April 22, 2007

Going out with an ex-boyfriend has its advantages. The best thing is the feeling of having made progress. It's not often I get to feel that. Even though not much has changed in my life since we broke up, the simple fact that we're no longer together is enough for me to feel I've accomplished something.

A few nights ago, I went out to dinner with an ex. When I got to the restaurant, he was smiling. "It's so good to see you," he said. And I could tell he meant it. If only he'd looked at me like that when we had been going out, we'd probably still be together.

When we were seeing each other, things would have been so much better if only I could have ignored the sense that it wouldn't last. One night I asked him what he was looking for. His response? "I'm not looking." Hard to live in the moment after that.

But now that there is nothing at stake, I can be the girlfriend he always wanted. For instance, at four o'clock in the afternoon he called to let me know he might need to cancel dinner that evening. "That's fine," I said. "Just let me know either way." He was amazed. "Why couldn't you have been this easy-going when we were dating?"

Here's why. Because now, I don't care. Why is that so hard to figure out? As long as I'm not emotionally invested, I don't feel rejection.

And when I'm not looking forward to something, there's no disappointment when it doesn't happen. It doesn't matter if he cancels - because I haven't planned for a week ahead of time what I'm going to wear. Also, I don't take the cancellation as a sign that I'm not a priority. I already know I'm not a priority - we established ?that five years ago when we broke up.

Not caring means there's no jealousy, either. He can talk to me about his sex life with his new girlfriend as much as he wants. He might as well be talking about the stock exchange. That's how little I care. I can listen intently to what he's saying now, too, because instead of wondering what he really means, all I feel is relief that I no longer have to second-guess every word that comes out of his mouth.

Spending time with an ex-boyfriend is easy because there's a familiarity without all the complications. Things don't have the significance they once had. For example, he can look at his watch, and he can say certain things that I don't mind him saying. An ex-boyfriend saying "You deserve to be with someone special" is one thing. It's sweet. But when he was my boyfriend and he said this, I found it depressing.

For some reason - when you're ?the ex - everything that was the problem in the first place becomes affectionate nostalgia. Over dinner he was talking about his current girlfriend and he mentioned that what he liked about her was that she wasn't needy. "That's the complete opposite of you!" He roared. "You never knew when to let go!" Oh, the memories.
So now that I don't care any more and nothing matters, I could relax.

Which led me to a crucial realisation. I'm so much better as an ex-girlfriend than I am as a girlfriend. From now on when I meet someone new, I should give them a heads-up and say: "You'll hate me when I'm your girlfriend but, trust me, after we break up, you'll fall in love."