You gotta be cruel to be kind


For nearly a summer earlier in my 20s, I went out with a guy I met through my work. I was attracted to his sarcastic, dry sense of humor that mirrored mine, his light blue eyes  and his sandy blonde curls. Put simply, I was smitten.

It was maybe two months into the relationship when I could sense him pulling away. He didn’t text or call as much and I didn’t see him as often. At first I chalked it up to his hectic work schedule: summers were the busiest time for his job. But I think in my heart I knew what was really going on.

That didn’t stop me from pursuing him, from waiting around for his calls and texts.

One morning I sent him a text and he initially responded. Then he stopped communicating altogether. He stopped texting literally in the middle of the conversation. And, save for one work-related Facebook message months later, I never saw or heard from him again.

For a long time, I hated him for not having the courage to call and explain himself, for leaving me without any sense of closure.

Now that I’m (a whole three years) older and wiser, I still think what he did was cowardly, but I have more grace for him. Unless you’re a terrible person, dumping someone just sucks.

Especially when the person is perfectly nice and sweet and has few other faults besides not being compatible.

But there’s also a kindness to breaking up with a person, one that I hadn’t recognized until recently. It is a much kinder thing (in a dating relationship, at least)  to tell someone you’re not feeling it than to string them along for any period of time. It’s a kind thing to do for yourself, too. If you don’t stick up for what you want, no one else will do it for you.

There’s not much respect for that type of kindness. It’s easy to hate someone who can’t end a relationship gracefully, who chooses to stop responding to text messages rather than sitting down over a cup of coffee and saying how they feel.

Clearly, some ways of breaking up with someone are kinder than others. Sure, I would have much rather had a conversation. But I’ll tell you one thing, his silence sent a message. And while it may have broken my heart, I never had to wonder what he was trying to say.

And there’s something to be said for that.

So what if I want to be childless?

Women choosing not to have children has become a hot topic lately.,  Time and Slate have weighed in on the issue. Are women selfish for not wanting children? Am I, at 28, a neglecting my womanly duties by not settling down, getting married and popping out babies like the rest of those I graduated high school with?

In short, no. I’m pretty content how I am. I’m not saying that won’t change.  Maybe some day I will meet someone I actually want to have kids with.

But honestly, I don’t see what the appeal is sometimes. I’ve watched my sister and her husband become parents over the last couple years. They could give safe-sex seminars to teenagers with the stories they tell about their toddler daughters. Once they were in a restaurant when their 2-year-old soiled her pants. In my sister’s attempt to take her to a restroom to clean her up, some of the the, uh, mess, somehow made it onto the table. Before my brother-in-law could stop her, their 4-year-old daughter had it in her mouth. Forget those crying dolls they give high school students so they understand parenting, these kids need to hear that story. I’m telling you, they’ll never have sex without a condom again.

Then there are those times when I’m in the restroom at the shopping mall overhearing a mother talking to her child while she’s going to the bathroom. I understand the need to keep the child in sight at all times, but every time it happens it’s a reminder of the privacy you give up when you become a mom. It starts at the very beginning – childbirth, when a team of doctors and nurses stare at your hoo-ha waiting for the baby to appear (or at least that’s how I imagine it to happen. What do I know? I’m childless).

And honestly, I don’t understand the argument that women who don’t have children are selfish. People bring children into the world for selfish reasons all the time. I commend my friends and family who are rocking parenthood, but not everyone can. Raising children takes a lot of time, energy, love, affection and money that not everyone has.

There’s a reason the foster care system in this country has so many kids.

I have enough trouble taking care of myself and my cats.