50 Ways to Leave Your Lover  

Monday, August 16, 2010

There are many enduring mysteries in pop/rock music: "what did Billy Joe McAllister and his girlfriend throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge?" and "What won't Meat Loaf do for love?" and "What the hell is 'froggy style'?" Paul Simon has contributed to this choral cold case file a couple of times, and while it'd be nice to know what he and Julio were doing down by the schoolyard, the more compelling mystery comes from his 1975 hit, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."

I imagine that most of you are familiar with the song, but here's the capsulized version in case you aren't: the narrator, presumably Simon, is meeting with a woman who wants to help him leave his lover. She tells him that there must be fifty ways to do so, but they really only discuss five (arguably six).

This makes some sense; a couple is having dinner or some other quick meeting, and they're able to rattle off five ways to leave lovers pretty quickly, so it's not too much of a stretch to say "if we can think of this many this quickly, then there must be, like, fifty." But without elaborating on those other ways, I think the listeners are right in feeling a little cheated. Here's the established list:

  1. Slip out the back, Jack
  2. Make a new plan, Stan
  3. Don't need to be coy, Roy
  4. Hop on the bus, Gus
  5. Drop off the key, Lee

The arguable one is "just get yourself free," which is repeated.

I've seen other attempts to flesh out the fifty ways, but they often devolve into "five ways to leave your lover, and forty-five ways to kill them," which is not how the line goes. So I'm going to do one better. Here's my attempt to help you in your struggle to be free: the missing forty-five ways to leave your lover.
  1. Write up a scene, Jean
  2. Do it on stage, Paige
  3. Sing it in chorus, Morris
  4. Take out an ad, Tad
  5. Act like a dick, Nick
  6. Bail on a date, Nate
  7. Call her a bitch, Mitch
  8. Say he smells bad, Brad
  9. Say he's too small, Saul
  10. Stick her with the bill, Will
  11. Tell her she's fat, Pat
  12. Give her a spank, Frank
  13. Make him feel pain, Jane
  14. Take him to a bris, Kris
  15. You could just beat 'er, Peter
  16. Don't brush your teeth, Keith
  17. Live like a slob, Bob
  18. Bogart his weed, Reid
  19. Say you've got crabs, Babs
  20. Give him VD, Bree
  21. Dump him for his twin, Lynn
  22. Say that you're gay, Jay
  23. Say you're a man, Ann
  24. Have sex with her dad, Chad
  25. Do it through text, Rex
  26. Do it by phone, Joan
  27. Send it by mail, Gail
  28. Just go for a drive, Clive
  29. Pack up and leave, Steve
  30. Tell her you're dead, Ted
  31. Shave all his hair, Clare
  32. Sell her as a slave, Dave
  33. Blaspheme her god, Todd
  34. Just pull the plug, Doug
  35. Fake your own death, Beth
  36. Give her no space, Chase
  37. Make him feel blue, Sue
  38. Say "go to Hell", Nell
  39. Sing "You're so Vain," Lane
  40. Take back her ring, Bing
  41. Say you won't marry, Gary
  42. Get up and get gone, Dawn
  43. Just say how you feel, Neil
  44. Tell her the truth, Ruth
  45. Just try 'em all, Paul

And get yourself free.

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