Thu, Oct 05, 2006 - Page 13 News List

Hasta la vista, baby

Dumping a partner is dirty work, but the 'Terminator' can take some of the sting out of bidding farewell

By Barbara Ellen  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Some might argue that it's not about a man dumping you, it's the way he dumps you that matters. But don't believe that — he's toast however he plays it. No woman ever giggled dreamily and said, “You should get his number — he gives great elbow.” If you dump a woman, whatever she says, however sweet she appears to be about it, she hates you — do you get that? You have rejected her, probably completely wasted her time, and you want to remain “friends”? Fine, so long as you don't mind having “friends” who would happily knit jumpers with your intestines. Besides, female dumpees are usually too busy in the aftermath of a dumping to sit down and think rationally about whether a man has been nice or not. They have to get on with the really important stuff (slashing tires, burning down houses, eventually getting arrested). It's a nightmare; there's just so much to do.

When a woman dumps a man it's a different matter, and never more so than in Germany, where these days you can call upon a company called Separation Services, run by a man nicknamed Terminator, who, for a small fee, will do your dumping for you, offering a range of services from “sensitive phone call” to “personalized house visit” (the deluxe package featuring a “detailed explanation” about why they are getting dumped). At first I thought this was dreadful — dumping is a terrible, painful thing for both parties and it should be handled with extreme sensitivity and delicacy, in the pub in front of all your friends. Then I noticed that the vast majority of clients were women, which says one of two things: women have become cowardly about doing the decent thing (ie., telling a man he's “not good enough” straight to his face), or women are finally turning the tables, fighting back — making men the Dumped Icons.

It's never pretty, but men should remember that if they dump well (kindly and with grace), it could be possible that, just a few tears and death threats later (perhaps a touch of light stalking), most women will be able to move on and rediscover the joys of single life. By contrast, dump badly (be thoughtless, even cruel) and you will be in danger of turning your ex into a Dumped Icon (DI), a cautionary tale for all women, and all hell will break loose. We have all heard the horror stories about DIs, and must accept there might be mitigating circumstances. For instance, Matt Damon dumped Minnie Driver on the Oprah show, which seems a bit mean -- but, as I don't know the full facts, I'd be the last person to judge Damon, labeling him a big-toothed cowardly weasel with all the morality of a stale croissant. Likewise, Daniel Day-Lewis dumped Isabelle Adjani by fax (“A pioneer in his field,” a man I know remarked). And Billy Bob Thornton ran off and married Angelina Jolie without even telling live-in lover Laura Dern (tricky one, this — heterosexual though I am, I might have done the same myself).

The point is, in all these situations, as with most cases, the DI was female, which is why Separation Services and Herr Terminator could turn out to be so important. First, sad but true, some people out there are cling-ons, who will never let go of a relationship however hard you try to shake them off. It's like the minute they hear the phrase ‘We need to talk’, they grow tentacles that attach themselves to you, sucking your will out of your body, and professional help may be needed to get away from people like me (er, them). Perhaps it is also true that, as Terminator says, it makes sense to have help on hand for the “endings” of relationships, just as you have dating agencies for the “beginnings.” I agree, but let's not stop there — some of us need help with the “middles” too (get someone else in to do the sex and arguing).

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