How to Handle Running Into Your Ex

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Posted by Girls Guide To on May 31, 2012 at 4:16 PM

We’ve all been there. You’re minding your own business, doing your grocery shopping or whatever and out of nowhere you see your ex walking toward you. If you’re anything like me, you a) panic and b) get flustered or c) run away. You briefly think about whether or not you should play it cool, or if playing it too cool will make you seem grouchy and embittered. Then you stop thinking that and instead start thinking "HOLY CRAP MY EX IS COMING RIGHT OVER, SHOULD I SAY HI OR LOOK BUSY OR FAKE A PHONE CALL OR—" and then your whole train of thought gets catastrophically derailed because he waves hello and now there’s no escape.

The bad news: No matter how you play it, figuring out how to act around an ex is tricky business. There's a fine line between being polite and making the point that you're doing just fine on your own these days, thank you very much. Here are some guidelines for surviving the experience.

DO prepare yourself for surprises.

Some exes, as soon as they finish dating you, will immediately begin dating the nearest woman-shaped disaster they can find. Others will win the lottery and get engaged to someone who makes you look like the lumpy potato sack you picked up in the produce department. Just be prepared for any scenario, no matter how baffling.

DON'T get all fake and awkward.

Whatever your ex has to share, what should happen is that you feel confident in yourself, you flash a big, somewhat-genuine smile, and you say something like "That's great! I'm so happy for you." What often does happen is that your brain takes that basic sequence, smooshes it up like a tangle of Christmas tree lights, and shoots out some weird, unintelligible emotion that makes you unsure of what is even happening, and why. "OH MY GOD YOU ARE MAKING YOUR OWN SALSA?? THAT IS INCREDIBLE," you may find yourself shrieking for some reason. You will then start yammering endlessly about your love of avocados and the one time you got fresh jalapeno in your eye, as you watch yourself from afar and think "Wow, I am completely insane."

DO fib if you have to. DON'T go nuts.
There is perhaps nothing worse than to run into an ex who is clearly doing amazingly well when you have, for example, spent the past four hours Googling variations of "cute corgi puppies" and "adorable puppies" and "kittens with puppies." This is the kind of thing that will happen eventually, no matter how together your life is. "I just got back from Cancun, where I was having lunch with movie stars, and this is my girlfriend, a movie star!" your ex will say, tanly.

"And what... have you been up to?" he will ask politely, even though you are very clearly wearing a holey shirt with your sorority letterson it and carrying a huge tub of ice cream under your arm. Well, there's no harm in implying that maybe your life is going a little better than it actually is, if you're desperate to save face. You can give the impression that you have big, exciting plans for the weekend, when the most exciting thing you had planned was to wake up at 4 p.m. and make one giant pancake instead of several smaller pancakes.

DO make your exit with class.

Okay, so you've established that you're both still alive, your ex won a trophy or something, blah blah blah. Both parties get to tell one story and pass along significant news, and then that's enough. It's time for an exit strategy. Pull a giant smile out of somewhere, say something like "It was good to see you," and stroll casually out the door. It's better to cut this short that to flounder around in a conversation you don't even want, and besides, you have places to be, because you're doing awesome, remember? Besides, the sooner you're outta there, the sooner you can get back to your corgis.

And if all else fails, pull out one of these lines I saw on Glamour the other day:

"OMG, hi! Yeah, I still live in Brooklyn! What about you, are you still deranged?"

"I'm actually here with Ryan—haha, I mean Ryan Gosling—but he just ran out for cigarettes. Because he does whatever I tell him to do."*

"Hey, I was just talking to your best friend the other day. He got really ripped. Just saying. And we did some shots. Nothing happened though. I mean, basically nothing. Haha, ask him about it!"

"Whoops, dropped my purse! Whoops, look at all those condoms! Whoops, I'm being single! And having sex! With men! Do you know how sex works? I can explain it! I think."

What was the most awkward encounter with an ex you've ever had?


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