Rules For Saying Goodbye

TaylorBookGotham Novel teacher Katherine Taylor’s Rules for Saying Goodbye, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, debuts this month.The novel sends a young woman (named Katherine Taylor) from California to an east coast prep school and then to madcap adventures as a bartender/writer in New York City. It’s not meta-fiction (despite the protagonist’s name), it’s not chick lit (despite the martini on the cover), and it’s not your typical coming of age tale (despite that storyline).  So what is it?  Publisher’s Weekly says, “the shenanigans that follow read like Auntie Mame à la A.M. Homes,” and no less a literary light than T.C. Boyle calls it “a beautifully observed and poignant book.”

Somewhere in the middle of the book, the protagonist lists her “rules for saying goodbye.” In case you’re interested ...

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One. Do not leave until he has mentioned two ex-girlfriends in casual conversation. If you are sure you want to leave and he has not mentioned two ex-girlfriends in conversation, mention two ex-boyfriends and see what happens.

Two. Leave if he starts writing songs about other people. These will be songs of loss and their details will have nothing to do with you. Shame on you for dating a musician. At your age.

Three. Once you have decided to go, say nice things about him to his friends.  Say things they will repeat to him later.  Also, and this should be obvious: do not fuck his friends.  There is that one who will try to take advantage; the one with all the cashmere sweaters whom you have half a crush on who has already phoned you to ask if everything is all right.  Do not do anything that will incriminate you once you are not there to defend yourself.

Four. Buy things to leave in his house, things he won’t have the energy to throw out, like jars of the peanut butter you like. Do not leave things you might want later. Leave hair rubber bands and your toothbrush, but not your Sonicare toothbrush.

Five. Flirt with his mother. Flirt mercilessly until she adores you. Be sure she will chastise him once you go and that she will ask herself repeatedly, “Where did I go wrong?”  If you do not smoke, take it up in order to share furtive cigarettes with her in the guest bathroom. Always carry very nice cigarettes, but not overly nice – Nat Sherman, for example, but not Cartier gold-tipped.  If you have not already done it by the time you decide to leave, knit a scarf that matches her eyes. When she admires it, take it off your neck and give it to her.  It will be easier for her to wear later if she doesn’t think you knitted it specifically for her, and throughout winter and next fall, the scarf itself and his whole family will remind him how gracious you were.

Six. Your handwriting should be ubiquitous: grocery lists left in his coat pockets, telephone messages used as bookmarks, notes on the refrigerator and in his bedside drawer, directions to friends’ houses left in the passenger side door of his car.

Seven. Cry politely. Do not cry like a horse.

Eight. If you must say mean things, say them in a delicate, lovely voice, the same voice you used to say “I love you,” the same voice you used when you made promises you really did intend to keep. Do not shout or make ugly faces.

Nine.  The last time he sees you will be the morning.  He will come home from work and be surprised to find you gone.  Be sure to smell good that morning, even if you have to get up before he does and pat a scent behind your ears.  Touch his face softly, even if you have been arguing.  Say “goodbye” tenderly, with love, so that he thinks everything will be fine.  If you are very good, you will be able to give him that look that assures him everything will be fine, that he will come home and you will be nice again, that all your anger will have turned back to love.  This will increase the impact of your departure.

Ten. Write a note on very nice paper.  Make it simple.  Dear Henry, I have loved you completely. Be too hurt to sign your name.

Eleven.  Call a taxi.  Have too much pride to phone your brother or your best friend. Leave in tears, broken, and make sure his next door neighbor sees you.  She is a stripper and she will comfort him.  You will be safe knowing that he’s in the arms of the stripper and not his assistant.  Do not go back to retrieve things you have forgotten, like your climbing shoes or laundry you left in the dryer.  Once you are gone, be gone for good.


Copyright 2007© by Katherine Taylor.  Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  All rights reserved.

To buy the book online, visit To learn more about Katherine and her book, visit