Wow. Although I have never had reason to doubt the veracity of the New York Daily News, these stories sounded a little ridiculous to me. Of course, the arson and branding incidents are a matter of public record, but the other bunny-boiler behavior sounded like urban legends. After all, who has this much time and money to devote to torturing ex-boyfriends?
Apparently, a lot of people.
As I delved deeper, however, I found tales of poison ivy in painful places, fiberglas insulation hidden where none belongs, compromising photos sent to bosses, stolen credit cards, clothes set on fire, false addresses set up, and the unauthorized release of mental health records. While some of these revenge scenarios were enacted by men, most were done by women.
I'm not going to get into the gender politics underlying the female revenge trend. Suffice to say that most of the narrators portrayed their former partners as treacherous, cheating, gold-digging, slothful, insensitive louts. In many cases, the vengeful exes seemed to feel that brutal, long-distance schemes were their only way to express their unhappiness and sense of betrayal.
Despite some resemblance in the cranial area, I am definitely not Dr. Phil. Frankly, I don't really believe that long-term, floating-on-a-cloud happiness is either possible or desirable. That having been said, it seems to me that the key to a successful breakup lies in leaving the other person with a sense of self-worth and leaving yourself with an intact skin. For this reason, honesty is the only safe and responsible policy. If you can't control your genitals, or don't want to be with a person any more, be honest about it and let your partner have his or her say. Be decent during the breakup, return your ex's items, and don't badmouth him or her to your shared circle of friends. Yes, it will hurt, yes you will be uncomfortable, and yes you will probably hear things that you don't want to hear. On the other hand, by acting like a decent human being, you will preserve your job, your health, your checkbook, and your social dignity. Frankly, that's a pretty decent trade!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. His worst breakup involved a Timex watch that took a licking and is no longer ticking. His best breakup is still a friend.