I totally forget where I read this, but I believe it to be true: You’re truly over an ex when seeing them is not an event. You run into them, and you do not feel the need to text your best friend “SPOTTED: DOUCHENUGGET* IN FRONT OF THE LIBRARY” or having an internal monologue that sounds like “SHIT SHIT FUCK NOT PREPARED FOR THIS AVOID EYE CONTACT OK I THINK SHE’S GONE NOW PHEW.” They’re just a person with a face. That you saw.
*This is an actual nickname that I have used for a person. I’m quite proud of it.
I’m using the term “ex” here very broadly. To me, an ex doesn’t need to be someone that you’ve monogamously dated and met their parents and cried in front of them and all that crap. I think an ex is someone you had feelings for and they had feelings for you at the same time. An ex is someone who has seen you naked. An ex is someone who you once enjoyed seeing naked and about whom you probably have a random assortment of fun facts. For example:
had a childhood fear of bats
has a mole on the left side of their bellybutton
firmly believes that strawberry ice cream is a menace to society*
*I made these up. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Here’s another maxim I stand by: You should never ignore someone who has seen you naked.*
Here’s who I’m not talking about: your good exes. They’re exes, sure. But if things ended mutually and you still respect them as as a human even if you don’t want to fuck them any more, read no further. Instead, kindly leave them a “Skills and Endorsements” review on LinkedIn and invite them to all of your informal gatherings. Seeing this category of exes is clearly not an event.
Unless, of course, they bring someone more attractive than you to that informal gathering you invited them to. All of a sudden, you wonder if they look more fashionable, or finally became employed, or got better at doing that thing that they couldn’t quite master while you were together. Congratulations, you’re having a panic attack and an event.
Here’s who I am talking about: the Jess Marianos.* The ones who left ambiguously. The ones who left too early. The ones who left for no good reason. The ones who never left, just ghosted. The ones who whenever you see them, you can’t decide if you want to scratch their face off, make out with them, or burst into tears because you’re still mad about what they did to you.
Though Jess Mariano is a fictional male character, these thoughts can be applied to exes of any gender.
I absolutely have these people in my life. I’m sure you do too.
So, in the event that you do encounter this type of human, abandon all hope for closure. You’re never going to know why they hurt you. You’re never going to get a chance to tell them exactly how much pain they’ve caused you. You’re never going to get the apology that you so desperately crave.
So, instead, all you can hope for is calm. After you’ve gotten your serenity, I also hope for some kind of peace, to be able to approach them without malice. To see that person and remember that they hurt you, but that you are stronger for it. To know that they once had feelings for you, and you cherish that. To be thankful for all that you learned from loving and leaving (or being left by) them, and being certain that that growth is more precious than anything the two of you could have achieved together.
But that’s too long to remember, allow me to present an amended version of “The Serenity Prayer:”
Mom, Beyonce, Audre Lorde, Lexapro, or whatever higher power you wish to direct this to
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
like the fact that this person dumped me, and made me mad, and that it is socially unacceptable to tell them to go die in a hole and while they’re in that hole they should read some feminist theory and also learn how to express their goddamn feelings
Courage to change the things I can
Like my own feelings of anger and pain, which I am trading for gratitude for the lessons I learned while feeling those icky feels
And the wisdom to know the difference
Between garbage humans and fabulous humans, but if I never get that wisdom, then the courage to heal, grow, and love anew.