Move over, Superman. There is another caped superhero in town — Lindsay Mills, the woman believed to be Edward “Verax” Snowden’s girlfriend. The NSA leaker’s significant other described herself as a “world-traveling, pole-dancing superhero” and, after his departure, wrote on a since-deleted blog, “For those of you that know me without my super hero cape, you can probably understand why I’ll be refraining from blog posts for awhile. My world has opened and closed all at once. Leaving me lost at sea without a compass.”
I would have broken up with her years ago over the sentence fragments, but this is why my kind never wind up in committed relationships with Free Spirits whose idea of a good time is to perform interpretive dances about fish and post them on the Internet.
But look, perhaps we’re approaching the whole thing wrong. Maybe this isn’t about surveillance. Maybe this is the most skillful breakup of all time.
“Mr Snowden was believed to have planned to marry Miss Mills before turning their world upside down with his decision to leak the NSA documents, and to leave without telling her why,” notes an article in the Telegraph. Well, he’s certainly not going to be able to do that now.
These are the sort of high jinks that the P. G. Wodehouse perennial bachelor Bertie Wooster would pull, preferring to fill his apartment with cats and be declared insane than to go up to an attractive woman and announce that the wedding was off. Maybe Snowden was experiencing something similar. It’s really difficult to confront people in person, almost as awkward as it is to answer the telephone ever under any circumstance.
I speak from a position of experience. Rejecting people can be awkward, and it is tempting to try instead to convince the other party that you are not in your right mind, or have Strong Principles that stand between you. I once spent a date muttering about badgers and daubing my face with hand soap rather than simply tell the guy that I saw no future for us, but this actually backfired horribly because he mistook me for one of those manic pixie people who turn up in movies to Turn Your Humdrum Life Around. I thought maybe there was no foolproof way. But this — this is genius. Announce that you have to go away on business for three weeks, then produce a leak that prevents your ever returning to your home country again? Well played, sir.
Breakups, no matter how amicable, are always awkward. And if you’re what Bertie Wooster likes to call a “preux chevalier,” the sort who insists on Acting Nobly At All Times, it can be difficult to face your significant other and, as the gentle breezes waft the idyllic Hawaiian beach behind you, chokingly confess that you would like to see other people. Instead of the “It’s not you, it’s me!” or the Dear Lindsay letter, this abrupt departure makes you look like a thoughtful boyfriend who Could Not Love Thee, Lindsay, So Much, Loved He Not Honor More. It’s perfect.
“The majority of people in developed countries spend at least some time interacting with the Internet, and Governments are abusing that necessity in secret to extend their powers beyond what is necessary and appropriate” is much harder to deflect than “I just feel like I should play the field a little more and learn about myself” or “Look, if I have to attend one more of your Silks Class recitals, I’m going to rupture something.”
And now that we seem to have found her, large swaths of the Internet are now shouting “He must have been insane to leave you!” which is always reassuring to hear.
If I had a dime for every time someone had expressed bewilderment, in person or online, at the fact that anyone would ever under any circumstances leave someone who looked like Lindsay Mills, I would be able to go out and very indignantly buy six copies of The Beauty Myth. But still, when you’ve just been stranded, this kind of feedback can be encouraging, even if you wish it were a little less about What’s On The Outside and more about What’s On The Inside, like your thought that “Surely there will be villainous pirates, distracting mermaids, and tides of change in this new open water chapter of my journey. But at the moment all I can feel is alone. And for the first time in my life I feel strong enough to be on my own. . . . In those unsure endings I find my strength, my true friends, and my heart’s song. A song that I thought had all but died away, when really it was softly singing all along. I don’t know what will happen from here. I don’t know how to feel normal. But I do know that I am loved, by myself and those around me. And no matter where my compass-less vessel will take me, that love will keep me buoyant.” Er. Or something. Look, as Abraham Lincoln said, for those who like that sort of thing, that is exactly the sort of thing that they would like.
The debate continues to rage about whether Snowden is a hero or a blowhard. But whatever history decides, it cannot deny the sheer brilliance of I’m Sorry Honey We Can’t Get Married After All Because I Have Leaked A Classified PowerPoint And Am Leaving This Country Never To Return as a breakup line. That’s real commitment.