Equal time for the single and unwanted


WASHINGTON -- OK, you cute little lovebirds. You know who you are. Holding tongues on the mall escalator, playfully sparring over laundry detergents at the grocery store. Yeah, you. Pack it, in Romeo and Juliet. Your day is over.

Now, thank God, those of us not in successful relationships can reclaim our Constitutional rights to walk down the street unimpeded by hand-holders, sit on a bus without young lovers playing tonsil hockey in front of us, and pass a store without seeing scantily clad models suggesting we surprise our mates with the Wonderbra. (On second thought, maybe the scantily clad models should stay.)

Valentine's Day for the unloved is somewhat akin to Christmas for Jews, Columbus Day for Indians and Labor Day for baseball owners. Except for one thing. We are in the majority. If half of all marriages end in divorce, and even more relationships end in breakup, can there be any doubt that the majority of us are broken-hearted, lonely, empty shells of humanity?

You're damn right we are! And in the spirit of the fairness doctrine, we deserve, at the very least, equal time to celebrate the wonders of being single and unwanted.

Take, for example, Jim and Delores Witherspoon of Annapolis and Poolesville, who last year managed the remarkable feat of staying divorced for 50 years! Over a batch of her delicious chocolate chip cookies, Delores recalled the day they split up so clearly you would have thought it was yesterday.

"I cooked a special Valentine's Day dinner for Jim and waited for him to come home from work. Then he called to say that he had to work the night shift again at the plant. That was the fourth time that week, and I began to get suspicious -- especially since he worked at a solar power plant. Well wouldn't you know it? The little skunk comes home reeking of some other woman's perfume and dragging a Motel 6 "sanitized for your protection" strip on his shoe. It was then that I knew we would spend the rest of our lives apart."

In celebration of their 50 years of separation, Jim and Delores' three children, now grown, honored the occasion by visiting their psychotherapists.

Psychologists everywhere are fascinated by couples who just seem to know at first glance that they aren't going to like each other. In fact, it may be one of humanity's most oft-debated subjects -- is there such thing as dislike at first sight? Well put your doubts aside, cynics. Research has proved that the answer a resounding "yes!"

"This was a woman . . ."

Take Michael Lee and Meg Wirth of Newport Beach, California. Mike explains, "We met in college. I was in line at the cafeteria and she cut in front of me to get the last plate of fruit Jell-O. I looked straight at her and our eyes met, and it hit me like a lightning bolt straight out of the sky. This was a woman that for the rest of my days, I would find completely unattractive and uninteresting. I mean, I'd read stories about this kind of thing, but I never thought it would happen to me."

What do Cindy Crawford, Christie Brinkley and Julia Roberts have in common, besides bad acting? That's right, they -- along with Michael and Lisa Marie and Liz and Larry -- are on our list of celebrity breakups for 1995. There is perhaps nothing that captures the fancies of Americans more than the fairy-tale breakups of our favorite stars.

Nothing touches the heart more than tales of new and original ways that Americans create to give their mates the boot. Ben Kauffman, of Virginia Beach, describes one such experience: "We were walking along the ocean, and I was chewing her out for some dumb thing she'd done, when all of a sudden one of those planes flew by carrying a huge banner: 'Ben, we have to talk. I think we should just be friends.' I was so touched, I almost forgot to trash her place and run over her dog."

Then there is Julie Gibson of Shaker Heights, Ohio, who described her unique breakup experience: "We were at the Browns game, and right in the middle of the third quarter he directed my eyes to the stadium scoreboard. It said, 'Julie, it's over. I'm sleeping with your sister.' How could I repay him for such imagination except by shoving my program down his esophagus?"

So whether you celebrated Valentine's Day this year or not, don't lose faith. Never forget that right when you least expect it, someone may break up with you, too. Do you remember when you were a kid and you complained about Mother's Day and Father's Day? You always got the response, "Every day is Kids' Day." Well, take heart, all you heartbroken. Valentine's Day is over, and every day is Breakup Day.

Better luck next year, Mike.

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