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Femme Problems 146: Are You Friends With My Ex?

Friends talking on park bench.

Photo: Feministing

Ah, to be a Leo. For those of us whose extroverted nature is written in the stars, social time is the water to our souls. We crave social connection and love meeting new people. Over the weekend, I met up with a group of friends, an absolute must in my bi-weekly calendar of events. I had a great time with my friends, who also brought friends. Before I knew it, my fiancee and I were chatting away with this pretty rad chick. It was instant friendship. The feelings were strictly platonic. We weren’t looking for any shenanigans—just simple, fun loving friendship, which at our age is a rarity in and of itself.

We had a lot in common with our new friend: she had the same passions, she was in the same career field, and frequented many of the same restaurants and bars that we do. As we chatted away, it honestly didn’t take us too far into the conversation before we reached a very interesting crossroads: Are you friends with this person? Are you friends with that person? Are you friends with my ex?

We pulled out our smartphones and checked our mutual friends’ list within the first fifteen minutes or so, not realizing that subconsciously, we were sniffing out the trail of past oppressors, friends, and exes. The entire situation was pretty laughable, but naturally, it got me wondering: Why do we care so much if new friends are friends with our exes?

In the lesbian scene, social circles run small, and dating pools don’t run too deep. It’s hard to find a girl who hasn’t dated your ex, or your exes ex, or in what was once my case, your ex’s ex’s ex. When the pickings are as slim as they are, it seems as though someone knows someone who’s hurt you or stabbed you in the back at some point in your journey. Naturally friendship circles and dating histories will collide. So, we need to be prepared to dance around that inevitability at the inkling of any new friendship. Our new friend had recently suffered through a breakup, and naturally was feeling leery of opening any doors to potential future drama.

And there is always drama. After all, we are women dating other women, or androgynous gender non-conforming people entering into relationships with a wide spectrum of identities and personalities, and sometimes, we have drama. And, we don’t want that drama anywhere around in our lives. But I wonder if we are giving up on potential friendships in the urgency to flee from that drama. What if I was friends with her ex? What if she was friends with my ex? If that were the case, I wonder if we would have pressed the request friendship button, or would we say: “Nah, I don’t think I want to pursue a friendship with you.” 

And it’s nothing against the girl that we met. It’s not about her. It’s about our ex. And it’s funny. Because if people are friends with our exes, not only are we missing out on potential beautiful friendships; we’re allowing our exes to still have power over our lives and our future. Is it better to carry around this baggage to protect our new lives? Does the fact that we even have this baggage signify that we have a lot more work to do to reconcile our hearts, our souls, and our past? We have to get to the point where our ex can no longer hurt us, regardless of social proximity. Or at least, that’s the goal.

So next time I meet a potential friend or a person in the lesbian and queer scene, I’m going to make it a point not to ask, are you friends with my ex? Because at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter.