It's Not You, It's Me
“What a load of bullshit.”
“It's not Hugh, it's me.”
It's not you, it's me is a catchphrase used by people (both male and female) during the end-period of a romantic relationship. It is difficult to translate, but experts have agreed on three broadly different meanings:
- "I feel guilty about fucking your best friend and killing your cat, so I'd better say something so you know it's not your fault."
- "It is your fault, but if I say that you'll start begging and promising you'll change, and I'm not quite cruel enough to strip you of your dignity."
- "I hate you so much right now that I'm incapable of coherently listing all the things I hate about you. You utter twat."
The word has a long and confusing history, to go along with its many long and confusing meanings, but it is believed to date back to Greek philosopher Socrates and his harem of young boys. It is theorised that when the boys reached puberty, he would explain "it's not you, it's me, and my phobia of dropped testicles" (it is unknown, however, if Socrates had a genuine fear of man-balls or if this was a convenient ruse). Since then, the phrase has come into common usage amongst couples who are sick to death of the sight of each other.
After the immortal first uttering, Socrates licensed the phrase under Creative Commons 2.0 BC and it became increasingly popular. It appears in the following passage of The Bible, spoken by God to Jesus during the crucifixion:
- "My God? My God? Why hast thou forsaken me?"
- "'Tis not you, my son, 'tis me."
- -Matthew 27:46
A similar phrase was later spoken by Emperor Palpatine when news broke that he was abandoning the traditional Roman religious belief in favour of Christianity. In a speech to temple leaders at the time, he said "it's not you, it's me, but I'm the Emperor so I can do as I damn well please, now piss off." The reaction from the priests was said to be one of disappointment tinged with regret, with an aching feeling when they realised they still loved Constantine and couldn't understand his decision to leave them. Contemporary reports suggest they recovered from their grief by eating ice-cream and listening to The Smiths.
The phrase fell into disuse during the Dark Ages, mostly because it was too dark to work out who was you and who was me, but a variant appeared in accounts of King Henry VIII's final days. Apparently coming to terms with the fact he had an eating problem, he declared "it's not food, it's me," before shitting himself and eating another chicken. Shakespeare also used the phrase in his play Hamlet, when the titular character goes mad and sees himself in a mirror.
In the 20th century the phrase became more widespread as divorce rates rose and the concept of "hookin' up" began to replace traditional ideas such as marriage. Disgruntled couples began to realise the phrase could be used as a cheap get-out for a crappy relationship by putting the minimum amount of blame on their partner whilst still turning them into a broken-hearted husk of a human being. Whilst personal usage of the phrase saw the biggest increase, it was still used in numerous forms by public figures, most notably when Adolf Hitler was speaking to the German people about the source of their post-WWI problems and said "it's not me, it's Jews."
Usage of the phrase is commonly regarded as a cheap cop-out to avoid having to confess one's real feelings of disgust, hate, disappointment and fear towards a partner. Proponents of honesty in relationships have stated couples should "tell the truth, it's not you, it's them, it's always fucking them, especially with Jenny!" Meanwhile, more sensitive souls have observed "you might as well tell that lie, because it's just going to hurt their feelings if you tell them the real reason you're leaving is they remind you of a broken cement mixer whenever they eat their food." The disagreement continues to this day, and is likely to end in all-out war.
When the Phrase is Used
The following sentence is an example of the phrase used in its most common context:
- "I hate the way you sleep, you sound like a sheepdog, and I can't stand the way you never want to go out, or how you always check out my sister! You are annoying, and pathetic, and you are so needy it's like dating a two-year old! Don't you dare make one of those disgusting jokes you love so much, either! You know what? We have to break up. It's not you, it's me."
As you can see, the problem is clearly you, and not them. If the problem really was them and not you then a reasonable response might be for them to consider a change in attitude, or behaviour, rather than ending a relationship that may have taken some time to build up. Indeed, if they feel that they are the problem, logic dictates it should be up to you to decide if the relationship should continue. This is rarely the case as it is far too logical for most people.
Why the Phrase is Used
Breaking up is hard to do. It's considerably more difficult if your partner is violent or unstable, but it's a challenge for even most normal people. This is because of guilt. Even if the partner in question would come home at 3am each morning without fail, drunk and smelling of tramp blood, the person ending the relationship will still feel some measure of guilt at hurting their feelings. Finding a way to end things with the wounded party feeling that there's nothing they could have done, they're a good person at heart, this is simply the way things had to be ohmygodpleaseputtheknifedown is therefore an important way to alleviate at least some of the guilt.
In practical terms, the value of the phrase is disputed because only a moron would ever believe it and if someone is dating morons then they really do have a problem.
Typical Reactions to the Phrase
These can vary, but it is worth noting that the immediate response is almost never to say "bullshit! Bull, fucking, shit, you heaped-up pile of crazy!"
Some believe that the reason for this has something to do with politeness, but the real reason is far more subtle. By responding in such a way, you would in fact be disagreeing with the original statement, in effect also saying "actually, it's not you, it's me." Like an evenly-matched tennis game, or a round of Pong between thalidomide children, the resulting back-and-forth could theoretically never end. This could result in the relationship lasting forever, a situation that nobody (by this point) wants.
A more typical reaction is a slight pause, possibly longer if the recipient of the phrase is partially deaf or stupid. A request for more information may be made, or clarification of certain details. There will possibly be a slow nod or some crying. There will likely be an extended scene in which the recipient will offer to change, or improve, or pay more attention, or do anything at all to stop the imminent collapse of their previously-stable life, but the end result will always be the speaker of the phrase departing, and the recipient silently fuming as they think of all the things they could have said to stop them leaving.
When the Phrase is Not Used
It is extremely unlikely to hear the phrase being used if the recipient is being dumped under any of the following circumstances:
- They slept with their partner's brother or sister.
- They slept with their partner's son or daughter.
- They set their partner's house on fire on purpose.
- They set their partner's house on fire accidentally for the third time (or second in a rolling 12-month period).
- They turn out to be drastically underage.
- They develop a serious heroin problem but fail to be the frontman of a successful band.
- They turn out to be fictional.
In these circumstances the phrase is usually replaced by a punch, a firebomb, or a court order.
This can be a tricky one, but the five minute to two week period following usage of the phrase will rarely involve violence. Most likely the recipient will spend some time rationalising the phrase and decide "no, they're right, it couldn't have been me, I'm pretty awesome. Must have been them. Stupid them." They may feel better after this and begin the process of recovery by taking drugs and sleeping with minors. No matter their actions, however, there will always be a lingering doubt buried deep in their soul that will one day reawaken and drag them into a screaming pit of despair and self-loathing.
The Future of the Phrase
Some psychologists have predicted a dying-out of the phrase, as real life moves closer to television and people lose the ability to lie effectively, instead giving it away by hesitating, or staring into the distance. This is significant as without the conviction of an effective lie the phrase becomes worthless. Other experts disagree, claiming that as real life moves closer to television people will become more annoying, and therefore need to break up with each other more often. President Obama has discussed banning the phrase, saying "it hurt when the voters said it to me, and now the Republicans are back in Congress I'm reminded of that pain every day," but it is uncertain when or how such a notion will be presented for vote.
Other focus groups have proposed a solution whereby the deliverer of the phrase must present their recipient with a list of reasons why it is them and not you who are the problem. It has been noted that this will give people time to prepare themselves emotionally, or physically if the intended recipient is insane. The original advocates of this approach were the pressure group People For a Saner World, but the group disbanded when the re-election of George W. Bush showed that the world would never be sane again. The idea has also met with opposition. Leapee Drazzle, manager to Katie Holmes, has said "she's already started working on her list. Great. She won't be doing anything for the next decade, at least."
- "Between your terrible personal hygiene and my allergies, get the fuck out of my life."
- "I love you, but I'm not in love with you. In fact I don't even love you. I kind of hate you. I dreamt last night that I put your face in a blender."
- "I'd actually prefer it if you were a paedophile because at least you'd have a hobby."
- "I'd rather marry a Scientologist and bear their children in a silent birth than spend another second with you, and I'm a man!"
- "Don't take this the wrong way, sweetie, but I piss in your pot roast and laugh to myself about it. Now get out."
- "Go out? Outside? With you? I'd sooner stick a taser up my arse! Actually that sounds like fun...bugger off while I try this out, will you?"