How to Hang Out with your Ex-Girlfriend

“What did you do for Passover?” My chiropractor likes to ask me questions when I’m face down on her table, no way to clearly respond. Slightly bothersome, but when you’ve got a butch woman manipulating your butt for half an hour, you take the bad with the good.

“Went to my parents,” I said into the the face-rest. “Just my sister, her boyfriend, my girlfriend and my — ” I paused, ”ex-girlfriend.”

“Sounds nice,” she said, and did something excruciating to my hamstring.

We’re all friends and exes here

Mention to a straight person that your holiday plans include an ex and odds are you won’t receive the same blasé response. I’m not sure what motivates other lesbians to cultivate friendships with their exes, but I believe that if someone is sufficiently engaging/integral/lovable to spend months or years of your life squabbling over window treatments or practicing ritual flesh hook suspension with, then they’re important enough for a bi-weekly phone call or at minimum a Facebook friendship. That and I’m part Border Collie: I’m compelled to keep track of everyone I’ve ever met. And possibly herd them across the hills of Scotland.

So, yeah, I’m friends with all of my exes, back through to high school when they had penises and everything. (They still have penises. Not that I’ve checked. This is rule number one of maintaining a friendship with an ex: never check to make sure he still has a penis.)

It’s been pointed out to me by a handful of other AfterEllen writers that Everyone is Responsible for Herself. I totally agree with this, except that I prefer to substitute “My Precious Feelings” for “Herself.” But of course, your girlfriend is responsible for how she reacts to your ex’s presence in your life. Still, there are certain small things you can do to successfully integrate your ex and your current into one, big, happy — or at least reasonably tension free — lesbian family. (This is coincidentally also the name of the really boring reality show I’m shopping to the Insomnia Network.). Take a read, because no one should ever have to find oneself in the backseat of a cigarette smoke filled Jeep with one’s girlfriend’s ex while one’s girlfriend and her best friend ignore one from the front of the car. (Not that I would know anything about that.)

Starting Out

Many lesbian relationships begin through bonding over exes, or God help both of you, a shared ex. I am here to tell you to resist this urge. Please. Just save your girlfriend the ongoing hell of picturing your ex penetrating you with a cucumber whenever she goes to make a salad. But how will I bond? you might ask yourself. How will I prove I’m desirable? you might wonder. Do like the straight people and bond over a shared devotion to horror movies, weird old cheese, Wilco or whatever it is that straight people like. As for proving yourself desirable, this isn’t a court of law; you don’t need a sexual character witness. So don’t name-check your exes, unless of course you dated Megan Fox, in which case, here’s your megaphone. The roof is that way.

“Helena, please come over and hang out with us. It’s not weird!”

The Unexpected Run-In

Say you’re not friends with your ex, because you’re like, a four leaf clover or something. No matter how averse you are to seeing your ex, please do not drag your girlfriend into an alley to avoid her. I get it, you’re filled with that putrid mix of dread, sorrow and shame over your unflattering post-break-up haircut. But your girlfriend doesn’t know this. She’s thinking, “I’m wearing my best knickers, why doesn’t this bitch want to show me off?” (I think maybe your girlfriend is an English schoolboy.)

Paradoxically, don’t go out of your way to parade your current girlfriend in front of your ex. It’ll be like that episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where Willow is all “Kiss me,” and Oz is like “I think you’re just doing this to make Xander jealous so let’s skip it till it’s really about me.” (By the way, I’m totally team Oz. Does that make me a bad lesbian? No more than my obsession with porn star James Deen.) The point is, do you want your girlfriend to feel like arm candy or a valued individual in her own right? Actually, I’m rethinking this; being valued in my own right makes me feel fat, but let’s assume your girlfriend had a smoother adolescence than I did.

Group Activities

Say you make plans to get together as a foursome or — seriously what’s wrong with you — a trio. (The minute this posts I’ll receive accusing emails from my exes calling me a hypocrite. Whatever. I’ve been called worse. Usually in bed.) Anyway, the three of you are in your usual booth at your favorite cult-owned vegan restaurant.

1. Sit next to your girlfriend.
2. Do not split the Milk of The Mother Earth Smoothie with your ex.
3. If your ex makes a snide comment about your girlfriend (Sample snide comments: “How can you be with someone who’s allergic to cats?” “What do you mean, she’s never heard of Kate Clinton?” “She’s really — tall.”) it does not matter whether your ex is “just, you know, a really honest person,” or whether your girlfriend is “kind of oversensitive, don’t you think?” Nope. Your job is to DEFEND YOUR GIRLFRIEND because seriously now, who would you rather align with, a woman who dumped a bowl of cereal in your briefcase when she caught you cheating or the one who gives you The Sex?

“Which one do I choose? Oh right, the sex.”

Obligatory Social Events

You’re at some shindig (Similar to a hootenanny but minus the line dancing.) and your ex strolls into view. Conversation is flowing. You’ve remembered to:

1. Introduce your girlfriend rather than leave her standing there like a reject so she feels compelled to say “By the way, I’m no one important if you were wondering.” (Again, not that I would know.) when suddenly you see an old friend. (We won’t discuss whether or not you’ve slept with her. You probably have.) It’s fine to excuse yourself to greet her but:
2. Do not leave your ex and your girlfriend alone together for more than six minutes (a number I randomly came up with). Best case scenario, they both feel awkward, worst, they start making out. Either way, avoid it.

Assuming your girlfriend is still your girlfriend when you return:

3. As much fun as it is to reminisce with your ex about that Tegan and Sara concert you two attended, keep discussions about the past to a minimum in front of your current girlfriend. If you simply must rehash every detail of that time the two of you tried to make tofu and couscous for the womyn’s potluck but it burned and you ended up passing off Kentucky Fried Chicken as homemade seitan fricassee because you’re both assholes who don’t care about other people’s dietary restrictions, make a freaking coffee date and discuss it on your own time.

“It’s so great we can get together like this.”

Your Own Time

I have that? You might ask. Time of my own? Yes, Virginia (Woolf), even in a relationship some things remain just yours. Go ahead and make a coffee date with your ex. If you’ve followed my instructions, your girlfriend should be primed to approve. And who knows, you too might get to celebrate Passover with your ex and your current. You know, next year in Jerusalem.