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Is It Really A Breakup? Work, Or Getting Out Of It

Unless you are among the very lucky or very unlucky, you have a job. If your boss or your clients are cool, you can tell them that you and so-and-so are over and you need a few days to get yourself together. Be careful here. Most bosses and most clients are not cool, even though they pretend to be. Revealing any vulnerability may come back to haunt you later. If in doubt, lying is best. Isn’t this worse than a cold?

The best lie is, of course, calling in sick. You probably sound like shit anyway from crying. Take advantage of that and leave people voice mails, letting them know that you won’t be in the next day. You will have bought yourself a day to call the next night and say you are still not feeling well and you’ll keep them posted. If you decide to answer the phone during this period, be sure to sound as if you are dying.

To make matters easier, here are two really solid illnesses that can creep up on you unexpectedly and have unfortunate consequences but don’t cause too much alarm. Pick your story and stick to it.

* The flu. This is a particularly useful choice if it happens to be fall or winter (and you don’t live in the tropics). People spend those seasons chatting about how “it” is going around , and often the local media even gets in on the act. Why not you?

I like this one because it’s contagious and involves vomiting. As it, people, even bosses, do not want you around. Be sure to complain of fever and chills.

* Food poisoning. This one lends itself most effectively to the spring and summer when you and others are more likely to be eating shellfish. Scallops, lobster, and shrimp are easy scapegoats. For those of you well known already to be allergic to shellfish, undercooked chicken and pork can come through in a pinch.

Real food poisoning leaves you, at best, in a heap on your bathroom floor next to the toilet, not knowing which end of you is going to explode next. This choice means, of course, that no one but no one wants you to make an appearance in the office.

Short-Term Excuses

You have a few other lying options if you have used up all your sick days. If it’s a Friday or a Thursday night and you need to get out of only one day of work, one of the following will do.

A parent/sibling/close friend has thrown out her back and you are going to have to spend the day with her and take her to the doctor. It’s not a great excuse, but it actually happened to me. Be sure to mention muscle relaxants and painkillers like Vicodin or Percoset.

* In many places, having your car break down can be prohibitive to working. This is good. Be careful, however, not to use this excuse too often because eventually it makes you look like a schmo. Be particularly careful if your job involves driving because overuse of this excuse could lead to unemployment.

Dramatic Excuses

If you have the most heartless boss or clients and you have taken a bunch of sick days or vacation recently, you may have to deliver a more dramatic excuse. Remember to stay focused on the fact that you need a few days off and do not use this situation as an opportunity to see if you really are a good actress. The following suggestions are to be used only as a last resort.

* Funeral time. Death in the family or of someone close to you. This is hideous. On the other hand, it could certainly buy you a whole week out of the office. Be careful to pick a person who is close enough to you that your life would be unhinged by his or her death but also distant enough that your office has never heard of this person. Never ever ever pick someone real.

This is guaranteed to bring you bad vibes and can also be awkward when that person calls your office in the future.

* Diagnosis of terminal illness. Not yours, dummy! Again, this is to be used only in extreme circumstances. The ill fiiend/farnily member has asked to stay with you for a few days. What could you say? Don’t get caught up in any conversations focusing on what a brave and compassionate friend/relative you are. We both know the truth.

No Getting Out of It

Unfortunately, there are times when work cannot be avoided. Maybe you have an important presentation with colleagues from out of town, maybe you are a wedding planner and it’s the big day. Whatever it is, denial of the breakup is the best way to go. Thank your now-ex for his input and get away from him so you can try to pretend he’s just out of town.

In the case of a presentation, make sure that you have everything you are going to say written down. With an event, come armed with to-do lists. just focus on getting the work done so you can then move on to your breakdown.

Keep in mind that it’s fine if you do a lousy job. One bad performance will not in the long run ruin your career. When the work is done, do whatever you need to do to have a few days to yourself. If you need help, refer to the above suggestions.

This may not make you feel better right now, but there is a minuscule silver lining to the “have to work” scenario. It will come back to serve you later in the “anger” phase because you will have solid facts to support your theory that your ex is an ass. Anyone who breaks up with you during a work crunch surely sucks.

©2003 Delphine Hirsh


Excerpt from The Girls’ Guide to Surviving A Breakup a book packed full of information to keep you going when he gets going. Order your copy today! Delphine Hirsh is a veteran of many breakups and is also a consultant to heartbroken friends nationwide. A thirty-two-year-old native New Yorker and a graduate of Princeton University, she currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband.