It’s been almost 15 years since I came out.
God, that seems like such a long time. You’d think I’d be at the Master’s Level in dykiness or something by now.
But the truth is that I still lack quite a few lezzie credentials.
For example, I do not have what a friend of mine calls “the posse of exes” — you know, the gang of ex-lovers who are now your best friends.
Of course, to be honest, I don’t even have that many ex-lovers in the first place — but my main point here is that the small number of exes that I do have are just that: exes.
I’ve always thought that one of the cool things about dykes is the way that a lot of us manage to maintain close friendships with women we used to fuck or date or live with, or who we were married to, for Christ’s sake. Whereas, for example, my sister has a complete fit if her husband even talks to some woman he slept with 10 years before he met her — and I don’t think she’s an unusual straight lady, at least not in that way.
Recently I did a very scientific survey about this topic on Facebook, and a number of dykes told me about their posses. The superstar of all my respondents was this woman who wrote, “I am friendly with all my exes and my two major exes (L and M) are my two closest friends by far. In fact, L was the maid of honour at M’s and my wedding.”
Wow, I thought, that is awesome. (And I have to add that I love the term “major exes”).
She explained, “You pick lovers and partners for a reason, so it’s hard to imagine that you won’t have something special in common after the romantic/sexual part of your relationship has ended.”
This makes sense, and is such a radical departure from the patriarchal model of relationships that most of us were brought up with: bound up in ownership and jealousy and black and white divisions between passionate lovers and bitter exes.
It must take a lot of dedication, open-heartedness and caring to work through the pain of breaking up and manage to stay close. It’s inspiring to think that the whole breaking up process could end with a beautiful friendship.
And yet, sometimes it seems like dykes kind of glorify this cultural phenomenon. As if the ultimate mark of maturity is the ability to be friends with your ex.
A woman I know — I’ll call her S — was telling me the other day about what happened when her long-time partner left her for another woman. Their circle of friends was really frustrated with S because she did not want to attend parties or events where her ex and the new girlfriend would be.
“Don’t make us choose!” they said. “Why are you making such a big deal about it? Can’t you just be friends with them?”
When S told me this story she said, “I have no interest in being friends with my ex. What’s so wrong with that, anyway?”
There are practical reasons for the pressure to be friends.
Most dykes live in pretty small communities. There’s a good chance that you and your ex will see each other again. Or your friend will end up dating your ex. Or something like that. So I can see why it might be good not to scream and yell or fall down crying whenever you see her.
But do you have to be friends? Do you even have to tolerate her presence?
Sometimes an ex is just an ex, right? And just like you dated her for a reason, you broke up with her for a reason.
It seems to me that the ability to move on could be considered just as admirable as the ability to stay connected.
I don’t mean dramatically and/or cruelly cutting someone out of your life. I mean realizing that actually you don’t have that much in common with your ex, or your ex isn’t that nice to you, or you feel like crap when you’re around your ex, not really because either of you is doing anything wrong, but because you just bring out the worst in each other.
When I was doing my research for this column, one woman told me about trying to explain to her ex that she didn’t want to be friends.
“But,” her ex responded, “I am quite sure our souls were bound together in previous lives. I think we should maintain a connection.”
I think we could consider this a whole new level of pressure. And honestly, I am not sure how one would counteract it without the assistance of a trained medium.
To be sure, I’ve also heard interesting tales of exes who went another route entirely.
This one woman was dumped by her girlfriend and they had no contact for almost a year. Then the ex-girlfriend called.
“Hello,” she said, “I don’t want to be friends or anything. But I am starting a new relationship and running into some emotional blocks. I was wondering if you could sit down with me and go over all the things I did wrong in our relationship so that I could do better in this new one. I won’t take too much of your time.”
Another friend of mine hadn’t heard from her ex for months. Then one night the ex called her.
“I just wanted to know how you are. I don’t want to have a conversation or tell you anything about my life. I just want to make sure that you are okay.”
In the end, I think what my research tells me is that keeping your exes as friends is a pretty great thing, and I envy those who have done this — that is, as long as it’s a free choice, and not the result of dyke peer pressure — or of karma.