June 21, 2012

The Dignity of Being Dumped.

What to Do When You Feel Demoted to the Scum on The Bottom of His Shoe.

So here’s the humiliating truth: I was just dumped.

I can’t even hate him because he did it so kindly and with such maturity—which is the reason, of course, why our parting is not mutual. I still love the dude.

Take my advice: Don’t ever get into a relationship with a mature man. Seriously. It will strip you of every pettiness, take away every excuse to vent your feelings, rob you of that fleeting thrill of being right and snuff out the glow of getting to be ever-so-slightly superior.

Loving a mature man forces you to become mature as well, if only because the alternative is to be exposed as a total ass.

Unfortunately, this all happens at the precise moment that you feel least able to act maturely—in fact, it necessarily happens when you are at your most vulnerable. It’s like standing there with your pants around your ankles, offering your soft, little throbbing heart in outstretched, cupped hands saying, “Here, this is for you…” as you watch him walk away.

Why, you may ask, does it absolutely and predictably have to suck at that particular moment? Because that’s what being dumped is: it is you wanting him (or, at the very least, wanting him to want you) and him saying the equivalent of “It’s been nice knowin’ ya.”

There are three possible responses to this situation, all of which are equally unappealing.

One, you can lie: “Yeah, I know, at least we tried it. You’re wonderful but I have to agree that it wouldn’t have worked out. See you around.”

Two, you can blame: “Wow, so you’re just like the rest of them after all, scared of commitment. Really, I thought you were better than this.”

Three, you can grovel. (I trust that this one needs no explanation).

Each being equally transparent and pathetic, the real dilemma is this: Do I act in one of these juvenile and humiliating ways, or do I take the hit? Do I actually just feel the burn of being open, offered and rejected in front of the very person who just caused it? Whoa.

The dictionary definition of “pathetic” is, “arousing pity, especially through vulnerability or sadness.” And yet “pity” simply means, “the feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.”

So really, being dumped just means that you are a vulnerable being for whom others feel compassion because of your suffering and misfortune. When put that way, it doesn’t sound so bad.

But it is bad. It’s very bad. I know what bad feels like, and being pitied and pathetic tops the charts.

So why should it be so hard that my former sweetheart feels compassion for my sorrow and vulnerability (and as I look into those beautiful eyes, it seems he certainly does)?

I can tell you why it’s so hard—because I don’t.

I don’t feel compassion for this sweet, open-hearted, emotionally naked woman who was just dumped. I feel flawed, exposed, unlovable and yes, dumped. I feel like my lover and I both just disrobed for the first time, entranced by the thrill of our immanent love-making, and he took one look and said, “Ewwwww!”

But he’s not saying that about me. I am. What friend would say, “Whoa, you were dumped? You must be a piece of dirt under someone’s finger nails.” No one—except one’s own mind—would have the gall to say something like that.

Being dumped puts us face to face with every fear we have that we are not good enough, strong enough, beautiful enough, successful enough—usually going back to when we were about two years old and someone scowled at us, or worse. It flushes every insecurity, real or imagined, to the surface.

Being dumped doesn’t feel dignified at all. But it is.

Being dumped just means that we stayed in and stayed strong. We trotted our hearts out there and let them stand, without requiring validation. As we squirmed—not knowing if we would be met or not—we didn’t retreat.

Maybe I am not the woman for him, but I did not lie about who I am or the affection that I feel. Somewhere there must be a great theme song playing in the background as I stood there, proclaiming my true love, even as he gently and sweetly declined it. John Cusack in Say Anything, with his boom box over his head serenading his unrequited lover, comes to mind.

Okay, that may be a bit dramatic, but you get the idea. How could it be shameful to love? Why would we make it mean something objectionable about ourselves simply because the object of our affection does not match our adoration?

The alternatives to standing firm in the face of unrequited love—lying, blaming or groveling—may indeed be disgraceful. But a full heart loving what it loves, even in the absence of being met—well, that may be the very definition of dignity.



Editor: Cassandra Smith

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