Happy Valentine’s Day! Jim + Mallory = ?

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Dear Mallory,

It’s over. Please return my grey cashmere sweater at your earliest convenience. It was a gift from my mother.



Dear Jim,

We were dating? That’s so sweet. I didn’t realize. I think you’re a great guy, but since we only just met, it hadn’t occurred to me that we were in a relationship. Why, may I ask, are you breaking up with me? Just curious.


P.S. I don’t have your sweater, sorry. Did you ask Jane if you left it at the party? I love cashmere btw. Your mom must be awesome! 🙂


Dear Mallory,

You said at the party – quite adamantly, as I recall – “Nice meeting you.” I apologize if I took that statement of affection to mean something more serious than you intended. Re: my decision to break-up with you – I just felt that you were moving too quickly for my liking, especially when you put on my sweater at the party with so little regard for boundaries.

Do you happen to remember where you took it off? I really need my sweater back. My mother is very upset about it.



Let me think… I remember feeling chilly at the party and helping myself to a sweater I saw folded neatly on a table. But when I went to the buffet and saw the fondue, I took the sweater off right away to make sure I didn’t get gruyere on it. I’m quite certain I put it back exactly where I found it.

Anyway, I must have looked really terrible in your sweater to prompt such an abrupt break up! Ouch. – M


Oh my goodness, Mallory, I feel like a total jerk — I just found my sweater. It was right in my closet where it was supposed to be. Please accept my apology. And no, you did not look terrible in it at all. To the contrary.

Question: Were you perchance wearing perfume that night? My mother and I detected the scent of something pungently floral in the cashmere fibers that I do not believe is my aftershave.


I’m so sorry, Jim! That smell is likely Toujours – I wear it on special occasions. May I offer to dry-clean the sweater? I hadn’t meant to impose myself on you on this way – how inconsiderate of me. No wonder you’re breaking up. haha.


Oh, Mallory – It wasn’t a criticism. I like the smell! I hadn’t meant to imply that I found it distasteful. The fragrance is actually quite captivating and unimposing, while still being faintly and wonderfully feminine. You are so polite to offer dry cleaning it for me. You are clearly much more sensitive than I realized; I like that.

Breaking up with you was, I am starting to believe, a mistake. I just talked to my mother and she thinks I’ve been a  – what does she always call me?  – a boob. A few things about me to help you decide if I am still worth your initial positive impression: 1. I live with my mother. 2. I’m lactose intolerant and cannot have fondue or any other milk products. 3. I adore cats, in spite of severe allergies. And 4. I own a multimillion dollar startup company and really don’t know what to do with all of my money. Let me know if you’re willing to give us another shot. I truly regret that I began this conversation in such a negative way by ending things between us.

In hopes of a better way forward,



Mallory? Is it too late for us? It’s been twenty minutes. Your silence is torture.


Mallory? Mallory?


Hi Jim, I’m so sorry for the delay in answering you. I just got off the phone with your mother. (She’s quite the google-stalker.) We went over many topics, and it’s clear she has your best interests at heart.

As for us, sure. Let’s give this a whirl. But before we do, here are a few disclosures on my part, just so you know what you’re getting into. 1. I’m really more of a dog person. 2. I currently owe $197,653 in student loans, and – since you mentioned it – I would just LOVE to pay it off. 3. I eat a lot of cheese. (Your mom does not think that will be a problem, lactose-wise.) 4. Your mother has invited me over for dinner tonight. What would you suggest I bring her? Wine? Chocolates? Flowers?


Dearest Mallory,

I think I love you. But I should hope you can trust your own instincts on what would be a suitable gift for mother. I really don’t think I should have to weigh in on such minutiae; I am, after all, a very busy man running a multimillion dollar startup company. Having said that, I must say that the gifts you proposed are exceedingly cliché, no? Why not think outside the box? Bring something more surprising, something that is a better reflection of who you are as an individual and of your deep admiration for my saint of a mother. Perhaps an exotic pet? I just paid off your student debt in full; you’re welcome. And I am perfectly willing to let your obsession for eating cheese stand. However, I am not a fan of dogs (having been nipped by a boxer as a small child). I would like to be accommodating, so I hereby wish to set a thirty pound canine weight cap. I think that is more than reasonable.


Jeesh, Jim. I think I love you as well, but you really tend to lash out when testy, and I gotta say – I don’t like it at all. Neither does your mother. I may as well tell you that my dog Boomer weighs forty pounds, so you’ll either have to deal with that, or it’s over for us. And another thing – I can’t stop thinking about how quick you were to accuse me of stealing, and how you never really apologized for it. I would never steal your sweater or anything else, just so you know. I think it’s appropriate for me to express my feelings on this and make sure you know that you really hurt me, especially when you ended our relationship without warning and for no good reason. I don’t want my resentment on these matters to fester, and I fear I am developing trust issues. #honesty


Mallory. I’m shaken by this exchange. Of course I thought you stole my sweater. It is a very fine, expensive cashmere, and at the time you were, of your own admission, deeply in debt. Furthermore, you casually (perhaps even callously?) put on a complete stranger’s garment with absolutely no regard for its owner (aka me). And in spite of all that, I did apologize. (See above.)

Forty pounds? Seriously? That is, by any objective opinion, a large dog. I am breaking out in hives just imagining this beast Boomer, and I’m feeling extremely agitated. Under the circumstances, I think it would be best if we take a break, for the time being anyway. – Jim


Jim, I just called your mother, and she says I am most certainly still invited for dinner. So break or no break, I will be there. With Boomer. I strongly suggest you take back your earlier remarks and apologize – OR prepare to dine somewhere other than home this evening. I think it would be a shame for you to miss this important occasion, however. As far as tonight’s hostess gift goes – I took your advice and bought your mother a parrot. And speaking of gifts, for your birthday I have begun knitting you a sweater as a nod to what I hope will one day become our special, private joke about your unjust accusations against me when first we met. Shame on you, Jim. This is really no way to treat your girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.


Oh my god, Mallory. It’s Valentine’s day? I’m a boob, just as mother always says. I completely forgot. Please accept my apology. I will, of course, be at our family dinner tonight, and I look forward to meeting the new parrot (you’re a genius) as he perches on mother’s shoulder. It will likely be the happiest moment of my life. Happy Valentine’s Day, darling. I love you. And I will learn to love Boomer.


Author: Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel grew up in Dallas, Texas and left the south to attend Wellesley College. Since then, she has worked as an actor, a high school English teacher, and most recently as the Assistant Director of Admissions at a school in New York City. Her three fabulous boys are all off in Boston attending school, and she and her husband now split their time between New York and Frankfurt, Germany. A theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS was workshopped at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into her first novel.