Feb 15, 2001 at 2:06 pm

We are a polite society. Despite evidence in the headlines about road rage, random shootings and the like, I think the majority of us try to be nice. I was just looking at the last employment rejection letter I received. It's so nice it almost makes me forget the underlying message: "Hey, we don't want you."

The rejection letter is also vague. Telling me that we went with another candidate doesn't tell me anything about why I didn't make the cut. Were my test scores too low? Did I give a stupid answer to a make-or-break question? Was my perfume offensive? I'll never know.

All I have is this polite letter to ponder while I whip up some voodoo magic on the idiots who rejected me.

Dating may be the only arena where polite society turns truly ugly. Indeed, it seems nothing is acceptable except the bitter, blunt, raw truth. I've been dumped many times, and I'm certain no one said, "You have many good qualities, but I've decided to go with another candidate." It's more likely to be, "You're too fat to be sexually attractive," which is what my college beau Ed blurted out as part of his dumping speech. He might as well have typed that up on a sheet of letterhead, because those words have stuck with me for more than a decade.

Come to think of it, a more pleasant world this might be if breakups were accompanied by a well thought-out letter. It might not be covered in Emily Post's book of etiquette, but I've got enough rejection letters from jobs, magazines, credit card companies and banks to find the language to use.

Fellas, the next time you want to dump your lady because she sucks in bed, think about a letter. You might find it more soothing to your soon to be ex-mate to write, "Your intimate performances don't quite meet the standards I've established. Further study with French ticklers and oral gratification should be forthcoming to continue this relationship." She still may put her foot in your ass, but at least you were polite.

Although I doubt anyone is really losing sleep over his or her dating legacy, you would be amazed how the niceness of the break-up influences how the entire relationship is remembered. When Scott J. and I split, we were having such a nice conversation about how it just wasn't working and we didn't have much in common that anybody eavesdropping would have had no idea we were effectively dumping each other. That sticks with me and, consequently, I have nice memories of him, and he has been spared being skewered in these column.

If fear of your boorish actions being written about years later for 50,000 people to read isn't enough reason to be polite when ending a relationship, how about the possibility of revenge? Or karma? That is, your bad behavior will come back on you when you least expect it. I've had to break off a few relationships myself, and I didn't always choose the best language to present my case. Sometimes I was downright vicious, although I try to save cutting up clothes and stealing all your money for lousy friends and former roommates. I guess it's payback for the all the Ed's in the world who couldn't muster a little tact before kicking met to the curb.

I was going to say something corny like being polite is the only thing that separates us from wild animals, but that would be a crock. Inability to nibble our own genitals is what separates us, but that's for another time. Just consider that no harm can come from trying to do the right thing.

Dumping and being dumped is never fun. You can stick the knife in, but you don't have to twist it.