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“she left me”

Both in replying to the concerned e-mails I received in response to yesterday’s post and in the clarifying update, I’ve written some version of “K left me” several times since yesterday. Every time it felt like an odd phrase, a euphemism that, for a euphemism, is both direct, in the sense that it says exactly what it means, and meaningless, in that it doesn’t convey anywhere near the personal, emotional upheaval that it signifies. When you’re dating you can say, “We’ve decided to see other people” or “We broke up”; when you’re at the end of a legally binding relationship, “We divorced”: in such cases the phrases themselves carry a significance of meaning, vivid not just because of common association (we’ve all broken up with someone) but also because there’s a concrete finality in the phrases themselves. But in language of separation is ambiguity. “She left me” seems final, but it isn’t necessarily so because, according to country songs, it’s possible to follow her; moreover, as I relied upon to ill effect yesterday, there’s also ambiguity as to what it actually means to say “she left me”: did she leave for a weekend at her sister’s, fully intending to come back Sunday night, or did she leave the relationship to move in with her trapeze-artist boyfriend and pursue a dream of living the circus life? Likewise, “we’re separated,” though more formal than “she left me,” allows for the fact that separation may be temporary, that rejoining, though difficult, may be possible. Such ambiguity is probably for the better, since there needs to be room for linguistic uncertainty when the outcome is in fact uncertain; however, it’s also true that there just really isn’t a very good body of language to describe the existence of strife in the midst of committed, monogamous relationships.