BIKO: The right way to break up


A reader emailed me and asked, “Biko, where is the best place to break up with a girl in Nairobi?” I was intrigued and amused. So I emailed him back and asked, “Are you serious?”

He wrote back and said he was. The relationship had run its course and they were both tired, and she was going to be “relieved” that it was over. He’s 35, she’s 28. So I emailed him three places he could break up with her. He’s never written back to tell me how it went, or even if he went through with it.

If he did I’m sure by now she has changed her relationship status on Facebook, maybe even blocked him, and he’s already chasing some new skirt. Life is a flash, you look away for a second and you miss it.

Then it occurred to me that there are certain establishments that are great for breakups and some that aren’t. Take a bar, for instance, which is probably the worst place to break up with a girl because there is alcohol involved. I once walked out of a bar to find this couple going at each other.

The guy had said it was over and she was screaming in his face because apparently she had some of her stuff over at his house and she wanted to go with him to pick it up right then, and he wanted to stay at the bar for a little longer. He said he would have someone drop them off to her the next day, but she was insisting on going with him.

He wasn’t having any of that. It was 1am. They were drunk.

I wondered if the guy woke up in the morning, a Sunday, and sent her an SMS saying, “I don’t know what happened last night. I vaguely remember breaking up with you, hehe, and if I did, I want to let you know it was the alcohol. Come over and could you please bring me some fried chicken?”

So, yes, the bar isn’t a great place to break up because alcohol creates a toxic environment for it, and because with a light tongue, you are bound to say stuff you don’t mean and she is bound to get the guts to smash the heavy end of a wine bottle in your face. Or go out and push a brick through your front screen. There’s never telling, is there?


You also can’t break up in her favourite restaurant because it’s mean. It’s hard enough to find your favourite restaurant then someone breaks up with you in it? Mean.

She will have to spend months finding another restaurant (and maybe even a boyfriend) and then make it her favourite. You also can’t break up in ‘your’ place.

You know how women always say, “Let’s make this our place”? It could be an ice cream place or a restaurant or a bar or a cafe. A place you both frequent. Bad place to take her for a breakup. Because when she is coming to meet you, no matter how bad things have been, she isn’t thinking that she is actually going to be broken up with in ‘our place’.

Our place is a place of familiarity and comfort, not a place of angst, pain and disappointment. Plus all the staff know you.

Avoid romantic restaurants too. Places set up with the white table cloth and candles and scented steamed towels for your hand. You don’t want a waiter to read her the label of a bottle of wine she isn’t going to drink. Also avoid places that serve buffet, or all-you-can-eat spare ribs. (This is a whole different story in itself.)

If it’s going to be a house, you should break up at her place, never yours. This gives you the leeway to leave on your own volition. Plus if she is to break anything apart from your nose, it’s going to be that Maasai sculpture on her dressing table.

You never liked it anyway.


Of course you can’t break up over an SMS or on WhatsApp or on email, no matter how cowardly you have been known to be. Don’t write a letter. Don’t break up via someone else. Don’t say, “It’s not you, it’s me,” or “You deserve better,” or “I’m not a good person.” And don’t have breakup sex. Don’t break up for a whole bloody three hours. Short is sweet. Under an hour.

Which leaves a cafe as the most ideal place for a breakup. It can’t be a quiet cafe. It has to be a busy, bustling cafe, with cutlery clanking and glasses breaking in the kitchen.

Don’t break up in the evening over a mocha. Mornings are ideal so that you guys don’t linger over that carnage for too long, but lunch hours are the best because everybody gets an hour at lunch and that’s all you need. Besides, nobody orders any hot beverages at lunch and so all you have to worry about is the steak knife. You have to get there first and sit with your back to the wall or a window.


Crack it open to allow fresh air and oxygen to the brain. Don’t rehearse what you will say. Let her sit with her back to the room, facing the window so that she can stare outside and wonder what the hell she ever saw in a prick like you. (You might also need to use that window as a “fire escape”, who knows?)

Don’t crack jokes or look happy. And don’t look like it’s the worst day of your life because trust me, the worst day of your life will come – if you haven’t lost your mum yet. Look good. You want her to remember you in that great looking shirt because women don’t forget easily.

Make eye contact. Don’t touch her hand. In fact, don’t touch her, period. And if by some bad luck she starts crying, please don’t join her.