THE ULTIMATE RESPONSE TO A "DEAR JOHN LETTER"
You gotta love a man like this ... Humor in the face of defeat.
A Marine was deployed to Afghanistan. While he was there he received a letter from his girlfriend. In the letter she explained that she had slept with two guys while he had been gone and she wanted to break up with him. AND, she wanted pictures of herself back.
So the Marine did what any squared-away Marine would do. He went around to his buddies and collected all the unwanted photos of women he could find.
He then mailed about 25 pictures of women (with clothes and without) to his girlfriend with the following note:
"I don't remember which one you are. Please remove your picture and send the rest back."
[Collected on the Internet, November 1994]
Consider WW-II in the Pacific. Some tiny percentage of Americans there were involved in combat, the rest in a gigantic logistics effort, which usually amounted to three or four years of immense boredom on some island. Girlfriends at home often promised to wait for these GI's and sailors, but one particular girl didn't, and sent her sailor a Dear John letter claiming she was to marry the banker's son in three weeks, and asking him to return her portrait.
The sailor thought about it, and then borrowed a camera, and proceeded to take pictures of all of the ugliest sargeants and naval officers, all of the ugliest island natives, all of the monkeys in the trees, Japanese prisoners etc. etc., and put all of those pictures in a box along with the girl's picture and wrote something like: "Dear Sally Ann, I can't for the life of me remember which of these portraits is yours; could you please take your portrait, and send the others back."
Origins: In 2007 someone posted the following anecdote to the "Revenge" section of a web site dedicated to collecting true tales of relationship
I asked around to all my friends if they had any unwanted pictures of women — anyone and everyone. I sent her all the stupid, mushy gifts she gave me,
Marshall P. Wilder tells of a quarrel between a couple of his acquaintance who had been engaged for some months. The two lovers since have "made up" but while their quarrel was at its height no recrimination was too severe for either of them to put upon the other.
Of course, the first thing the girl did after the breaking of the engagement was to write to the young man, requesting the return of various souvenirs, and she particularly desired him to send back her photograph, which, she declared in her note, she had given to him "in a moment of girlish folly."
The young man's reply was amusingly cruel. Said he "I regret exceedingly that at present I am unable to find the photograph requested. However, I send you my entire collection of young ladies' photos, numbering some forty or fifty, among which, no doubt, you will find your own. The rest I shall thank you to return by the bearer of this."
[The Washington Post, 1901]
She pictured his room with her photograph smiling down at him from over the mantel, while another of her pictures looked demurely at him from a leather case on the dresser.
She could see him often standing in front of her mirrored likeness and making vows of constancy and fidelity. She knew he would rather part with anything he had than those pictures. But they had quarreled and she felt she must ask him to return her photographs and she wrote to him accordingly.
When she received his reply she nearly fainted. Here is what the wretch wrote:
"Dear Mabel: I would like awfully much to return your pictures, but, honestly, you girls all dress and pose so much alike for pictures that I can't tell any two of you apart. If you like I will send you over three or four hundred pictures that I have of miscellaneous girls and you can pick yours out. Hoping this will be satisfactory, I am, sincerely, &c., &c."
Not long since, a young lady who had been engaged to a fine young man for some time met a richer person and soon put off the old love for the new. She wrote to the old lover requesting him to return her photograph. Here was a chance for revenge, which he took by sending her the following note: "I would gladly comply with your request, but if I do so it will spoil my euchre deck. I have a collection of photographs which I use for playing cards, and I do not wish to break it by giving away the deuce of diamonds."
These two seemingly insignificant changes worked to keep the legend current: absent those shifts, a story about an engagement terminated through an exchange of letters sent winging through the mails wouldn't have sounded all that plausible. Yet by presenting the lad as a
Nowadays, the advent of cell phone technology that enables people to keep in constant touch even across the farthest reaches of the globe and digital photography technology that has done away with the concept of each picture's having a single "original" (negative or print) has somewhat lessened the currency of this legend. But despite its considerable age, the story continues to enjoy a robust life as a much passed-along anecdote thanks to its intrinsic message about what many continue to regard as the proper way for a fellow to deal with romantic disappointment. "This is what a real man does," says the tale. "This is how a manly man handles having his heart ripped from his chest and tromped on by the gal he'd given it to: he doesn't break down and cry over her perfidy (especially not in front of his buddies); he instead convinces the world that he never cared all that much in the first place." Real feelings of grief, abandonment, and rejection are squelched in favor of a steely-eyed, lantern-jawed display of bravado.
Just as Aesop's fox makes his peace with having to abandon the luscious grapes hanging beyond his reach by pronouncing them sour, so does this legend counsel a heartbroken man to pretend to the world that he hadn't been that much in love with the gal who'd sent him packing.
Barbara "sour grapes rather than whine" Mikkelson
Sightings: In an episode of television's M*A*S*H ("Identity Crisis," original air date
Last updated: 11 May 2013
Chicago Tribune. "To Identify Her Picture."   The Washington Post. 13 July 1901 (p. 9). The National Police Gazette. "Seasoning."   15 January 1881 (Vol. XXXVII, No. 173; p. 2). The New York Times. "The Man in the Street."   25 October 1903 (p. SM1). Philadelphia Press. "Photograph Returned."   The Los Angeles Times. 28 May 1905 (p. V13). The Wall Street Journal. "Pepper and Salt: Eyes of the Fleet."   15 April 1941 (p. 4). The Washington Post. "Sweet Revenge."   18 November 1910 (p. 6).