love a good break up–some would argue that it’s better than the relationship itself because you can choose a great song that goes with it. Also, the “some” that would argue that are the same freak shows that pretend their lives are a television show. If I could insert the “white girl with hand raised emoji,” I would insert it here because it’s appropriate. Anyway, there’s two kinds of people in the world: people who found love pretty much right out of high school and/or college and then stayed with that person, and they’re currently sending you *handmade* wedding invitations on cardstock that resembles wood or ornate lace. And then there’s people like us–people who fight the good fight. People who understand what it means to download Tinder, delete Tinder, redownload Tinder, erase your profile, and then, like, totally swear it’s the last time. I salute you, you brave soldiers.

But with each Tinder date and awkward set up and person you are pretty sure was way nicer when you hung out at the bar, there’s a parting of ways. Sometimes you have to just cut your losses and move on, and too many times, it’s not pretty. Eventually you hope that you get it right, and then you don’t have to do the break up stuff anymore, but in the meantime, you can take a moment to reflect on what happened–and there’s really no better way to do that than to put them all in a list and flesh it out. For posterity, and because I like to tell a good story, a break up constitutes someone that I consistently dated for upwards of two months. I will not list any names because I’m not an asshole and that’s how karma comes back and ruins your life later. I will, however, assign a song to each scenario, and then like an ancient Chinese tradition, release it into the sky with a candle inside.

5. My Living Room, March 2007

My first technical relationship was in high school, I guess. We did things like drive to Sonic and make out on my trampoline in the back yard. It was like a Bob Seger song, honestly. Anyway, the majority of our relationship was comprised of arguing because that’s how high school relationships work. We’d argue and then we’d make out for a while. But mostly we’d argue. One time we argued on my back porch, and I wanted to be romantic, so I went in for a quick kiss, but my dad built the back porch with untreated lumber that warped, and I tripped on a piece and head butted her in the chin.

But despite the odds, we lasted for four months. We were watching country music videos over the phone together, as those who are in love often do, and I saw Kenny Chesney come on the screen. I was planning on auditioning for American Idol that summer because life is short and being a commoner is boring. And as Kenny Chesney sang a song about girls in bikinis and boys in summer, I said, “Kenny (because we’re on a first name basis) is from Knoxville, too. What if I were the next Kenny Chesney?” and she said, “Justin, be serious.” And even at 16, it was this huge moment when I realized that you should date people who are nice to you. I broke up with her on the phone immediately.

Song Playing if this Were on a Television Show: Anything But Mine- Kenny Chesney

4. Post Office, February 2010

Not many people can say they were broken up with in a post office, which is kind of like… an accomplishment. It was super subtle though. Super chill. We had dated for a grand total of maybe a year, but that was dragged across the span of two. By the time it was called off, we were pretty exhausted. But the whole thing didn’t come to a close until I received a letter at the post office. Maybe the most eloquent, harshly written letter that I’ve ever read.

In retrospect, this is probably the best break up I’ve had, and the one most likely to be Emmy-bait if ever recreated for a television format. The grounds for the break up were listed in a four page letter telling me both how wonderful I was and how awful I’d become. It was true because I was 19 and it’s scientifically proven that all 19 year old men are 100% awful. It helped me become better and come to accept a lot about myself. And it placed me in a public setting, forcing me to keep my shit together, which was appreciated.
Song Playing if this Were on a Television Show: Keep Breathing- Ingrid Michaelson

3. Archives Metro, June 2015

As soon as I walked into this situation, I knew I was going to be broken up with. I legitimately gave myself a pep talk, like I was about to walk into a boxing match, or rather, the Christina Aguilera “Fighter” music video. I scanned the area for a good spot because I wanted something to hold onto after it was all said in done. I chose a giant horse statue, because that seemed like a cool spot to choose. So we sat down next to the horse statue, and I listened to a whole spiel about how I was great (flips hair) and that it wasn’t my fault (never is), but that “feelings for an ex” kept bubbling to the surface and it was going to tear us apart.

This was definitely the most interactive break up I’ve ever had. Like, I’ve never felt more like someone wanted me to believe a break up was also my decision, which was super considerate. Usually, the breaker upper ends up usually being super self-involved and doesn’t ask for feedback. In this case, I was given ample opportunity to say things like, “I think I’m just hurt,” or “Of course we can still be friends.” However, just because you’re given the opportunity to say things like that doesn’t mean you capitalize on it, which is why I actually said things like, “I think your friendship would feel more like a consolation prize,” and “Can we just get on the metro?” I was not living my best life. Though there wasn’t any cheating, I just kept fixating on the idea that there was this other person that wasn’t me. It kept me from fixating on the fact that “feelings for my ex” is a nice way of saying, “Um, yeah, not chill with this relationship anymore bro.” We hugged at the metro, because I’m Christian. I do wish there were more dramatics though. Or snacks. A tray of pinwheels, perhaps.

Song Playing if this Were on a Television Show: River- Leon Bridges

2. Baltimore, July 2014

For all intents and purposes, the only reason this made the top 5 was because it happened on a roof. I also think this one is important because I didn’t see it coming, and I wasn’t the one to instigate the break up. It was a tricky situation because we had dated for about three or four months, but there was absolutely no signifier that we were going to officially lock it down, like, ever. It was a desperate move on my part, especially considering that we lived like an hour and a half away from one another. It was the first time that I had gotten to meet the roommates, and also the last.

We went on the apartment’s roof, and as I was being broken up with, my OCD flared up and I kept watching for the eye to close on the light up Natty Bo man advertisement that lurks over the city. It closed and opened sixteen times. I cried and we made out a couple times because at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure we maybe didn’t actually date. This break up also got bonus points because there was liquor involved, which is super nice. This break up also loses those bonus points because I realized that I drove there and had to wait an hour for that drink to pass, thus the making out. I was in a big Regina Spektor phase at the time, so I listened to the song, “Laughing With,” which has more to do with people’s dismissal of God and less to do with relationships. I don’t really get it either.

Song Playing if this Were on a Television Show: Two Birds- Regina Spektor

1. Maryville College, Outdoor Classroom, March 2012

Admittedly, I was way too into this break up. Like… way too into it. The relationship was over for like two weeks. We had broken up a few days before, but then there was this plea on a bridge of “I think we can make this work,” so then I just kind of went with it. But after two more weeks of juggling my thesis and waiting for grad school letters and dating a freshman, I had finally decided that a break up was eminent. So I set up a time for us to meet at the outdoor classroom on our campus. The night was really warm and there was a nice wind–this wasn’t a cable channel kind of break-up. The melodrama of it all was very CW.

A big driver for the whole break up was rooted in me choosing to leave for grad school–I had gotten into Tennessee, but I’d also gotten into NYU and Georgetown. I was presented with an ultimatum, which I do pretty terribly with. So of course, for flair, I opened up with, “I have to go to Georgetown.” A big burst of wind came through, as if God said, “Once more, Kirkland, with feeling.” So I did. “I can’t pass that up. And I know that you get that. You have to get that.” It was way too dramatic, but like, that’s what you do your senior year of college. I didn’t get any response, which definitely didn’t line up with the script in my head, so I just continued. Our whole relationship was based on misunderstandings and judgment, so I just kept speaking until I was done, and then I cried because with that kind of scenery, someone had to cry. We didn’t hug after because it seems overwrought by that time. I went and got Wendy’s after: a Spicy number 8, no lettuce or tomato, medium, with a Sprite. Some things never change.

Song Playing if this Were on a Television Show: The Moon is Down- Radical Face

P.S. I was super jazzed after this one because my dad brought me old discounted Valentine’s Day candy after it, which was great.

So at the end of the day, suitors and maidens… they come and go. But then you have these wonderful memories to remember and be thankful for when, hopefully, unless you’re the Emily Dickinson type, you find that person who isn’t going to make you go running for the hills. Until then, you just kind of have to roll with the punches and keep putting yourself out there–and by that, I mean conveniently swiping left and right from the confines of your apartment, because let’s be honest, you’re not going to go out and meet people in a natural setting.

What are you… an animal?


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