I imagine this thought gave Britney Spears some comfort when she bumped into ex boyfriend Justin Timberlake recently at Madonna’s concert. Apparently, this was the first time they’d seen each other since their break-up and her break down. All things considered, the timing could have been worse.
Running into an ex is the epilogue of any relationship. It’s a game called ‘Look-How-Much-Better-My-Life-Turned-Out-Without-You-In-It’ and even when you’ve moved on and think your ex is a drongo, you still want to win. The rules are the same for the dumper and the dumpee, the main one being you must look better than you did when you were together.
I once bumped into an ex straight after having my make-up professionally done at a cosmetics counter. This was worth 1000 bonus points and I won the game outright, despite him announcing he was engaged to a 24 year-old actress. I was already happily married. And my eye shadow was expertly blended. Slam-dunk.
Ideally, your ex will be alone when you see them. You lose 100 points if they are with their new partner and 1000 points if the new partner is more attractive than you. Counter these disadvantages with casual revelations. You have a new job! A new apartment! You’re just back from Europe! George Clooney is stalking you! That kind of thing. Basically, lie.
In Justin vs. Britney, Justin was clearly going to win without having to lie because he had not been institutionalised, flashed his genitals all over the internet, gone to rehab, derailed his career and lost custody of his children and then himself. Britney’s been busy. The good news is that just by having some pants and some hair when she saw Justin, she improved her position considerably from a couple of years ago. Still, I can’t imagine it was enough for Justin to think, “Hot damn, why did I ever let that one get away?”
About a year ago I was catching a plane to Brisbane with my toddler. At the airport, I noticed a vaguely familiar face ahead of me in the security line and when my synapses finally connected, I dimly recalled going on a couple of dates with this guy when I was about 18. Then I remembered how he’d never called again after the second date. Clearly, I’d moved on to the point where I couldn’t remember his name. But I could remember how indignant I’d been at the time.
He’d been very good looking back then but he had not aged well. This pleased me. He seemed to be alone and I scanned his hands for some indication of how his life may have turned out. No wedding ring. That’s when my imagination went AWOL. ‘Seeing me and my beautiful little girl will make him curse his sad, empty life and envy the fact I’ve clearly found such happiness and contentment’ said my internal dialogue. “He will be filled with shame and regret for being such a dickhead.’
Then the plane took off and I forgot about everything other than getting through the next hour. Like most toddlers, my daughter was not a fan of sitting still so I’d brought many edible distractions. I tried to keep her quiet and unobtrusive but I should have aimed my sights lower. Like flying the plane.
Naturally, we had to fly through an electrical storm. The turbulence was hideous and I was terrified. I nervously kept handing my daughter food until she suddenly vomited her body weight over a two-metre radius. Things were going well. I quickly stripped her off and wrapped her in my jacket, noting that I now had a litre of vomit in my handbag. Just as we were about to land, the plane bounced and we took off again to divert to a nearby airport.
As we sat there on the tarmac the captain came over the PA to explain we were going to head back to Brisbane and ‘give that landing another go’. Clearly, he was on crack. That’s when I picked up my stinky, wailing daughter, stood up, and with as much dignity as I could muster while covered in vomit, marched to the front of the plane and told the perky flight attendant I wished to get off the plane.
Being all of 21, she was unsure how to handle the crazy lady who smelled very bad. “I’ll just check with the captain” she said through a tight smile and left me standing there in front of the entire cabin.
Directly in front of me, of course, was my ex, calmly reading a newspaper. I desperately hoped he had no idea who I was but just in case he looked up, I began discreetly removing chunks from my hair.
After approximately 100 years, Ms Perky Pants returned with some good news. “Since you only have carry-on luggage, you may disembark if you want to.”
“I want to “ I hissed, aware that the entire front of the plane was listening to the tense negotiation and hoping, no doubt, that the lady with the chunks would be allowed to leave immediately with her screaming child. A cheer practically went up as the door open and I scurried off the plane. The last words I heard were “Mia? Is that you?”