10-Minute Free-Write Challenge: Reflections on a Middle-School Breakup

photo credit: I will not do it to day via photopin (license)
photo credit: I will not do it to day via photopin (license)

Note: Today’s post came from a 10-minute free-write challenge by writer Cheryl Strayed. You set a timer for  10 minutes, with no editing. I hope to use most of these as Monday posts. To see the list of writing prompts, visit this page.

Write about why you could not do it

It wasn’t right.

free write challengeI knew that, even at age 15. I knew I had to break up with my girlfriend – we’ll call her Daphne – because … well, because isn’t important. The point is, the breakup was inevitable. Daphne was beyond sweet. A skinny, adorable girl I felt ages older than. Maybe it was the braces and smiling eyes.

I was a year older than her, after all.

Daphne came from a sweet family with pestering little brother. She was a cheerleader, a JV cheerleader. I was a football player. A varsity football player. I hardly played, except for on kick coverage. My uniform hardly got dirty.

The JV cheerleaders were legit, though.

Daphne had pep and sass and a wholesomeness I felt I’d surpassed. I was shaving and all, you know? I was big and bad. I had the highest weight in leg press. Did I mention I was a bench warmer?

Me, circa 9th grade.
Me, circa 9th grade.

I hung out with the injured guys and the trainers. I was a football player in name only.

So when I decided I had to move on from sweet Daphne, my friend – we’ll call him Skip – tapped into the piggish side of boyhood and said I should make a move on her.

It didn’t seem right.

I’d like to think it was more morals than being chicken to make an actual move on an actual girl. Daphne didn’t deserve that. Not at all.

I don’t remember how the breakup went, if I did it in person or by note. I do know that the older girl I wound up with next used me and tossed me aside. I really wanted to call Daphne back. I was too embarrassed to do it.

Back then, you had to use the phone in the living room for this kind of thing.

Years later, Daphne said “you dumped me for Bella (not her real name), didn’t you?” She smiled when she said it. Even then, she knew how dumb I’d been.I just looked Daphne up on Facebook.

She’s recently married, to a guy who probably I’d have looked a little like with some better living.

And her? She’s a knockout. Gorgeously pretty, and a business owner. Maybe I did her a favor – although, does junior-high love ever last? She looks … happy. Hugely happy.

And that seems right to me.

challenge 1 quote


  1. I remember the first (and only) boy I had a crush on. We were good friends in junior high. He was three inches shorter than me, had freckles, really dark brown hair, and a cheeky grin. My heart was broken when they moved away to another state. About ten years later, when I worked at the RTA (like your DMV) I looked up at the line of people at the counter and saw this grin. My heart skipped a beat and I’m certain I blushed. It was so lovely to see him again. Sadly, we were both married. I can still see him and that cheeky grin. Yep, I still think I have a crush on him even now in my sixties 🙂

  2. Interesting how things seem to turn out the way they do. Sure, you could have had a girl who grew to be that beautiful swan (like that story), but you wouldn’t have your girls. Or at least, not the girls you have now. I looked up one of my exes once… boy am I glad that one didn’t work out.

    1. It’s the way life goes. It’s not that I’m pining over what could have been with her; mostly, it’s just that I respected her back then and am glad I didn’t do the wrong thing.

      I wouldn’t have looked her up at all if it weren’t for the prompt. My life is far from ideal, but I wouldn’t trade it – first and foremost because of my girls.

  3. You just brought back to high school days and trust me I have my own stories to tell and than some. I was both the dumper and the dumpee too back in those days and just funny how much things were different and how much life has changed for all of us as the years have gone on.

    1. There are some tricky topics on this challenge list, a couple which I’m not looking forward to, actually! I thought something like this might jump-start my writing. Numbers are really plummeting around here lately.

  4. Good for her! Just imagine she’d have ended up depressed and scarred for life!
    I am on a platform called stayfriends.ch that keeps telling me my high school boyfriend looked me up – I’m kind of curious what he’d write about me within 10 minutes. I dumped him because he wouldn’t stand up for us when his Mom told him to let the door open when I was visiting…

    1. She seems to have made out okay. I’d have hated to have contributed to anyone’s sadness.

      You should give him this challenge, Tamara. It’s tough when a boy has to get caught between his mama and his girlfriend, you know.

  5. Oh this is a great idea!! I will definitely bookmark that link for future post ideas. I loved Cheryl’s books. Have you read Wild? Fantastic. Or, the movie with Reese Witherspoon is good too.
    I did the “dumping” in my first romance. It was much more intense and could probably be made into an educational After School Special. That’s all I will say about that. He hates me still to this day I think. But, as far as I know, he never married as yet.

    1. Isn’t it? There are good prompts in there, prompts that force you to delve a little, or at least think from a different avenue. I honestly didn’t know who Cheryl was when I started the challenge, but I’ve definitely seen the movie Wild.

      I think that was my one and only person I dumped, ever. Heartbreak at any age can really levy damage to your soul. Know what song I really hate? “Hello,” by Adele. That could be the topic of a post, right there.

      1. Ohhh!!! I saw a theory that she is a ghost in the video!! And that she is haunting her ex lover, who killed her in the woods. Like wow — I was just thinking in much simpler concept that she was calling herself in the past full of regret over the choices she had made, and kinda warning her younger self. But the ex does turn rather gloomy and aggressive at the end, so maybe….. well, that oughta give some food for thought if your girls have seen the video!

      2. Oh, I don’t buy that. She’s just ready to actually tell the dude why she broke his heart back in the day, mostly for her own good, and he’s not around to listen to it.

    1. we have a thousand things each day that change our lives, we just don’t recognize them, beth. my poor uniform back then didn’t really ever need to be laundered, unfortunately.

  6. It’s funny to look propel up on Facebook isn’t it? Social neck allows us to portray our lives as glitzy and glamorous as we like. Love this prompt idea. The list is very interesting. Will be digging into that I’m sure.

    1. I don’t generally, unless they pop up in the ‘people you might know’ section. You’re right, though, Nikki – we have a chance to clean things up on this side of the windows we open.

      This prompt was just what I needed. Fourteen more to go.

  7. For some reasons, I can’t find a lot of my early-life exes on Facebook. I’m sure it’s because I destroyed all of them, right? haha, wrong.
    Perhaps they’re all married to people who look like better-life me.

  8. I dated my best friends brother. He was my first “true” love and such a hottie back in the day and he KNEW IT. After not seeing him for quite some time and then actually seeing face to face with him a few years back, it occurred
    to me that he did me the honor of breaking my heart because I wouldn’t be where I am today. I could be where he is and that is a story for another day. 😉

    Love the prompt idea!

    1. Did he pop his collar? That’s what I imagine. I know I wouldn’t have traded my life now for anything, but then, we wouldn’t know our lives now, if only for slight differences – a returned call, a different route home, even a stop or go at a yellow light.


      Look forward to hearing that story some day, though. I need to do another of these prompts. It’s convenient to knock out a post in record time, too.

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