Dear Kiki: I can’t stop following breadcrumbs

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Dear Kiki,

The guy I like is breadcrumbing me. I can’t help but fall for it every time. How do I stop?

–Little Lost Bird

Dear Birdie,

First, let’s clear things up for the olds (like me!) among our readership:

According to Urban Dictionary, “breadcrumbing” is “When the ‘crush’ has no intentions of taking things further, but they like the attention. So they flirt here or there, send dm/texts just to keep the person interested, knowing damn well they’re staying single.”

Basically, he’s leading you on.

And, Little Lost Bird, you’re fully aware of this. So there’s two layers here, aren’t there? You ask, “How do I stop?” But your real question is, “How do I make myself want to stop?”

There’s a couple of steps to addressing that. First, get real with yourself. Stage a solo intervention. Sit down with a pen, a notebook and the beverage of your choice and write down the things you want out of a relationship. Be honest with yourself! Note everything, from your preferred gender (if you have one) to the eye color you find dreamiest to the number of children you want someday. Pretend you’re 8 years old playing M.A.S.H. with your friends.

(Let’s clear things up for the youths among our readership: M.A.S.H. is a game for “determining” one’s future, where you choose several options in a variety of categories and then perform arcane rituals to figure out which you’ll end up with. The name refers to your future living situation: mansion, apartment, shack or house.)

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Once you’ve got your list, break it down into “must haves,” “strong preferences,” and “nice but not necessary.” Now, shoot your imagination forward instead of back: You’re 80 years old, on death’s door, rereading this list and contemplating your regrets. Is spending or not spending time with this guy you like among them?

Remember, the most efficient way to filter any difficult choice is through the lenses of, “Am I making decisions that would make past-me proud?” and “Am I laying the groundwork for future-me to be happy?”

Then, after all that, close your eyes and do the thing that you know you can’t not do.

Because, Little Bird, every breadcrumb you follow is a choice. If your choices are bringing you joy — if you’re having fun being flirty and not causing any ancillary harm — then let yourself enjoy being flattered and fawned upon, however sporadic.

But if you choose to keep following the trail, knowing full well that you have different expectations of the future, and that’s a dealbreaker for you, then aren’t you leading him along by prolonging the inevitable? Maybe the question actually is, “Who’s breadcrumbing whom?”

xoxo, Kiki

This article was originally published in Little Village’s October 2023 issue.