I was at coffee with The Silver Fox a couple weeks back and he was recounting a great night out with his ex – oh, let’s call him…Casey – and their old group of friends. I dunno, I think there was a trivia championship or karaoke or something at some bar and he was able to see the whole group together again, which has been pretty rare – obviously – since the break up. Not that he normally participates in anything karaoke or trivia related. This particular excursion was heavily weighted by the benefit of seeing people he doesn’t often get to interact with any longer.
He was still jazzed – he’s such a social animal, sometimes I wonder how curmudgeonly old me got to be his best friend – from the energy of such a large gathering. He’d even gotten introduced to new people, after a couple of years there were new boy/girlfriends and just some general new additions to the group. As excited as he is to be involved with a large social dynamic, add in fresh social blood and he’s gonna have quite a night.
It’s an enviable social skill.
Naturally, what I took away from this recounting was him telling me that Casey had introduced him as his friend.
Now, this is by and large a heterosexual group and Casey didn’t come out to this group of his friends until well after beginning his relationship with The Fox, but that didn’t stop me from clarifying that he was introduced as a friend versus an ex-boyfriend before letting him continue with his social waxing.
So there’s the backstory on this little social thought exercise I’ve been kicking around for a while: It’s weird within our culture to introduce ones ex.
To give you a little distance between the back story and the crazy, meandering thoughts I may or may not have on this, how about we pause to acknowledge my Sonos’ sense of musical humor?
This is the album the latest song I’m hearing is off of. —->
How cute is that?
Largely, I’m sure, the awkwardness of the word is due to a growing lack of civility in the dissolution of relationships in America. But there’s precedent in my life and social circle that makes my curiosity valid.
My parents divorced for a couple decades before ultimately re-marrying, there was certainly social overlap for them during family get togethers, even though they were separated not just by law, but by geography as they lived a state away from one another.
The Fox has not only a friendship – albeit one that is still finding its nature – with his ex-boyfriend, but also a strong friendship with his ex-wife. Hell, that particular friend relationship involves international travel!
I consider my ex from my days in Seattle to be a true friend and important piece of my life, although following in my parent’s footsteps, we are also separated by state lines.
Since the dawn of time, the majority of lesbian break ups (it does happen) have lacked significant acrimony and drama. Think of how remarkable that statement is given the old joke about bringing a U-Haul to a second lesbian date. Most parties that I attend that are thrown by a lesbian or lesbian couple have exes on the guest list. I dunno, maybe if a Kardashian came out as lesbian and had a relationship that would put some lesbian break up drama on the board for us. But, Melissa Etheridge and her break ups with both Julie Cypher and Tammy Lynn Michaels; Patricia Cornwell and whatever happened with her role in the break up of her girlfriend’s marriage…hell, even introducing Anne Heche into a lesbian relationship failed to bring about significant relationship drama. That last one especially was mostly about her own inherent crazy.
When I was thinking about this whole “How to introduce one’s ex” thing, I was thinking about how I introduce Rib, which is pretty easy for me. I just toss out a “This is Rib and his boyfriend, ‘_’.” I don’t have a blog name for his boyfriend…it’s only been a couple of years. Hehe. Just kidding, I do have a nickname for him but it’s too obvious to sufficiently mask his actual identity to my literal dozens of readers, so he got the blog equivalent of air quotes. But, that manner of introducing him socially differs from how I refer to him in conversation, when I’m talking about him, I say “my ex” or “Rib, my ex”, etc.
Should how I refer to him publicly and privately be consistent? They are both polite references. It’s not like I refer to him as “The King of the Dipshits” or something. I’ve actually never been in a post-relationship situation with Rib where he has needed to introduce me, so I don’t have a handy personal outside perspective to see how my ex would handle that same sitch. This, of course, also precludes Sacha’s preference that I simply never refer to him, but that was a break up that pretty much guaranteed that we would not run into one another socially. Well, we did…but we learned pretty quickly that any room we were in was usually big enough for us to find neutral corners.
Anyone wondering where I’m heading with this?
Actually, before I go there and make an effort at some sort of conclusion or wrap up to where my thoughts have led me so far, I should back up and talk about disqualifiers.
Anyone have friends that are dating a new guy or gal every time you see them?
I’ve run into younger friends socially who – sometimes twice in the same week with different people – introduce me to someone they are with as their ex and I have to make some attempt to decipher that code. Not to mention, figure out if that default title for them is being used on someone I may have met before.
Me, being all social graces usually muster something only moderately awkward like “Have we met before?” which can be terrifying for a younger gay guy to hear from a old troll like myself (from their perspective…) because they have a special default interpretation for that question that equates “met” with sex.
Welcome to the gay male subculture, where sex basically equals a handshake.
What I have observed in my own experience meeting these so-called exes is that someone is using the term “ex” as a blanket phrase for someone they went out with a few times but never really dated as well as for some rando they woke up with one day. The folks that toss out the phrase “ex” with no social abandon whatsoever are guys – or gals, even – that are still finding themselves as individuals and kind of establishing who they are, not just sexually, but as adults. Learning what their thresholds are for other people’s behavior as they begin to walk this world on their own, outside of the familial or educational environment’s umbrellas.
For them, having exes basically translates to having independence.
So, those folks aside…here’s where I’ve landed. At least, so far:
In my ruminations, what I’ve not been able to get away from is the depth of intimacy a relationship takes on when sustained sexual activity or cohabitation is involved. Surely, that should earn a differentiation from one’s other “friends”? When I think back to Rib or Sacha, these are guys that I spent significant portions of my life with. Rib is 18 years my junior
<pause for applause>
and in the four years that we dated, I spent 10% of my life with him. That was closer to 15% of his life. Daily. In close quarters. Sacha and I were together six years – and only 5 years apart in age – but at the time we broke up, I had spent 20% of my life with him.
So, should they be introduced merely as friends? Well, I’m referring to Rib there, obviously not that festering Narcissist Sacha.
I enjoy his oddly misplaced animosity toward me, forgive me if I poke at him a little to keep his righteous indignation in full flare up. It entertains me.
Anyway, what friendships can boast that same level of intimate knowledge and familiarity with another person? Maybe someone’s war buddy from the trenches. Someone with whom you literally might have spent the rest of your life with if fate had not favored your existence. But that’s not even a depth of familiarity like an actual relationship, it’s just two people thrown together by that aforementioned whim of fate.
But all that considered, when I consider the word “ex” my default emotion is failure.
Maybe as our culture matures or evolves – away from those traditional and parochial values surrounding relationships – we’ll find a way to reclaim that emotional definition. Maybe as a culture, we need to look to those younger acquaintances of mine for the cue. There they are, out in the world with someone whose presence and personality they appreciate – more so clothed than unclothed, apparently – casually introducing some random Joe as their ex like it’s no big deal.
It didn’t stick.
No one has to be the bad guy.
No one has to go into exile.
No one goes to Hell when they die.
Every now and then they just go out and casually socialize.
Could it be that easy?
Well…right now? Nah. Like I said, our break ups tend to have drama. Someone decided it didn’t work, but maybe didn’t tell someone else so much as just stop calling…that’s getting old. We really need to mature past that as a culture, I mean, really…we’ve been doing that to each other for half a century now. It’s like we went from the Summer of Love – where I think everyone kind of shared my younger gay friends’ mentality of sexual exploration and going their own way after versus relegating sex to a strictly relationship oriented activity – to ghosting each other.
That type of mental detour is why sometimes I need to kick thoughts around for a couple of weeks before I take a stab at barfing out a blog about a topic.
Regardless, I think right now, for me? Simply having a random sexual encounter with someone shouldn’t earn you the title of ex. Sorry, Fuckboys. Look at me, trying to elevate the word “ex” into a positive versus pejorative context. Hell, I’d love to live in a culture that was free enough sexually to introduce someone like that like, “This is Han Solo, he’s a fantastic lay”, but then again, that’s kind of reductive. Maybe those folks just get to be called “friend” when all is said and done.
Yeah…when all is said and done, that whole sexual exploration aspect of the word that I have encountered lacks the gravitas that a relationship needs, in my opinion, to earn the designation of “ex”.
Ugh…the dreaded commitment.
But there it is. If you’re introducing someone that you were previously committed to, then they have earned a special title. Haven’t they? Not exclusively for putting in time in the relationship, but for the maturity it takes to navigate the end of a relationship without the drama.
Those people are special.
Certainly few and far between.
I mean, I would certainly settle for a committed, monogamous and long-term relationship, but failing that…someone who still holds and returns my respect?
If that type of person was anymore rare, we’d be talking unicorns.
So, I think the moniker “ex” should be greeted with some respect and without the negativity I think we culturally tend to attribute to those two letters.
Or, I’m just projecting, in which case,