By Caitlin Thornton
Two weeks after a completely mutual break up, Lucy* arranged a meeting with her now-ex to “exchange stuff.” Sure, he had some of her sweaters, and she had some of his comic books. But the reunion—scheduled for a Saturday afternoon at Lucy’s, when her roommates would be out—entailed much more than swapping goods both parties probably forgot even existed.
“I plan to seduce him,” Lucy Gchatted me Friday.
“Uh, I don’t think you’ll need to,” I responded.
She asked me what I meant. I asked her if she was serious.
“Ex sex! It rhymes! It’s real!” I told her.
“I want it,” she said.
“Everyone wants it,” I told her. “You miss him. He misses you. Boom, you’re naked.”
Consider: You’ve been (presumably) screwing this person on a regular basis. Your body’s used to it. When you try to sever physical ties cold turkey, something feels off. (That is, unless, your relationship got to the point where kissing the other person makes you want to puke. And even then you’re susceptible to hate- or revenge-sex, thus falling under the ex sex umbrella.) Ex sex is easy. And it’s intense.
Theoretically, getting it on with your partner of yesteryear is a Bad Idea. It complicates what might otherwise be a clean break, maintains some form of physical attachment when you’re trying to move on mentally, and can keep emotional wounds open and festering. It may leave one person holding onto something the other person no longer even considers. It might also, however, be a necessary step in recovery.
The morning her ex was scheduled to come over, Lucy became a mess of nerves as ego-driven anxieties flooded her head: Was ex sex really a given? Would she even have to try? Would he reject her? It was over. When he left her place, did that mean it was over-over? She knew this was the end. She wasn’t sure if she wanted it to truly be the end, though. She admitted she still wanted him to want her.
Just as I bit my tongue when Lucy joked, “We’re getting back together!” on April Fools’ Day, I kept quiet when she fretted over the Great Stuff Exchange. I bid her good luck, told her to take deep breaths and to call me later, and did the dorky “Have fun!” thing your mom used to do when you left the house to go secretly smoke pot in high school. I hoped she would come out of it more healed than hurt.
The last time I “met up to exchange stuff,” my no-longer boyfriend laid in bed as I leaned on his chest after a very hot scene that probably should’ve been recorded so I could be Internet famous. We both got closure, going over how it ended, and why, and what it meant. For once, I felt calm and relaxed (either from getting off on feeling powerful or from literally just getting off) having a typically stressful conversation. As our talk ended, he concluded, “Well, I’d still like to hook up with you.” He was serious.
Oprah would call this my “Ah-ha” moment. I’d like to think of it more as my “Shiiiiiiit…” moment. With his neutral proposal and expectation that I’d want to “hook up,” after two years of building a serious relationship together, some force hit me and was like, “Caitlin, stop it! He shows sociopathic tendencies!” It suddenly felt much easier to let the relationship RIP.
After her meet-up, I got together with Lucy for the required consolation. At first she seemed happy. She had a post-coital glow. She recounted how it was so awkward at first, how it was so good to be with him, and how she knew, as it was happening, that this would be the last time. Her flushed face sank with the realization. It was over-over. A couple tears rolled down her face. She wiped them away. “Well, that’s that!” she said. And then, together, we tackled the next best ritual for getting over a break up: Going out and getting wasted.
*Name has been changed because you’re not allowed to imagine my friend having sex.