dumped: a free-love story

by: Tara Ruttenberg

when i tell people i’ve been dumped six times this year, the reactions are diverse - ranging from sorrow (oh no, sweetie, are you okay?) and scorn (nobody dumps YOU, what’s wrong with these guys? they must be total losers!) to shame (well, what are you doing wrong?) and sisterly support (at least you’re putting yourself out there, girl!). strangely, i can’t relate to any of these sentiments, and instead i almost celebrate the many times i’ve been dumped as a constant practice of love-and-let-go; validation of the free love philosophy i have been cultivating in recent years. i’ve found the lessons revealing, the love meaningful and fulfilling, the loss oftentimes heartbreakingly real. but instead of closing my heart up more and more with each successive ending, i think it’s helped open me up more to letting love in and not being scared of the inevitable pain in letting go. i would never forego the fleeting moments of eventual sadness if it meant forsaking the bliss of heartfelt connection with those i’ve loved and let go, this year and always. you never know when it will end, or how, but someday it will, and that’s okay. just because you know it will end, doesn’t mean you can’t love it while it’s there. sometimes, you love it even more. 


in High Fidelity, Rob gives us his “all-time desert-island top 5 most memorable break-ups”. in keeping with that tradition, and because everybody loves a good top 5, here are my top 5 most memorable break-ups of the year: free-love lessons from my heart to yours.  


5. the district sleeps alone


“i’d rather talk to you than sleep with you.” not exactly the words you want to hear from the adorable object of your affection while he’s buying you drinks at the bar. he thought it was a compliment. i wasn’t thrilled, but decided that was better than the alternative.


he made my trips to DC exciting and romantic, our chemistry magnetic and fiery from the start. we could talk for days.


his family’s Christian values made me seem exotic; my mind appealed to his thirst for debate, solution. i thought he lived a little too inside-the-box, a fun challenge for me to break him free from his chains of right-and-wrong and rigid sense of obligation to duty. i loved his smile, bright with innocence and wonder.


he took me to lunch for my birthday. 


he’ll be a great doctor, i remember thinking, embarrassed by my eggs florentine to his vegan ravioli as i looked at him across the table.


and an amazing father.  


he was everything i wasn’t looking for.


we walked together downtown to our separate activities; his a med school lecture, mine a book release at the US Institute of Peace.


we met later on his study break at a friend’s, pausing for a kiss hello, awkward in novelty. we planned our next sleepover – how DC of us. before he left the apartment, we looked at our reflection together in the mirror.


“couple of the year!” he said, grinning. my reflection raised her eyebrows. i had to admit, we looked good.

“couple of the week?” i wanted to slurp my words back in as they dribbled down my chin. fuck.


my reflection took an interest in the carpet.   


i saw him again at a friend’s birthday dinner; he eyeballed my steak and ate grilled portobellos. he left early to study for exams. we kissed goodnight.


there were no more sleepovers.


“i’ll give you some of my sweet Shiva nectar, baby.” i texted him some racy Hindu humor from Baltimore, my chakras glowing from a spiritual weekend of chanting meditation with the legend Baghavan Das filling my soul with mantra delight.


no response. no explanation. i didn’t need one, i guess.


weeks later i wrote him to clear the air, hoping we could manage a friendship.




now, a year later, he’s engaged to be married. i imagine she’s everything he’s been looking for.


…i bet her nectar is sweet.