Girl Talk: Exing Out The Ex

Exes are exes for a reason. You have to remember that, even when you miss them — like I did this past week.

You may remember the crappy ex in question — the one who broke up with me over IM, stole a painting he’d given me as a present and generally made me feel like total crap for several months. Our breakup was quick and sharp (over IM, after all), but the months leading up to it were painful and heartbreaking. He was miserable and so was I.

I wallowed for weeks. I went to Barcelona. I came back and threw myself into a crazy work schedule, doing both my job at The Frisky and a nighttime writing gig that required I stay glued to my computer from Monday through Thursday nights. I was feeling some semblance of normal. And then, six months after our breakup, he walked into a coffee shop a few blocks from my house. He had, he cheerfully told me, moved just around the corner. We now lived four blocks from each other. I. Was. Livid. Did he not want me to move on? Did he not see how much of an imposition he’d made? New York has FIVE boroughs — must he live so uncomfortably close? Did he not see how much pain this was putting me through? It’s not like he didn’t know where I lived.

I stewed. I complained to my best friends. I told him he was being deeply inconsiderate and a sociopath. I made all kinds of unreasonable demands, like, if he happened to walk into a local bar I was at, he was to turn around and go the eff home.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

That was six months ago. And then, last week, something else happened. The anger gave way to a new feeling. I might actually miss him a little? I’d let go of enough of the bad feeling to let a little bit of nostalgia and positive memory slip in. Whaaaaaaat?

I emailed him that I wanted to see him (having long ago deleted his number) and partly thanks to his living a short crawl away, we met up that night. I wanted to tell him that I missed him, and that I was starting to remember that not everything that went on between us was terrible. That we’d had some good times.

And then he showed up. He was stoned. He began rambling about his desk job. He was complaining about how busy he was. He was … boring me? The former love of my life was kind of annoying?  

I listened to him drone on and I began to realize that our connection was gone. Or maybe we’d never had one. Maybe we’d actually fallen for, not each other, but the unreal narrative of our relationship. I asked him what it was that made him fall in love with me — out of curiosity, more than anything. And he told me: “Your attitude. Your style.” My style? Was that what compelled you to leave your home and move across the country to be with me?

I tried to get worked up about his relatively shoddy answer, but I just couldn’t. Because now, a year later, I didn’t actually care anymore. I also realized that the person I had thought I was in love with didn’t actually exist. My ex was just a guy. A guy who’d been all too willing to let me put my fantasies and expectations on him. But in reality, he wasn’t any of those things. He wasn’t good or bad. He was just who he was.

And for the first time in a year, my head felt completely clear of him.