Tanner and ex-girlfriend Legs are acting out the classic middle-school breakup drama; which means they’re not even being nice. Technically, Tanner broke up with Legs. But based on Legs’ behavior leading up to the moment, I suspect she wanted him to.
For months, Tanner’s updates on Legs hinted that the end was nigh, but I know which specific incident marked the beginning of the end. Legs’ mom called to warn me that Legs had sent a Facebook message. “She asked if she could text you,” Legs’ mom confided, “and I said, ‘You’re not going to text Tanner’s mom!’ So she sent this instead—without asking.”
I had an inkling what the message was about. Tanner told me that Legs and her girlfriends were “bugging” him all day. He was tired of it, so when another girlfriend came over and started, “Legs says that….” He cut her off and said, “Legs is being a jerk!”
In Legs’ message, she told me why she and her posse were “bugging” Tanner. Here’s the unedited (seriously unedited) version:
Subject: did Tanner tell you what happend?
message: if he didn’t then here. . . he was calling his friends ducebags, which is preety bad so we thought that maby if we told him what that meant he would stop but he didn’t even let us tell him. . . . he thought it was a bag of eh . . . s.p.e.r.m. which it isn’t so we tried again but he ran away. . . and he was like oh my gosh!!!! He got really mad and walked to 6th period without me. . . [later] he said he was sorry. . . . my dad said be careful because boys would hurt me and then tell me they were sorry and didn’t mean too.
I wrote back and, among other things, said, “I’ll tell you what I told Tanner: stop the nonsense and be kind.”
They seemingly worked past this incident, but reports of Legs’ snide comments (delivered by girlfriends) soon resurfaced. I told Tanner to tell Legs he’d love to talk but was tired of her girlfriends delivering messages.
He acted on my advice the next day. Legs responded by increasing the intensity and frequency of her sarcasm. On the bus, she hid behind Tanner’s seat, and her friend delivered a note titled, “List of Your Imperfections.” Tanner asked her to stand up and said, “I could make a list of your imperfections too, but I won’t.” He crumpled the list, dropping it at her feet. “I liked you because you were nice.”
When he shared this story, I hugged him and told him I was proud of him. I recalled then what else I’d said to Legs in my response: “Boys hurt girls, just like girls hurt boys. People hurt people sometimes, even when they don’t mean to.”
If only this were the last time.