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Edmonton Journal

Gross eating habits are a dealbreaker.

Gross eating habits are a dealbreaker.

Photograph by:,

Besotted with my brand-new beau, I was understandably thrilled when we were invited, together, to a dinner party.

Until he began to slurp his soup, that is, and then to make astonishing chomping and smacking sounds as he chewed his way through his chicken, sucked down his mashed potatoes and took on his green salad. Think barnyard at feeding time.

Hearing him eat — and it was impossible for anyone at the table not to — made me realize I could never again break bread with him. Not and keep my own food down. And just like that, I was done.

“Sometimes … the object of your affection does something unexpected, and all of a sudden you just feel all the love drain out of you right onto the floor,” Lynn Snowden Picket observes in her contribution to a terrific new collection of essays, What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories (St. Martin’s Press, $21.95).

Most people understand a change of heart in the wake of a huge transgression, she writes. Sometimes, though, it’s “something so minor you can’t even bring yourself to tell the person exactly what it was that just ended any thoughts of a future together.”

But you know: For me, it was the smacking noises. For Snowden Picket, the dealbreaker was a word. She was dating a man she calls John Travolta in her story for how he reminded her of his character in Saturday Night Fever. Plus his first name was John. They were college students who’d been dating a year — and then one afternoon in a café he proposed ordering a “crèche” of wine.

Because she feared he would actually say this to the waiter, who would think John was stupid or, worse, that she was stupid, she said “you mean carafe.” She explained that a crèche was a nativity scene. “John Travolta gave me a stern look and said, ‘Lynn, I’m a writer. I play with words.’ That did it.”

I found ghosts of other exes wafting through this anthology, edited deftly by Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman: The ones who said they’d call and didn’t; the bad boys who only pretended to be available. “You know you’re dating a bad boy when you’re not sure you’re actually dating,” as Cindy Chupack observes. Although most of the stories are ruefully, wickedly, funny, an inescapable current of sadness runs through some; the saddest, for me, are those in which the woman realizes that the man in her life is simply not there for her.

Debbie Cavanaugh had asked her husband for ages to put the ceiling up in the master bedroom of the home they were building; he finally got part of it up — and asked, when she got home from work, how she liked it: she said it would look good once it was finished. He got angry.

“Something about the way he expected me to fawn over him for doing a bit of work after I had begged him for months to do it … sliced my heart in two,” Cavanaugh writes. “Clarity blinked into me at that one second.”

She immediately started saving to move out. When she left, six months later, the ceiling still wasn’t finished.

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