The Ghost of Exes Past: How to Deal When You Run into an Ex

Last weekend I went out to a bar… And you’ll never guess who I saw!

So I’m standing in line to get into this bar that is also kind of a popular place to dance to popular music from the early 2000s. And I was slightly tipsy on red wine. Waiting in the cold. And I see this guy near the door. And my stomach lurches. I had gone out with him three times in June 2017.

And he ghosted me.

So maybe I’m the ghost in this situation… and maybe he’s not really and ex, but the CliffsNotes version of it all is this:

Years ago, he and I had matched on Hinge. He was doing Teach for America or some similar program and didn’t actually live in Boston – so we didn’t get together. Then in late spring of 2017 we matched again, but this time on Tinder. We went out on a pretty cool date – zip lined on the Greenway and did all you can eat sushi. We ended up going out again… kind of. I met him at a party his friend was having. And then we hung out the next day and just lounged around a park.

Overall it was good, but there were definitely things about him that made me nervous. Like, he had that kind of confidence that can come across a little too strong. Once he said something along the lines of “you must date a lot”, not quite understanding that at the time, I was new to dating, and that I’d spent most of my life not even considering the idea that someone might be interested in me. Oh… and on our first date he jokingly asked me if he could “put a baby in” me… and that he thought we could have NFL star babies. I’m not sure why I didn’t think that was a deal breaker. And honestly… with him, I would’ve been doing 99% of the genetic work.

When did it start to fizzle? I didn’t invite him into my house after hanging out at the park. We did an awkward hug/kiss thing and said bye before I went into my house and he went to his car. I texted him the next day to initiate another date, and I never heard back. In retrospect, he just wanted to get it in. #shrug

So when I see him standing in line at the bar, I’m just like ughhhhhh! I told my friends and one of them yelled his name. Typical drunk friend move. Obviously I didn’t want to actually interact with him so in the bar, I drink more wine and dance and basically forget he exists again. At some point though, he came over to the section of the room where I was dancing and started dancing with a random girl that was in my vicinity. I did my best avoid eye contact and focus on continuing to drink your wine and dance with your friends move and eventually he moved on.

So What Do You Do?

After recovering from my wine hangover the next day, I talked with a few of my friends about running into someone you’d gone out with or even just matched with. And apparently it’s something we’re all anxious about and never want to do. What if they ghosted you… or worse, YOU ghosted THEM? What if you just straight up don’t recognize them? What if they still have your number? (I don’t know who needs to hear this, but delete the numbers of people you’ve dated or matched with and don’t talk to. If there’s a flame emoji next to their name, delete it.)

So I have some advice… four steps to take when you run into an ex, or someone who would probably have fallen into the ex category in 1995, but because it’s 2019 and #hookupculture, is just someone you used to know.

1. Stay calm.

Do not tell your drunk friend or they will yell the name of said ex. You went out on one date… or dated for three years, nbd. There’s nothing to worry about here. At this point we all have at least one ex and it is a small world, after all. Plus, you don’t even know if they see you or even recognize you.

2. Don’t stare.

No matter what state you’re in, who you’re with, how much you’ve had to drink… do not stare. When you’re in this situation, you want to shock and awe, not come across looking like a deer in headlights. And despite what Snapchat filters and popular Halloween costumes tell us, it’s not a cute look. Plus, chances are, if you stare, they will see you and if they don’t recognize you then you’ll just be some creep staring! Make eye contact if, and I can not stress this enough, only if you actually want to do step 3.

No matter what state you’re in, who you’re with, how much you’ve had to drink… do not stare. When you’re in this situation, you want to shock and awe, not come across looking like a deer in headlights. And despite what Snapchat filters and popular Halloween costumes tell us, it’s not a cute look. Plus, chances are, if you stare, they will see you and if they don’t recognize you then you’ll just be some creep staring! Make eye contact if, and I can not stress this enough, only if you actually want to do step 3.

3. Say “Hi”.

This step is optional but can be done as a confidence boosting exercise. If you’ve made eye contact or somehow you two have acknowledged that you’re both in the same place at the same time, you must say hi. The casual head nod can work too. If that’s something you’re good at. Do not wave. If you’re close enough to recognize each other a wave is awkward. Only awkward people wave when their in the same room and like ten feet from each other. Smile if you feel inclined. The “I know your shit does in fact stank” smile (ie. the slight no teeth smile you give to the woman coming out of the bathroom so you can go in) is the appropriate smile for this as well.

If you’re really feeling yourself, go right up to them to say hi. The “Hey! How are you?!… I’m doing great, thanks for asking… yeah, no things are awesome…” is a power move because it shows that you’re not intimidated by the situation. And since you have taken control of said situation, you can pull out the big guns with a name drop (if you remember) and an “It was great to see you!” which 95% of the time in the adult world is code for, “glad we got through this interaction, let’s try to avoid it next time.”

4. Do NOT Reconnect.

Speaking of avoiding a next time… if somehow you’ve moved beyond the polite “hello” and smile. You’re probably a) too nice and need to work on your RBF, and b) making a huge mistake. Do not start a full on conversation. Do not make plans to grab a drink. Reminder: You are not dating for a reason. You do not need to try to date again. You do not need to try to be friends. Do not exchange numbers. Do not stalk them on Insta, and if they request to follow you on social, don’t accept it. The only exception to this is if you dated long term, you know their parents, and parted on decent terms. Then, sure… ask how Susan is doing. But after a few minutes, find a way to end the conversation and go your separate ways. I mean, you did before and you can do it again.

See, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…4!

I’ll admit that I did not stay calm. Well, not at first. I did, however follow steps 2 and 4. Step 3 is optional, remember!

I reminded myself that I have a boyfriend #Coach, so me dancing alone all night was not an indication of me actually being alone. And, that I know I look awesome! I am 30lbs lighter than when I went out with him… so there’s no question that I look good. And while it’s not always true, when you look good, people assume you’re doing good…well. I am actually doing really well – promotion at work, good relationship, seeing progress in my weight loss journey.

And I while I hope he is doing well, too… I also hope to never see him again. He’s dead to me. A ghost.

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