Miss Information

My girlfriend moved out of state. If I want to break up with her, do I have to go see her in person?

By Cait Robinson

Have a question? Email missinfo@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.

Dear Miss Info,

I discovered a few years ago that I loved writing and publishing. I published true stories in some major magazines, websites, and newspapers. My teachers told me to write about my passions, and those happen to be sex, boys, dating, relationships, feminism, figuring myself out, and overall having strong opinions. I'm fearing all of this makes me two things: 1. unhireable (I am currently "between jobs"), and 2. undateable. More to the second point, since this is your expertise: I've noticed that I don't give boys I like my real name anymore because I don't want them to read all about my last five relationships and how the last one cheated on me. But I can't stop writing about and publishing my love life — not just on my "blog", which is also my resume website with other published articles and gives my real name. So what's an oversharer to do? Should I change my website into a pseudonym and publish everything personal under this fake name from now on? Or will society change and accept an oversharer? So far, I've been dumped once for blogging (and I thought I'd hidden it all from him). — Over It

Dear Over It,

Your quandary is a pertinent one — thanks to Google, anyone with a distinctive name and/or email address is kind of screwed. And that's all of us: you, me, our commenters, Boring Cousin Marie, the Pope. I just did a quick, minorly panicked search for "Cait Robinson Jell-o wrestling." It linked to two of my Nerve entries, a site called Download Indonesia, and the MySpace profile of some twenty-one-year-old who enjoys "skankin' to the beat." So much for my dream of being a Wall Street tycoon.

But to the point: how to keep your work from influencing your life? I thought relevant experience would bolster my advice, so I asked my friend Victoria, who writes a sex blog under the moniker "The Anti-Cougar." She's in her forties; lives in LA; is an established and hardworking costume designer, mainly for commercials; and has two grounded and cool adult sons. (I can vouch for the last point personally.) Here's what she had to say about her decision to obscure her identity:

I originally chose not to reveal my true identity on the blog for professional reasons. As much as I'd like to have done shameless self-promotion, posted on my Facebook, sent mass-email blasts (because let's face it, who doesn't want a zillion hits a day?), I figured I didn't need producers and directors I work with in my real life knowing that just hours before our presentation meeting I'd blown some hot guy in the front seat of his BMW. That and, oh right, I am a mother of a couple of pretty well adjusted young men, and they probably don't want to know those kind of details either.

So she's aware of boundaries and adjusts accordingly. She's got a few years on you, Over It, so I'd heed her advice. Along these lines, I don't think it's a great idea to delve into your sex life on your website, with links to your published works. Would you want a potential employer to know that your boyfriend just did a body shot off of an NYU student, setting off a drunken slap-fight in the parking lot? That a dude you met at Barcade had a way bigger dick than last night's dude from Cheap Shots? That you dumped all your ex's clothes out his window while he was in the shower and lit them on fire, so help you God, he will feel regret rain down upon his head like a thousand fiery suns? Save those confessions for a forum other than a website launched to get you jobs.

It's unfortunate and telling that you don't give your real name to boys you like, though. This implies that your virtual life is starting to negatively affect your actual one, and it seems like a definite vote in the "Separation of Church and State" column. I also want to point out and underline this: you can do whatever you want with your own identity, but you should be going the extra mile to obscure the identities of the people you're writing about. No one deserves to find torrid details of their personal lives spashed across the internet, just because they happened to get naked around someone with strong opinions and easy access to blogging software.

But, as you said, you've gotten dumped at least once by somone from whom "you thought you had hidden everything." Maybe hiding requires more nuance. Back to Victoria:

…The act of not revealing my identity is dishonest somehow. I dealt with it by telling those nearest and dearest to me — i.e. my kids, my friends, ex-husbands, selective men du jour — so a) they would not hear about it through other sources and be flabbergasted by my antics, b) they could choose to read or not read [when it comes to kids and ex-husbands, they tend to take door number two], or c) — which mostly pertains to the men du jour — what man wouldn't want to read about his own cock?

What Victoria proposes here is a great idea: you might call it "ethical fiction." Even if you decide to go the pen-name route, you still owe it to those you love — or those you could potentially love — to come clean. They will likely love you regardless, even if they scrunch their nose and decide never to read. ("Thanks for the tuition money that taught me these writing skills, Mom and Dad!")

In summary, Over It, you've got a few options. Either way, it's going to take a mixture of fiction and honesty. If you're going to keep on doing what you do, you should take extra steps to hide identifying details of your partners and yourself online, but be up-front with important people in the tangible world. If you choose not to hide your identity, then you should be very clear about who you are and what you do. Some guys may be into that. (See: "What man wouldn't want to read about his own cock?")

Tell your dates, "So, I'm a sex writer. Lucky you!" and see where that gets you. It's better that they hear it from you than find out on a routine self-Google.

Dear Miss Information,

A few months ago, my girlfriend moved to another state for work. While our relationship was good when she left and we made a commitment to keep it together, it's not looking so hot now. We talk on the phone every day and see each other once a month, but we seem to be losing the connection that we used to have. I generally initiate breakups in person, but I'm conflicted over paying to fly to her and do it (I'm in grad school and on a really tight budget). Would there be a good way to do the deed over the phone or email? She is an awesome lady and I don't want her to think that our relationship didn't mean anything to me, but scraping together the money to do it right just looks too expensive for me. — Long Distance Breakup

Dear Long Distance,

I admire your wanting to do the right thing here. There's a "chivalry isn't dead" twinge to your insistence on breaking up with your girlfriend in a way that preserves her dignity and yours. Though I agree that, in general, break-ups are best done face-to-face, distance changes the rules. After she picks you up at the airport and you word-vomit "Idon'tloveyouanymore!", what do you do with the other forty-seven hours? And imagine how it would feel for her: she would be so excited about seeing you, and then those hopes would be dashed against the sharp cliffs of reality, like how otters bang oysters against rocks to break and eat them. (That image may or may not mean anything to you. I just watched Animal Planet, okay?)

In short, Long Distance, you're off the hook for visiting. And as tempting as email is, I'd rule it out. It's too one-sided, too detached; if you can't look into her eyes while breaking your relationship off, the least you can do is listen to her if she has anything to say. Screw up your courage and call her, and then break things off switfly, decisively, and kindly. It will suck, but she's no mollusk; she can handle a few blows.

Commentarium (20 Comments)

Nov 29 10 - 9:17am
Amber Lamps

@Overit: You're a narcissist if you believe anyone gives a shit. And you're an exhibitionist. No problem in that. But as Steve Langford says - Who gives a shit, who gives a fuck.
@LDB: Its over. You know it. She knows it. Do it over the phone and allow her to rationalize the deep dicking she's been getting. No harm, no foul.

Nov 29 10 - 10:34am

Over It, what kinds of jobs are you applying for? If they're writing jobs, then the sex-related articles are relevant and should be cited, but hopefully you have some other kinds of writing as well, so they know you're not just all about sex, sex, sex. If you're trying to get a professional business-type job, then yeah, don't go out of your way to point those out. If your blog is full of things a hiring manager would admire, such as a writer's insight on recent public events, it's OK to be on the same site that you reference on your resume. If it's stuff like, "OMG, I just blew my boyfriend driving 80 mph with headlights off on the wrong side of the Interstate last night!", keep that kind of blog separate and less related to your real name. As for lovers, well, anyone who dates a creative writer of any sort should know that he/she is going to be written about in some form eventually, so be candid up front, but like Cait said, keep their true identities secret in your writings. Clever nicknames are more interesting, anyway. (Says a commenter who still uses "JCF".)

Nov 29 10 - 11:14am

Hey, Long Distance - Skype or video chat!

Nov 29 10 - 12:53pm

over it, use a fake name in your writing about sex and stuff. isn't that obvious? i'm guessing an employer is interested in published pieces, not late night rants about dick size, getting dumped, etc. you're going to feel bad about not oversharing with your potential employer? that's just weird at worst and irrelevant at best. if you get hired, your employer will judge you on your work; your personal stuff might come out in time but really who cares??? keep your personal stuff personal, and your professional stuff professional. take a hint from erica jong who seemingly wrote about her sex life through her characters but she gave them different names. the only difference would be if you're hired as a sex columnist in which case you would actually use your real name. probably.

Nov 29 10 - 2:10pm

One possibility you didn't consider, Cait, is him going to see his girlfriend, spending the entire weekend acting as though everything is OK, then breaking up with her right before he leaves to go home. It avoids the oyster-smashing initial letdown, but...man, how low is it to string someone along like that? But LDB seems too chivalrous to consider that (if he's already worried about stringing her along).

Nov 29 10 - 2:19pm

Hey Amber: we narcissists have problems too. Sometimes those problems relate to how our narcissism is justified--you are forgetting that Over It has already experienced a writing-related romantic dust-up.

Nov 29 10 - 6:05pm

Phone call break up. If she is really upset and can't abide the thought that you are doing it over the phone, offer to fly out to discuss why you are breaking up, with the understanding that you will not change your mind and it would be for her benefit only. In my experience, a lot of times when a person says "can you believe that she broke up with me by _______ " really just means "can you believe she broke up with me?!" It is sometimes nice to have something you can point to and say that you could have dealt with the heartbreak if only they had done it in person / not dumped you on your birthday / not done it only six weeks after Mittens, your beloved cat died / etc. I know from personal experience that it helps to get over the break up when I can point to one insensitive thing they did that everyone can agree was nasty. To the OverRevealer: I like artistic expression, but if my current or ex boyfriend revealed to millions of people that I was bad in bed or clingy or something, I would feel justified in feeling furious. You need to accept that people won't want to trust you with the intimate details of their life if you feel compelled to share those with your readers. It doesn't seem fair unless they know exactly what they're getting into. You'd want a heads up if someone filmed you having sex with them, so give your guys the same courtesy.

Nov 29 10 - 7:19pm

Some people really manage to smoothly overshare without discrediting themselves. Like, they don't believe their actions are bad, and those beliefs are compelling to others, who get used to it. This sometimes can only work socially, because professionally there are rigid standards that would take a lot of work to change. I agree with Info's advice on the ethical fiction thing. Use a pseudonym but tell your near and dear. This way it's not tied to your professional life but it's not a secret.

Nov 29 10 - 7:39pm

Um, am I the only one who found the first question boring and self-absorbed and just skipped to the second one?

Nov 29 10 - 9:07pm

To Oversharer: Your list of passions portrays you in a very stereotypical, annoying-girl-in-my-class-who-won't-shut-up-about-herself kind of way. ("sex, boys, dating, relationships, feminism, figuring myself out, and having strong opinions") Sheesh, I really hope that's not all you care about. What about music, or manatees?

Nov 29 10 - 10:21pm

"It will suck, but she's no mollusk; she can handle a few blows."


Erin will be missed, but you seem to be hitting your stride nicely.

Nov 30 10 - 6:23pm
Hooray ms!

@ms: For freaking real. I saw that self-description by Over It and thought, "Really? Wow. You... need a life. And a personality." There is so much more to the world than sex, boys, and dating. How on earth can you figure yourself out when you never allow yourself to be on your own? How on earth can you have strong opinions about anything if the only thing you are passionate about or invest time in is sex? Feminism is so much more than just a synonym for "sexually aggressive woman". Maybe you *should* be undateable for a while so you can truly discover yourself--and the rest of the world outside of yourself, for that matter.

Dec 02 10 - 2:08pm

Oh, I think we should give Over It the benefit of the doubt! I mean, she's not writing in about her troubles with her aritcles about music or volunteer work...they're sex articles. The pertinant information in the "about me" would *include* sex, boys, dating, relationships, etc. She also includes feminism. I'm sure that most of us posting can include those interests--among others--in our self-descriptions as well. Hard to judge a person by a short advice-requesting email.

Dec 02 10 - 2:22pm

I don't know if LDB needs to break it off really. He says he's not feeling as connected as they once were. Perhaps she feels the same way. I think if I were him and interested in salvaging the relationship I'd look for options other than breaking it off. Perhaps a frank discussion starting with, "I feel like we're drifting apart, our relationship isn't as connected as it used to be. Do you feel the same way?" Maybe she'll say "Yes, I do. Let's end it." and then it can be mutual or maybe she's feeling the same way and you guys can figure out something else to do to reconnect.

Dec 03 10 - 4:35pm

I'm with girlJ. Except that I think the video call is a better choice than traveling. It d doesn't set the same expectations that a physical visit would. Breaking up on arrival is a buzz kill; breaking up on departure makes the whole visit precarious. Skype is savvy, thrifty, and allows for the eye contact she obviously deserves.

Dec 05 10 - 2:55am

I love breaking up via email. Do it everytime. You get to say what you would say in person, but w/ less ummm, ummm.... and really... there's no good way to tell someone to go away. Why try. If you're sure, send the email... and then decline the "yeah but can I see you one more time so I can yell at you" request. I don't do those anymore either.

Dec 05 10 - 3:56am

Over It, you make it sound as if you're sacrificing a personal life for your "art". Telling the world about your relationships and sex life can be cathartic. When it becomes all you can do, you've crossed the border into the land where loco and self-important hang out. I know I wouldn't want to be the next contestant on your little game show you call a blog. The fact that you have had some articles published doesn't make you a writer. The fact that you (by your own admission) uncontrollably pour your own personal diarrhea out for all the internet to see if they so desire, doesn't make you "real", an "artist", or really anything desirable. As an employee or a mate. Constantly giving your "spin" on occurrences tends to bleed over into other aspects of life and communication. And generally it's fairly unattractive.
Good luck with that.

Dec 06 10 - 10:22pm

Ah! I just saw this post. I am a schoolteacher! hahahahaha. yes. really. Also, it's not just sex but politics, religion, opinions that I write about and use my real name. And guess what? Established places like the New York Times don't let you use a pseudonym. And guess what again? NYT pays like $100 a year not enough to pay my annual bills. So, I am back to schoolteaching and attempting to be the next Fran Leibowitz until I get fired again:( When I can I will def use a pseudonym. Thanks Cait!

Aug 25 11 - 12:33pm

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog