Sex

Ex Marks a Spot

The Faulty Wisdom of Broken Hearts

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Featuring essays and fiction from contributors as varied as talk show satirist Stephen Colbert, former US senator and consort to Linda Ronstadt and Debra Winger Bob Kerrey, and "black humor" author Bruce Jay Friedman, Things I've Learned from Women Who've Dumped Me seeks to find ponies in mountains of emotional manure. Edited by Ben Karlin, a former editor of The Onion who also worked on The Daily Show and co-created The Colbert Report, the anthology is "about that salient something men take away from failed relationships."

Unfortunately, based on the preponderance of the evidence presented here, that salient something amounts to little more than frat-boy-level chuckles about unrequited middle-school crushes, frustrating games of telephone tag in the pre-cell days, how "dirty girls make bad friends" (to quote the title of one contribution), and the realization that even boys who grew up wearing "husky" jeans can at least occasionally get the girl.

Of course, you don't go into a book with a foreword by the editor's mother ("My son is a real catch and shame on any girl who's ever thought otherwise") expecting Saul Bellow's More Die of Heartbreak (which hypothesized that love gone wrong killed more people than all the wars and famines in human history). But the collection's persistent glibness—don't inadvertently involve your pets in autoerotic activity, counsels one section—doesn't just undercut the occasionally funny lines, it helps explain why these guys might have dumped in the first place.

That most of them, including the popular novelist Nick Hornby, who contributes an introduction, seem to be ensconced in happy relationships trowels on an extra layer of smugness that is every bit as off-putting as passing gas during intercourse.

There are memorable pieces, to be sure. Kerrey's account of a secret crush he never met and who died in a plane crash is haunting and artfully intertwined with the tale of an octogenarian friend who reconnected with an early love late in life. Marcellus Hall's comic strip, "The Sorrows of Young Walter: Or the Lessons of a Cyclical Heart," is wry in its transparently phony insistence that "every heartache was unsolicited." Advice columnist Dan Savage's memory of the older woman who initiated him into sex—and unintentionally convinced him he was gay—is funny, raunchy, embarrassing, honest and moving in the way the best relationships are.

Alas, those pieces—and a couple more—are few and far between. Which means this collection, like the amorous relationships it describes, fails far more often than it succeeds. It's not clear there's much of a lesson in getting dumped, though one of editor Karlin's insights is well worth remembering: "Everybody gets crushed. For the lucky ones it only happens once."

Nick Gillespie is editor of Reason.tv This story originally appeared in The New York Post.

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  1. “Everybody gets crushed. For the lucky ones it only happens once.”

    What the hell is that suppose to mean? Dan Savage is a good read, if you don’t read him too much. I use to read “Savage Love” every week. Then after a year or so, I realized Dan was just as big an asshole as any redneck homophobe.

  2. Aww goddamnit. There’s suppose to be a break between the first sentence and the rest of that post.

  3. Dude — Linda Ronstadt dated Jerry Brown, Winger hung out with Kerrey. Don’t you read People magazine?!!

  4. Dude — Linda Ronstadt dated Jerry Brown, Winger hung out with Kerrey. Don’t you read People magazine?!!

    If I kept up with that kind of stuff, I wouldn’t let anybody else know.

  5. I read People magazine the other day while waiting on a haircut. I was struck by the observation that I had no earthly idea who half of the people they mentioned were. Maybe I should get out more, or watch more TV, or something.

  6. …as off-putting as passing gas during intercourse.

    Did anybody else think that this imagery was a little over-the-top for this time of day, this late in the week?

  7. Hey J sub D — I wasn’t always a libertarian geek. I still have miles of catching up to do with regard to D&D, Star Trek, Star Wars, and those odd British comedies that are oh so droll and quotable for the 5 people who’ve seen them. Besides, if Gillespie wants to use cultural references he ought not trust his memory.

  8. “Then after a year or so, I realized Dan was just as big an asshole as any redneck homophobe.”

    Then I think you probably missed the point. Savage doesn’t promote legislation that would on balance reduce the number of personal liberties one might have. Any redneck homophobe…well did you see the way so many of them tended to run to the polls when the whole “dudes kissin dudes” thing came up? Did you see how that woke them up? I don’t think the equivalency thing works here.

  9. Didn’t get much from this little essay, except that “Emotional Manure” is a great name for a band.

  10. Maybe I’m just pissed that Gillespie blew the chance for a pun – he could have phrased it Linda Ronstadt consort.

  11. Kerrey’s account of a secret crush he never met and who died in a plane crash is haunting

    That reminds me of this song by a familiar face

    I learned a lot from my previous relationships. “Avoid relationships” would be one of them.

  12. I learned a lot from my previous relationships. “Avoid relationships” would be one of them.

    Wow. And the thought of dying alone with no friends or intimate companions is comforting to you how?

  13. Kerrey’s account of a secret crush he never met and who died in a plane crash is haunting.

    She probably knew he was after her and got on a doomed flight just to kill herself.

  14. I read People magazine the other day while waiting on a haircut. I was struck by the observation that I had no earthly idea who half of the people they mentioned were. Maybe I should get out more, or watch more TV, or something.

    The real world is a lot more interesting than the reel one.

  15. Savage doesn’t promote legislation that would on balance reduce the number of personal liberties one might have.

    LOL.

    Pinko, Savage was a big proponent of the Washington State smoking ban, among other things.

  16. “Then after a year or so, I realized Dan was just as big an asshole as any redneck homophobe.”

    Then I think you probably missed the point. Savage doesn’t promote legislation that would on balance reduce the number of personal liberties one might have. Any redneck homophobe…well did you see the way so many of them tended to run to the polls when the whole “dudes kissin dudes” thing came up? Did you see how that woke them up? I don’t think the equivalency thing works here.

    I don’t have any strong opinion about Dan Savage, but there is more than one way to be an asshole. Being a statist freedom-hater isn’t the only method, it’s just one of many available options. Something people like to remind libertarians of from time to time.

  17. Then after a year or so, I realized Dan was just as big an asshole as any redneck homophobe.

    But in a gay way…

  18. Something people like to remind libertarians of from time to time.

    Time to time? Shit, people remind me daily.

  19. And the thought of dying alone with no friends or intimate companions is comforting to you how?

    I’m paying hookers to watch me die. I dunno about you.

  20. And the thought of dying alone with no friends or intimate companions is comforting to you how?

    As if them watching me die is going to help the situation any.

    What emotional gobbledygook.

  21. Dan Savage used to be the only entertaining thing in the Village Voice. Since it was free, I’d get one, read Dan while taking a dump (symbolism?), and chuck it.

  22. Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me

    She’s obviosly a dyke.

  23. And the thought of dying alone with no friends or intimate companions is comforting to you how?

    Everybody dies alone. Unless you were planning on taking your friends and companions with you?

  24. Based on the title of the book I was expecting something by Ms. Coulter . . .

  25. Then I think you probably missed the point. Savage doesn’t promote legislation that would on balance reduce the number of personal liberties one might have.

    that is funny. Outside of the sex with animals columns the only thing i can remember about savage is when he harks romantic about his good ol dad beating the crap out hippies in Chicago.

    Savage is no friend of liberty.

  26. Advice columnist Dan Savage’s memory of the older woman who initiated him into sex-and unintentionally convinced him he was gay-is funny, raunchy, embarrassing, honest and moving in the way the best relationships are.

    Alas, those pieces-and a couple more-are few and far between.

    “Piece” is no way to refer to a lady, Buster.

  27. Yeah, Savage is the pits. I used to get a kick out his column similar to the one I get from watching a John Waters film. That however, eventually became redundant and I could no longer take Savage’s prickish demeanor.

  28. Kerrey’s account of a secret crush he never met and who died in a plane crash is haunting

    That reminds me of this song by a familiar face

    I thought that basic story was also an apocryphal exegesis of “Fire and Rain”.

  29. Everybody dies alone. Unless you were planning on taking your friends and companions with you?

    The point is obviously die while being alone. A life spent alone is not really one worth living in my mind. A conclusion supported by the hypocritical lifestyle of Ayn Rand (who is clearly behind some posters’ mentality here) who got all her pleasure in life from worship by others.

  30. Funny link, mk! Bravo! I know Hugh Laurie from Blackadder and House, but I had never seen or heard of that clip. Here’s that same link debugged.

    Love stinks. Yeah, yeah.

  31. I have no generalized opinion about whether relationships are good or bad for you, but I’d hope there’d be better ways to base such decisions than on how they affect the last moments (hours, days?) of your life.

    Also, I don’t think the “avoid relationships” person was talking about all friends. And how many intimate companionS do you expect to have around at your deathbed?

  32. Thanks Brian.

    Sheesh, how did I screw that one up?

  33. Back when I was 19 years old, I used to work at a fast food restaurant which involved me making an elaborate show of chopping chicken breasts and entraining the guests by spinning the knife and making corny jokes and shit. I was pretty popular there to the point in which customers would give me large tips (even though tipping wasn’t allowed) and remember me by name. One night, a girl called the restaurant asking for me by name. I picked up the phone and the girl told me that her cousin sees me in the restaurant all the time and that the cousin had a crush on me. I got her number and the next night I called her, we talked about where we were going to school, where we work, and other small talk up until the point her voice got real low and she asked me what I was wearing
    “Uh-just my sweat pants and a t-shirt”
    “No, no, no what are you wearing?
    I then caught on and realized that she was trying to initiate phone sex, which if you never done it before, it is as awkward as you think it is.
    And then it got worse…about five minuets into the thing she asked;
    “Ever have your asshole licked?”
    “I’m sorry-what?”
    “You never had your asshole licked?”
    “…No”
    She then got really excited
    “Then you have a virgin asshole…”
    “I guess…”
    “I take your pants off, and I begin to lick your asshole”
    And it went down hill from there. I would try to switch gears constantly (“and then I lick your pussy”, “then I tie you up with rope”) but not matter what I tried, it would lead to me getting flipped over and having my asshole licked. After about a half hour she yelled “hurry up, I’m almost there” and so I came, hanged up and sat in my room in silence.

    The next night, because I’m an idiot I called her again and we quickly got to phone sex again. Once again she got into licking my asshole.
    Then, after a while she paused
    “Hold on-let me put my cousin on the line”
    she handed over the phone-and a guy’s voice answered
    “Hey man, I’ve just got to say that it’s really hot what you are doing to my cousin”
    “Huh.”
    “Yeah, it’s really hot”
    “Uh-um-so you know Brittany pretty well?”
    “Yeah, we’re really close.”
    “You want me to give the phone back to Brit?”
    The rest of the session she would constantly hand the phone back to her cousin which resulted me switching back and forth between phone sex and awkward small talk until eventually I got frustrated, faked an orgasm and hanged up. For the next 2 months she would constantly text message

  34. Dear Penthouse Forum,

    I never thought that this could happen to me, but when I went to a Ron Paul rally, there was this cute little redhead who caught my eye….

    WTF, Jonathan?

  35. A conclusion supported by the hypocritical lifestyle of Ayn Rand…

    Hypocritical? GFY, man. There’s lots of criticism to throw the lady’s way, but that’s not anywhere remotely in the “intellectual” category.

  36. Holy shit, someone associated with the Daily Show is unfunny? Wow, that is a real newsflash.

  37. “And the thought of dying alone with no friends or intimate companions is comforting to you how?”

    Everybody dies alone. -Mal Reynolds

  38. Anyone who is alone with himself will forever be alone with others.

    — Jeriba Shigan, Enemy Mine

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