General Gayety: My ex, my friend, my goodness

BTL Staff
By | 2003-10-09T09:00:00-04:00 October 9th, 2003|Uncategorized|

By Leslie Robinson

It’s a rule of thumb in the lesbian world that when two women split up they then become friends.
Whose lousy idea was this?
Okay, it’s not a law. We’re not actually required to make pals of former partners. The possibility does exist to just say no.
But the handbook all lesbians receive assumes this is going to happen. Though my copy of the handbook disintegrated from excessive highlighting, I remember it stated some things in lesbian life are inevitable, like you will own a cat no matter how much you wheeze; and some fool–potentially your mother–will ask you what two women in bed do together; and you will become friends with your exes.
Since my recent breakup, I’ve felt this strong compulsion to be friends with my former girlfriend. Well, not at first. At first I felt I needed an ocean, a desert, and Scandinavia between us. But once the initial negative feelings passed, that damned lesbian instinct kicked in.
Honestly, I should be the subject of a nature show. “Watch the lesbian follow her instincts. Lemmings have nothing on her.”
Of course I do have actual rational reasons for maintaining contact with my ex, like I’m very fond of her company, but I suspect there’s more than the rational at work here. I’m following the marching orders encoded in my genes, the same genes that direct me to rent Jodie Foster movies.
It may be automatic, but that doesn’t make it easy. Depending on what sort of relationship you had, the transition can find you saying one thing and thinking another.
Suppose you and your ex go shopping. She tries on a shirt and asks you your opinion. You say, “It looks good.” You think, “She looks so hot! God, I want to unbutton that shirt so badly my fingernails are sweating!”
Or you might get a phone call from your former partner asking you to help her move. You say, “Sure.” You think, “Sure. I’ll help you move. Just like you helped me move my feelings into storage for two years, you unfeeling, heartless, callous bitch!”
Sometimes there’s just too much bad blood for lovers to become friends. If you embezzled funds and bankrupted your girlfriend’s company, she might be less than enthusiastic about getting together for dinner and a movie every other week.
Yet I find myself often surprised that even when there seems to be buckets of bad blood, some women still choose to evolve into buddies. Susan might have cheated on Angela when Angela was on the operating table, but after the breakup they become dear friends.
Is Angela nuts? Is she deeply needy? Is she enlightened? When she was in the hospital, did she have her common sense removed? Or did she receive forgiveness injections?
All I know is I personally need some time to pass after a breakup before I can move into friend mode. I have to go through the predictable stages: sadness, anger, Ben & Jerry’s.
I’m unable to transform into a friend overnight. The length of time I need during which we have no contact varies with the relationship. It can be weeks, or it can extend all the way up to the moment I issue my death rattle. And beyond.
I have more questions than answers about all this. Did the habit of making friends out of girlfriends evolve because lesbian circles were small and it helped if everyone could get along? Or is the desire to make nice not a lesbian trip but a female trait?
And if a lesbian falls in the forest, will her ex-turned-friend giggle?

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.