As Johnny prepares to march home again (hurrah, hurrah), he might picture himself picking right back up with Susie Sweetheart, marrying the girl and living the dream.
After all, he's been out in the trenches, fighting the good fight. Battered, he clings to those rumpled letters covered in elaborate pen swirls: "My beloved Johnny …, To my true love …, Darling Johnny …"
But before he can pack his bags, he's handed an envelope. Like any other envelope on any other day, he tears open the side and slides the letter into his greedy, waiting palm, only to read:
"Dear John …"
The callous bite of formality! The blatant omission of pet names! The brevity!
"John? But John is my father!" he thinks. "I am Johnny! I'm her beloved, darling Johnny! Nooo!"
See, back during World War II, when "Dear Johns" became prevalent, American soldiers overseas felt their stomachs immediately plummet at the greeting's lack of flowery affection.
They knew what was coming: Their girls were bidding them adieu.
But when you switch out the military soldier for a soldier of the Lord, a Mormon missionary in the field, the "Dear John" letter becomes historically, hysterically less firm and frank.
"Dear John" letters of yesteryear were meant to rip the bandage off — "Dear John, I'm seeing someone else. Good luck. Goodbye." The LDS version has evolved into a beast of its own, a cultural staple that merely prolongs the pain with pathetic promises of continued friendship and future Facebook following.
Need help writing the bad news? Try our
By the time you get this, I will be __________. Sorry you won't be seeing me in _________.
It all started ________ after you entered the MTC. I was sitting with friends at a ward __________ when I saw ______________. He is just like you, only ______________. He has the most amazing ______________ and ________________. We started seeing each other and were ________________ within ________ days. These feelings were confirmed through _______. I _______ him, and he _______me.
Please accept this ___________ as a token of our friendship. And perhaps when you get home ______________, we can double date and you can see what a _________________ guy he is.
I am sure you will find a ______________ who will make you as happy as he has made me.
1. Early-John, OR MTC-John
The earlier the better. It's painful but positive. It eliminates two years of anticipation, and the missionary has access to professional counselors at the MTC.
"Our eyes made contact across the pews at your final sacrament meeting talk. He had me at hello."
Arrives after she discovers other girls are waiting.
"How many other girls have been sending packages? You've broken our unspoken contract of exclusivity!"
Finding out you've been dumped by electronic or social media, usually an e-mail CC'd to her whole contact list, which simultaneously announces her eligibility.
"Dear Family, I was blind-sided by technology this week …"
Missionary learns from his home spy network his faithful girlfriend changed her Facebook status from "In a relationship" to "It's complicated."
"Target was seen sitting next to an RM in institute marriage prep class."
Not only is the relationship over, but the contents in the letter send the missionary into a state of shame.
"We shouldn't have been so exclusive. We should have been dating many others and following the rules of dating in the 'Strength of Youth' pamphlet. Then I wouldn't be crying while writing this."
6. Epistle-John, or the Drag-it-on-John
A painful multipage letter that recaps every detail of the beautiful courtship before ending the relationship. It's often accompanied with various sentimental items.
"Remember on our third date when we went to our favorite restaurant and I expressed my undying devotion to you? Then we went and played laser tag and you let me win and we kissed? That was so awesome."
Girl doesn't officially end the relationship but doesn't offer any guarantees for waiting, either.
"Just wanted to let you know I am seeing someone else, and who knows what will happen? I may still be here when you get back. I may not."
Girl recants a previous Dear John and begs for another chance.
"I know you didn't expect to hear from me again. Funny thing. Turns out that Sam wasn't as great as I thought. Can you ever forgive me?"
An old companion or best friend steals missionary's girlfriend and the conniving heist results in a Dear John.
"Hey, Elder, when you get home, would you mind taking a bouquet of flowers to my girl?"
Girl is either so enamored with her new beau that she forgets, or the idea of breaking the news is so painful she delays writing the Dear John until a week before the missionary returns home.
"I was going to tell you sooner, but I've been so busy with wedding plans."
Any Dear John that ambushes you with a surprise wedding announcement.
"Look, Elder, she's registered at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and your parents are hosting their reception."
Missionary never receives a Dear John and has no clue his girl has moved on or married.
"Oh, Johnny, you can't handle the truth."
When the fear of marital obligation motivates a missionary to shock waiting girl by sending her a Dear John.
"Don't wait for me. I'm involved in a great cause, and the Lord will bless me with a someone just as good."
She ain't your Penelope, she ain't your wife
A fair damsel stands by her absent man despite being overrun with romantic offers from 108 persistent gents.
That's right: 108 proposals later, she's still resisting.
This isn't a fluffy story of a missionary and his incredibly loyal girl; this is one plot strand of Homer's "The Odyssey" where Odysseus' wife, Penelope, remains faithful for decades until he finds his way home after the Trojan War.
But you, missionary-to-be, can't expect the same tough-as-overcooked-steak mentality from your squeeze. Why? Because she or he isn't your spouse! Face it: Nobody can keep 108 marriage-crazy RMs at bay.
A closer look reveals even faithful Penelope (who thinks her husband is dead) has a moment where she wants to give up and encourage her suitors, "inflame" their hearts.
Try avoiding the possible "Dear John" detour altogether. Hold off serious relationships until you get home, when you can focus your energies on winning a real "Penelope" rather than expecting a girl to lounge around eating bonbons, waiting at the window for you.