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November 11, 1996

Copyright 1996 - Greg Bulmash - All Rights Reserved

I've talked about dating, both online and off, in my column, but I really haven't talked much about break-ups. And I should, because with cyber-romance, the cyber-dump can't be far behind.

As I've always said about e-mail, you've got a captive audience. You just write whatever you want and they can't interrupt you. You don't have to look at their lower lip quiver or listen to them say "but... but... why?"

Essentially, it's like breaking up with someone's answering machine. "Sorry, it's not working out. It's not you, it's me. Yadda yadda yadda. [beeep]" Then you just kill-file them and any reply they send is automatically deleted. It's over. It's the no muss, no fuss break-up.

And the romantic aspect of it is really dwindling. What if Rick and Ilsa had been cyber-lovers in Casablanca? "If you don't get on that plane, you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."... "But what about us?"... "We'll always have the latex, nipple ring, and endangered waterfowl chat room."

But with kill-files, unilateral break-ups, and the rest, the thing that most people miss is the sense of closure. The person is 2,000 miles away. It's not like you can force them to deal with you, to listen to you tell them what an absolute piece of **** they are. You're just stuck holding the virtual ball with nowhere to throw it.

Some might think of resorting to revenge; forging their ex's name on a "Damn All You Perverts To Hell" post and spamming it to all the and alt.binaries newsgroups. But that's not the answer. Nor is the answer found in using morphing software to combine their face with a picture of the devil and posting it on your web site; "Here's a picture of me, here's a picture of my cat, and here's a picture of my ex... Diana 'Satan' Ulbiquitulo. Click here for a catalog of all her lies. Click here to read her most embarrassing secret. Click here to send her a note telling her that she's a bitch."

But, then again, we have to realize that though our feelings might have been real, none of what we did was. "I typed things with you that I've never typed with anyone before" is a very weak recrimination. It's not like you wore her underwear and let her beat you with a tranquilized possum. You just said you did. In fact, you weren't tied to a four-poster bed somewhere in the Italian Alps. You were sitting at a computer desk you bought at Ikea, wearing a pair of boxer shorts, and nibbling on Orville Reddenbacher's low-fat microwave popcorn. And remember, if you never met her, you can only assume that she was actually a woman in the first place.

But all these reassuring words mean nothing to the cyber-dumpee when they're down. They want some solid advice, some way to stop the hurt. Sorry. That's where it crosses over into the real world, and you deal with it like any real-world relationship that's ended unhappily. You pull out that long version of "Nights In White Satin" (or in my case, a Level 42 album), set the CD player on repeat, and let the music play until the pain's not as sharp. And then... you let it play some more.

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