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The Cowboy Code: Delivering Reallllllly Bad News to an Ex

Have you ever hooked up with someone and then wondered later if you did the wrong thing?

Well, according to ABC News, if you get an email from an ex these days whose subject line starts off "You're too hot to be out of action...," don't delete it. It's probably not spam.

That subject line concludes "..."I got diagnosed with herpes since we played."

Yeah, I know. That's a messed up prank. Except it's really not. Seriously. If you have time, follow the link. ABC News profiles this public health Web site that allows people to send cutesy e-cards to former sex partners they may have infected with a sexually transmitted disease or two. The story says that the site grew out of an effort to use technology to help people keep partners informed and so on.

That part is admirable. Don't keep your crotch diseases secret. I get it. But I can't be the only person who wonders about the lack of civility that comes with informing a former partner through email that you may have infected them with something.

Now, as you may know, the Cowboy Code is generally a guide to male friendships with one another and a guide to understanding male behavior in relation to romance with women. But it is also a guide to good sense and courtesy for both men and women in relationships.

And I don't think I need to tell you that there are very few exceptions to when it's appropriate to share any kind of serious news over the Web or by phone with an ex-romantic partner.

In fact, I think that there are only two exceptions:

  1. If you and an ex parted ways on reasonably good terms, geographically you and that ex live far apart these days, and you don't keep in close contact with that ex, then it's OK to tell them through email that your mom is sick, or your old dog died, or (this one's debatable) you're engaged.
  2. The second exception would be that you simply write better than you speak. I don't know how many of us can say that. But if that applies to you, and it's not just an excuse to avoid seeing your ex, then at least write it the old-fashioned way - with pen, on paper. Be thoughtful, and include a phone number in the letter, in case your ex, after reading your letter, wants to call you and hash it out further.

Barring those exceptions, all serious news needs to be delivered face-to-face, unless you live so far apart that an in-person meeting just isn't practical.

It's bad enough breaking up with someone over the phone. But this takes the cake. If you kiss or otherwise swap fluids with someone, and they walk away with anything more than a warm fuzzy feeling...that doesn't require a shot of something that ends with "cilin," you owe them a face-to-face explanation.

Otherwise, you are guilty of the worst lack of Burnettiquette and are in clear violation of the Cowboy Code.


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The Sarcasticynic

All serious news needs to be delivered face-to-face, James? I'm afraid you're "becoming that guy."

James B.

Ha ha, Sarc.

I don't think so. See, I don't think my argument is a generational thing. I think that it goes to a certain level of courtesy that applies regardless of age/generation, etc.

I'm just saying, if you possibly gave me a disease, I think you should have the ovaries to come and see me and tell me to my face, instead of sending me funny e-cards.


what's wrong with locking the stable door before the horse bolts?
if you know you're a carrier for some disease why not take proper precautions before having fun, and save your fellow man or woman from the same affliction. herpes is a virus. it's not just for Christmas, it's for life.

and regarding communicating with ex's, in 6 years and 53 days, when our youngest child turns 18, I hope to never have to communicate with my ex ever ever again.


nicely put. i'd be freakin pissed if someone sent me an "i'm infected" email.


I would prefer a face-to-face. I am also glad that pregnancy was the big deal in my generation.

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