My friend and I were hanging out the other day, (hanging out = drinking). It was Valentine’s Day. Quite a difficult day of the year for those singletons who, like me, don’t buy in to the whole commercialism of it, but secretly want to exile all lovers for showing affection to each other because damn them for inadvertently shoving it into our faces. Being single on V Day is hard, so a good bottle of rum goes a long way in terms of solace.
“I saw Danny the other day,” my friend began. My heart jumped. An ex, a bad ending, another woman. I mentally kicked myself. Why do I care? It was years ago, I am so over it. So, to show how much I didn’t care, I asked how he was.
“He’s good, moving back here soon.”
Shit. That was the last thing I wanted to hear, and thank you so much, Life, for the last thing I wanted to hear to be told to me on Valentine’s Day. To prove how much I had no interest in this news, I asked about the other woman.
“Rachel? They’re still together.”
Since then, I have been wondering why I reacted so much to this news, and how I would feel if I saw him again. It’s not that impossible: mutual friends, a smallish city, and that bitch known as Life could all play a hand in this. I remember that episode from Sex and the City, when Miranda spots her ex on the street with another woman. Despite being a self assured, highly successful woman, she reacts in the way that I imagine most of us would. She ducks, hides, and then, when the moment is right, she runs like a madwoman in the opposite direction. Smooth.
I am not a self assured, highly successful woman. So the duck and run seems a perfectly viable option. But that is really only plausible if you see your ex first. What if you don’t? What if you turn around in a bar or a shop one day and, BANG, hello! You could run then, but you’d look really bloody stupid. You’d be cursing yourself afterwards, screaming WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??? There’s no way back from that one.
Other options, then, are to be considered. You could lie: “Yes, I’m doing very well in my current job, just got promoted actually, and I’m building my reputation as an artist, my last painting sold for £2000. My boyfriend, Raphael, is an up and coming director. You might have seen him at the BAFTAs this year. You didn’t? Such a shame. I only couldn’t accompany him because I was flying to Bruges to be a bridesmaid to a woman whose life I had saved whilst on holiday there a couple of years ago.” Or, you could be very, very honest: “Well, I’m currently working two jobs. In the first, I am only working weekends, and in the second, it’s such unreliable work that I am making peanuts. I’ve no confidence with my artwork, so I procrastinate a lot. I’ve just gotten out of an emotionally damaging relationship with an older man, and now I can’t trust men anymore. I’m seeing a therapist once a week after I had a breakdown and had to leave my old job, which means I am in debt to my dad, and barely able to support myself. My life is a mess.”
After exploring both of these options at length, I had a sudden epiphany. I love a good epiphany: after Life has beaten you black and blue and starts to feel sorry for you, it sends down a little whisper of wisdom so you can avoid another beating. My epiphany was this. I don’t care. Not groundbreaking, I know, since I had already professed not to care when my friend broke the news to me. But, fact is, people, I don’t care because I shouldn’t. Seriously, how many of us have freaked out over news of an ex? Agonizing over how to deal with it, how to respond? Worrying about some hypothetical scenario in which we are face to face once again? We don’t have to, quite frankly. We’re not delicate, we won’t dissolve into tears or cause a scene. It might hurt, it might be a shock, but we will deal in the way each of us know is best for ourselves. We got over it then and, by god, we’ll get over it now.
So, if I see Danny in the future, I will do what I have to do. Smile, be happy to see him, ask about his life, then walk to the nearest place-with-wine and drink some of it with a friend. The first meeting may be hard, but once that’s over, who knows? You might surprise yourself, and realise you are genuinely pleased to see your ex, that you are truly happy they are OK. And, if you’re really not? There’s always that place-with-wine and a friend.