Years ago, when I was in college, my roommate was dating a guy in the Army Reserve. She called him a lot and occasionally met up with him, but his training schedule didn’t leave a lot of time for dating. She was patient, however, and figured she’d eventually get to spend more time with him. You can imagine her shock when his troop got called upon to serve in Desert Storm, and she only found out when she saw his picture on the front page of the newspaper. Even worse, he wasn’t the only one in the picture. His new bride stood beside him, dressed in a wedding gown. That’s right, he’d gotten married without even breaking up with my friend. It seems like something straight out of a Jane Austen novel. (Think Willoughby neglecting to break up with Marianne and Lucy Steele doing the same to Edward at the end of Sense and Sensibility.)
As long as you’re not personally involved, bad break-ups can be very entertaining. Who doesn’t love to read the awkward conversation between Elizabeth and Mr. Collins or Emma and Mr. Elton? Other times, I feel quite sorry for the one getting rejected. Jane Austen’s heroines could be so blunt.
One good thing about the break-ups in Jane Austen novels, though, is that the heroines come straight out and say how they feel. Elizabeth doesn’t ghost Mr. Darcy or string him along, as often happens now. I once chaperoned a high school dance and witnessed a boy who showed up nicely dressed in a suit with flowers and candies. He waited an hour or more for his date, his face falling by the minute. She never showed up. The redeeming part of that evening was that other girls took pity on him and asked him to dance. He ended up having a good time, but I’m sure the scar remains. The lesson I took away from the evening is to teach my kids that if the relationship isn’t working out for them, just come out and say it.
While Regency break-ups didn’t seem to leave a lot of room for compliments, I think it’s a good idea to break up in the nicest way possible. Leafing through some of my old letters a while ago, I found a break-up letter from one of the men I dated before I got married. He had taken the time to write out the reasons he had wanted to date me in the first place as well as the reasons he’d decided to end our relationship. It was a very sweet letter that left me feeling happy, and I wish everyone could be so lucky to break up in that way.
As my time with Austen Authors comes to a close, I have nothing but love and gratitude in my heart. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this group of remarkable authors and to have met so many wonderful readers. I appreciate all the hard work Sharon and Regina put into the website. I wish I could keep participating, but my work has gotten busier and family demands seem to be increasing as well. I know many other authors would love to fill my spot here on Austen Authors, and I want to give them that opportunity. Thank you all for the wonderful interactions I’ve enjoyed here!