Exes, friends and ex friends.

Well hello Monday, you again? Feels like you were only taunting me just the other day. Here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times Column, hope you enjoy. (PS: I’ve left in some of the bits the Sunday Times edited out, so here it is, warts and all.)


I was out with a group of girlfriends recently (there may or may not have been wine and whisky involved, I can’t be sure) and we got into a bit of a debate about whether it’s possible to stay friends with an ex.

Of course it’s possible, I said, answering the question quickly and with a great deal of confidence. I’m still friends with all my exes. There’s um… er… um… wait…. hold on… there must be one. What about that guy, remember, the one who lived in Simon’s Town?

‘Didn’t he die?’ Another friend piped in. ‘It doesn’t count if they’re dead!’

‘Well, I’m still friends with a lot of my ex’s mothers,’ I said. ‘Does that count? We’re friends on Facebook and we email and phone each other on birthdays and high holidays.’

‘That doesn’t count either!’ The same friend said.

Remind me to remove her from my Christmas card list. There I’ve gone all these years believing I was one of those girls who was mature and worldly enough to be able to remain close friends, or at least amicable with all her exes. It turns out that it doesn’t really work like that in the real world.

The thing about trying to be friends with an ex is that there’s always that temptation to go back. With time and a bit of whisky, the pain and torture of your break up and all the bad memories of the relationship tend to fade a little, and we’re left with mostly the good.

Women (or at least this one) seem to have a bit of a selective memory thing going on. I don’t know if men have it too. I figure woman have it on some basic level to protect our species. Catch most women the day they give birth and they’ll tell you it’s the most scary, horrendous, painful, dangerous experience of their lives, and should be avoided at all costs. Catch the same woman a few years later (she’ll be in my inbox tomorrow if you’re looking for her) and it’s all angels and fairy dust and rainbows and unicorns, and the most fulfilling, meaningful and beautiful thing that’s ever happened to her, and she can’t wait to do it again. We have to be like this, otherwise women would never have more than one child, or would convince other women to never go through childbirth, and the future of the planet would be at risk. I’m sure of it.

It’s this same selective memory thing that tempts us to go back to an ex. Your mind plays tricks on you. You think he wasn’t that bad, was he? It was just bad timing, or maybe I’ve changed, or better yet, maybe he’s changed. You remember how good things were when they were good, and conveniently block out all the snot and trane.

Months after we’d broken up, while we were still naive enough to try and broker some kind of friendship off the fractured remains of our relationship, I found myself considering going back in for a second try with an important ex. Until he told me one of the reasons we couldn’t be together again was because I’m not a pear.

‘Of course I’m not a pear,’ I said. ‘I’m an Aries.’

‘Tsk,’ he said, clucking his tongue at me in irritation. ‘I mean, you’re not pear-shaped.’
And then the dam burst and the memories came flooding back. All the reasons why we shouldn’t be together (too many to mention here, this is only a little column after all). And I was immediately eternally grateful for the reminder. I mean what kind of idiot steps on a land mine twice?

Turns out I’m actually quite pleased I’m not pear-shaped. I’d never be able to wear a hat if I had that stalk for a head. And where would I put all my brains and all my boobs?

So my younger, more naive self answers absolutely, most definitely, of course yes, to the question can we still be friends with our exes. But my more mature, experienced, honest self knows the truth. You could, but why would you want to?

One response to “Exes, friends and ex friends.”

  1. It seems to be an eternal question – at least it seems to have been once since ‘Sex and the City’ started airing. I think it’s possible. Yes, I think for many people there’s always and element of ‘What if’… but I think part of the reason I’ve been lucky to keep most of my exes as friends (or friendly), is that they were friends and then lovers. Not chronologically, but in terms of how we related. A heartsore period followed the breakup, obviously, but eventually respect and admiration prevail. they did for me at any rate.

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