Hands up if you've ever been dumped!

If the response to the opening salvo of my solo comedy show The Conscious Uncoupling* is to be believed, then the number of 'dump-ees' in the world vastly outnumbers the number of dump-ers. Maybe there are hidden heartbreakers lurking in the audience, a bit like voters who don't come out in an exit poll. Or maybe I have a self-selecting audience. Perhaps it is the people who've been on the receiving end of the fateful 'it's not you, it's me' text that truly hold onto the pain. In other words, we are the ones with the best stories. To that end, I've been gathering anecdotes from my comedy friends for a group show entitled The Breakup Monologues.

It all started last year when I decided to re-read my 'Dear John' email exactly five years to the day after receiving it. I had a note in my old diary and a black scribbled pen drawing of a broken heart. I always knew that in some way I'd want to mark this bleakest of anniversaries. The email nestled right at the bottom of my inbox... I held my breath and opened it up. After the passage of time, I felt much better about my ex-partner's missive ... Once I'd corrected her spelling, punctuation and corrected the font. We tried our best to stay friends, something that gay women have always tended to do. It was a small community and, honestly, there was nobody else to be friends with. You have to stay on good terms with your ex's ex's ex's ex. Because that is probably you. Yet, interestingly, it was once we got smartphones and our communication became more instantaneous and reactive that this became impossible.

By far the most dramatic story I received was from Abi Roberts. On suspecting her first husband of cheating, she broke into her own house with a friend to discover a briefcase full of X-rated photographs that proved her absolutely right.

Broadcaster, author and comic Maggy Whithouse says, 'The only man I really dumped became a Catholic Priest, so I was his first and last. Not sure whether that's a compliment or a terrible insult.' Meanwhile, Juliette Burton's first ever separation happened after just seventeen hours together innocently holding hands. 'I realised it didn't feel right so I split up with him the morning after he asked me out. We were twelve.'

Lauren Pattison was dumped by text on the worst of all days, February 14th. She laughs about it now, 'I'd already ordered a Chinese set meal for two. So I demolished it myself like a legend.' Valentines Day is a mini-peak on a graph I once spotted online that had been compiled of peak breakup times through the calendar year according to Facebook status updates. Contrastingly, Christmas is the only real annual lull in splitting up and deemed 'too cruel'. Before Christmas, however, is fair game. Unless you're holding out for a great present and decide to wait til a New Year's cleanup. I should've seen my own breakup coming. She got me a much nicer present that year. In the show, I joke that it was a flat... in Inverness. In actual fact, it was an expensive video camera, the classic guilt present. April Fool's Day is a particularly cruelly busy time too. How would you know if they were joking or not? 'You are joking, right...? Ohhhhhh...'

In his book Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari reveals how he uses his live shows to demonstrate how contradictory we are. He asks everyone in the audience who has happily dumped a partner by text, email or social media to clap. Cue wild applause. Yet when he asks everyone who is happy to be dumped that way to make some noise, then there is utter silence.

Pets, children and items of furniture have all featured in the stories too. Spoken word and multimedia artist Paula Varjack sent a piece about her ambivalent feelings towards 'The Desk', a remnant of her ex that, many months later, he still hasn't come to collect. Meanwhile, author and performer VG Lee told me that her former lover had been more fascinated with her Giant African land snail Bertie than with her. She didn't feel she could compete!

The Breakup Monologues appears at Bradford Literature Festival on July 6, London's Blue Elephant Theatre on July 19 and Edinburgh Festival Fringe from August 4-12. Featured performers alongside Rosie and those mentioned above include Pippa Evans, Jayde Adams and Kate Smurthwaite.

(c) Rosie Wilby 2017

http://www.bradford.ac.uk/theatre/whats-on/breakup-monologues/

http://www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk/break-monologues

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/breakup-monologues

*Rosie's show has been inspired by the work of author and marriage and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas. For more about her work, go to www.consciousuncoupling.com

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