There’s a strange phenomenon that happens in the world of queer women. It happened ten years ago on the L Word when Alice and Laura remained friends after Dana– rest her soul– left her (I know, I’m still recovering from that one too). And it happened again with Helena and Bette. Really, if we want to get completely honest here, the entire premise of the L Word (which, let’s just face it, is our one beacon of truth into lesbian life), was comprised of it.
This is why I’m shocked it’s taken me so long to come to terms with it.
I’m having a bromance. That sounds like it should be a True Life episode, doesn’t it? And not that lame one about the guys who are a little too into their best friends.
No. I’m having a bromance with my girlfriend’s ex. And I can’t help but think I’m not the first woman this has happened to.
When *Jess and I started dating over a year ago now, we talked about our exes pretty early on. Not the first date, of course. We made sure to take it really slow and wait until at least date number two. I heard all about my new bro. Said bro was smart, had an awesome job for some startup that my girl knew everything about, and, being the good lesbian I am, when I stalked her Instagram, I found out she wasn’t exactly a woofer either.
So what do you do when you find out (gasp) your girlfriend has been under the sheets with someone before you? You get excruciatingly jealous and haunt her with it for the remainder of your lives. Duh. Because how dare she ever have a past! How dare she not have waited her entire life for you to sweep in on your white horse and whisk her off into the sunset! I mean, the nerve!
No, but really. We all have a past. I just happen to not be particularly proud of most of mine. But what if your girl has an ex, and she just so happens to sound awesome? Maybe, God forbid, even more awesome than your awesome self (as if that were even possible). It’s not an uncommon scenario. But what is a bit more unusual about the lesbian stratosphere is the number of us who remain friends (yes, just friends) with our exes after the sex stops. As I’ve learned from talking to my straight friends, this just doesn’t often happen in other communities. The look of disdain and disgust on my straight girlfriends’ faces when I asked this question spoke volumes. “Friends with that bastard? Not a chance in hell.”
I admit, I’m not friends with any of my ex girlfriends– mostly because they all still think of me as a womanizing asshole (which, if I may clear the record, I am very much not!). So, you can imagine my discomfort when I found out that J not only has this superhero old flame with the cool job and cool clothes and cool apartment in New York City, but they have also stayed best friends. And they talk. Often.
I would love to say that, ten or eleven months ago, I looked Jess in the eye and said “that’s fine, baby. I like that you’re besties with the last serious relationship you had.” It makes me want to go on “what I should have done theatre” from Saved By The Bell. But I didn’t. Instead, I went Jenny Shecter jealous on her ass.
The thing about my girlfriend, though, is that she doesn’t take any bullshit. None, whatsoever. When I go crazy Jenny on her, she goes feisty Italian on me, and that’s just about the end of that. The very last time I gave her crap about talking to my new bro ended with my giving back her key (needless to say, that turned out to be a small snafu in our now long-term relationship). I learned my lesson. Ain’t nobody gonna tell this girl who she can and can’t talk to (also, I learned that drinking at Pride is not always productive).
This past summer, her ex (my bro) and her long-term girlfriend (did I mention there’s another reason for me to refrain from being jealous?) paid us a visit in Ptown. We spent the day together, but not before I sulked and bitched, and tried to reverse-Jewish-guilt Jess, who insisted the whole time that I suck it up, because they were going to be friends, and I was going to like this girl. It wasn’t a demand. It was just what she knew would happen.
When I finally met my new bro, something terrible happened. Jess was right. I liked her. A lot. And I had to admit, I didn’t have the worst time in the world. Still, I spent the whole afternoon watching for some secret sign of chemistry or pining or sexual tension between them that probably wasn’t going to be there. Which brings me to my first words of wisdom on how to become bros with your girl’s ex; when she says there’s nothing there, there’s probably nothing there. Sure, it’d be easy to lie about it. But has she ever given you a reason to think shes would lie about it? I didn’t think so. And, as much as we’d like them to be, feelings aren’t always that transparent. If you can’t see them sneaking a seductive glance or worse, you probably aren’t going to see much. Don’t torture yourself by overanalyzing that smile or that laugh or how your bro knew what kind of ice cream your girlfriend wanted. They have history. This shit happens. And if none of that works, here’s a wild idea– trust her. She’s your girlfriend. YOU have history now. Regardless of what happened with them in the past, she picked you, and she continues to pick you every day (although, she might not if you get too Shecter on her). Take that. Run with it. Go. Really. Run.
Over time, I was actually (spoiler alert) able to do just that. Jess and I have been together for thirteen months now. We live together. We’ve built an amazing life together. Why would I ever believe she’d want anything or anyone else? Flash to the other night, when Jess tells me that she and my bro were talking– a concept, I admit, still makes my skin crawl just a little bit, try as I might to fight it– and my bro said she and I should start talking more. Today, in a post-migraine-euphoria, I Facebook messaged my bro, and gave her my number.
We’ve been talking all day– our bromance moving quickly from texting to Google Hangout– which, as we all know is pretty serious. As it turns out, we are eerily alike. We both love hockey, even though our respective girlfriends hate it when we watch sports. We both strive for our hair stylists not to say something along the lines of “I’m going to keep it longer here so it looks more feminine”. Clothes and shopping (especially Jack Spade bags) really bring out the girl in us. And we both really, really care about Jess. My next piece of advice on how to bag your bro? Once you stop seeing them as a threat, you can see them for what they really are; a person who respected and loved the woman you respect and love, and wants to keep them in their lives because she’s so awesome. And yes, your girl IS awesome. But that doesn’t mean that her ex is plotting to steal her back. Odds are, as is the case with my bro, they have found their own awesome girl, and are happy to leave the past in the past.
It took me a while, but I think I finally get it. I’m having a serious bromance with my girlfriend’s ex. And, if she didn’t live all the way in New York, we’d probably be drinking beers and watching hockey right now (okay, well, maybe not, because I don’t really drink much anymore. But you get the manly euphemisms). I’m pretty confident that if we lived closer, we’d be best friends. I used to roll my eyes when Jess would suggest a visit to the Big Apple to stay with them. Now, I’m planning our shopping excursions, where our girlfriends will, undoubtedly, be doing the eye rolling when we max out our credit cards at Top Man.
*Name changed to protect the innocent