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Honey, It's Over. Burma Shave!

Honey, It's Over. Burma Shave!

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

It's been the talk of the town around Bilgola, New South Wales, Australia. A series of romantic signs from some unnamed bloke to his girlfriend Jennifer takes a nasty turn just 40 percent of the way through the message, like some sort of emotionally-sadistic Burma Shave campaign. Five signs along the Barrenjoey Road that start out promising a lifetime of happiness but end in embarrassment.

"Jennifer/Will you marry me/Just kidding/I'm breaking up with you/You have 6 days to move out."

The signs have been taped to telephone poles along the road, which is the busiest road in Bilgola.

Of course, that's not saying much, since the population is only slightly more than 3,000. It's like being the highest point in Rhode Island (812 feet above sea level), the world's fastest turtle, or the smartest person on Jay Leno's Jay Walking. Sure you stand out, but the bar's set pretty low.

It makes me wonder who's the worst person in this relationship? Is it the unnamed boyfriend — the guy who lied to her, but hid his identity — who toyed with Jennifer's heart for a couple hundred yards, before publicly embarrassing her? Is he such a jerk who thought this would be a clever way to end a relationship?

Or did Jennifer do something so heinous that the boyfriend didn't even feel like he could talk to her about their problems, and that a public humiliation was the only way to get through to her?

This isn't the most dignified way to handle the breakup, because it doesn't leave much doubt as to who it is. On the one hand, "Jennifer" is such a common name that our Jennifer may be able to keep a little anonymity, and most people in Bilgola may not be able to figure out who the mystery woman is. On the other, bigger hand, even if half the population are women, that means there are 1,500 women in Bilgola, and only a few hundred of them would be unmarried and living with a guy. And only a very few of them would be named Jennifer.

Which probably means the newly-available Jennifer is walking around town with a big scarlet letter D on her chest (D for "dumped unceremoniously").

Personally, I feel worse for Jennifer. Because while she could be a shrew, she was a shrew in private. What the Cowardly Liar did was to not only humiliate her publicly, but he hid behind his own crudely lettered signs to do it. If you're going to be the man in the relationship, be a man when you end it. Don't cower like a child behind his mother's skirts. Step up and break up with her the right way: get your friends to do it while you're out on a date with your new girlfriend.

While the Cowardly Liar's actions may have only been seen by a few hundred Aussies, it ended up becoming international news. Because not only did this make Australian news, it appeared in the London Daily Telegraph, and now in the paper where you are reading this. So if Jennifer has a scarlet D, I'm hoping the Cowardly Liar has a bright red foot-sized target on his backside.

I have to wonder if we're going to see a trend in how breakups are handled. We're starting to see more couples breaking up by text message ("Hey, u r dumped. :-( L8r."), companies are starting to do mass layoffs by email, and my wife even knows someone who was laid off by voicemail.

(Still, we won't get into the cold-hearted cowardice of corporations who can't even take 10 minutes out of their day to have a face-to-face conversation with the person they're going to terminate. And don't tell me it's about efficiency. If you were as concerned about efficiency and the bottom line two years ago as you are at this very moment, you wouldn't have had to lay people off to begin with.)

Unfortunately, the Cowardly Liar's actions may have set a dangerous precedent. What if companies started laying off its employees this way?

"John/you're being promoted to manager/just kidding/your desk has been emptied/your stuff is in front of the office."

I'm glad that this is a new thing, and not something that has been going on for years, or even decades. I can only imagine what it might have done to history or literature.

"Scarlett/Going back to Charleston/You can come with me/Just kidding/Still don't give a damn."


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