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Dealbreaker: He Didn't Go to College

As my vocabulary expanded among my academic peers, the shared language of our relationship narrowed.


In our Dealbreakers series, exes report on the habit, belief, or boxer brief that ended the affair.

I went to college because high school ended, and that was what people like me did. At 18, I moved out of my parents' house in the country and into a dilapidated three-story Boston duplex shared by an opera singer from San Francisco, a classical guitarist from Florida, art students, writers, and a colony of mice. Our perpetually unlocked door meant the house’s population was regularly supplemented by a straggler passed out on a wine-soaked couch, or—late on New Year’s Eve in our communal kitchen—an androgynous punk rocker named Duke.

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Dealbreaker: She Always Agreed With Me

Lauren was agreeable. About everything. And as we hung out more and more, her unswerving acquiescence only grew—and so did my urge to push back.


In our Dealbreakers series, exes report on the habit, belief, or boxer brief that ended the affair.

My mom always told me that I could argue with a brick wall, but I prefer healthy debate with other humans—like when I argued with her for two days over whether pine straw is mulch. I insisted that pine straw is a particular sort of yard furnishing that should not be lumped in with mulch, while she was content to live in a world with imprecise definitions for flowerbed fillers.

When I spotted Lauren—a slender blonde in a smart purple dress I met at one of the not-quite-fancy alumni events my university was always throwing in D.C.—she struck me as the type of confident and independent girl I’m always drawn to. Just shy of a semester out of college, she’d moved straight to the capital in lieu of settling in one of the southern towns that net too many of our fellow grads. A few open-bar Yuenglings and several passes of lackluster hors d’oeurvres later, I sidled over to talk to her. I don’t remember anything I said, but she smiled a lot and l aughed. I made sure to get her phone number before leaving.

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Dealbreaker: He Did What He Wanted

We all egged on his roughhousing, and cheered when he’d shout, “I do what I want”—a common refrain. Then we went tubing.


In our Dealbreakers series, exes report on the habit, belief, or boxer brief that ended the affair.

I had a crush on him for months. He was the biggest, loudest, and drunkest of our friends, but he was also well-educated and funny, with an appreciation of fine cuisine and sharp suits. The apparent contradictions put him on my radar the minute we met—my first boyfriend, in college, had also been big, loud, and smart. A whole year post-graduation, I was confident I had a type. When this new guy appeared in my world—he was drunk by noon at a weekend meeting of bike activists and introduced himself to me in flawless French—I was done for.

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Dealbreaker: I Was His Sugar Mama

I was working three jobs and running to grad school classes in my limited time off. My new roommate was managing nine fantasy baseball teams.


I never wanted to save the world—just every stray cat, directionless friend, and single man I’ve ever met. This tendency started with my mom, a fiercely independent woman who tried to care for me in spite of her fading mental health. At the height of her bipolar mood swings, she extolled my beauty and smarts. At the depths of her depression, she called me worthless and almost choked me to death. I didn’t just learn to fend for myself—I learned to fend for her, too. l stole money, saved all my after-school income, and figured out how to stretch fast-food meals between us for days.

When I set out on my own, I soon attracted other people who needed to lean on me. My best friend in college was the perfect example. A former child actor and the eldest son in a Caribbean family, he was charming, handsome, and needy. He was a Bronx-raised nerd of color like me. I loved the way he shouted when he entered a room. He made the best chili I’d ever tasted. I had a romantic dream about him shortly before I visited New York for a baby shower. We hooked up once. Then he called me after a wedding and asked if I would be his girlfriend. Thoughts of biracial babies danced in my head, and I said yes.

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