Being a writer and having relationships can create some sticky situations. A few months after I openly discussed in a previous article in this paper how bad my ex-boyfriend Mike (name has been changed) was in bed, I got a call from him out of the blue. I could tell he had calmed down by the tone of his voice. A voice message he'd left months earlier made an enraged, drunk, foul-mouth trucker sound like a newborn babe. Now Mike explained to me that he had been hurt when I told him "the sex sucked," and the article that had soon followed had angered him tremendously (which is understandable). But with time he'd realized that I'd "greatly exaggerated" my dissatisfaction with our sex life out of pain over the end of our relationship.
"It was a mutual breakup, so I don't see why we're still upset with each other," he continued.
Correction: I broke up with him, and I wasn't that upset. I was painting my nails as he carried on this conversation (by himself). Occasionally, I would throw in an "uh-huh" (kind of like I did in our sex life).
Mike was now "willing" to be friends with me. Wow, I felt like I'd just won the lottery. Though I wasn't dying to have a friendship with him, he was a decent guy who on occasion could be quite funny. I figure you can never have too many friends, so we agreed to let bygones be bygones and made plans to hang out. Heck, it worked for Jerry and Elaine.
To start off on good terms, Mike came over and paid me back the money he owed me. Maybe this would turn out to be a really good idea.
Our first new adventure began when we attended a mutual friend's birthday party. I felt so mature walking in together. I found myself telling him all about the drama I was experiencing at my crappy bank job.
"Jeff can be such a bitch," I complained. Mike, who had been sympathetic up to that point, suddenly made a face as he attempted to hide a smirk.
"What's that about?"
"What?" shrugged Mike.
"You know what, that smirk. Do you have something to say?"
Mike smiled. "Well, you have your days, too. Believe me, I know. You can be quite difficult when you want to be."
By the tone of his voice I knew this was personal. "Let's not mingle failed relationship residue into this, OK?" Mike made an angry face and sulked for the next hour.
"Wow, this feels just like old times," I mumbled under my breath as I downed a shot of rum in one gulp.
We were now seeing each other more than we had when we were a couple. But as our "friendship" progressed, I realized more and more why our relationship had ended. Mike, conveniently, was always the victim.
He could never put aside his own feelings long enough to actually be a friend. A conversation about me doing sit-ups would turn into a discussion of how I "dressed too sexy during our relationship just to get other guys attention."
A conversation about the difficulty he was having at work and with his new girlfriend would suddenly turn to how I made him feel "insecure" when we were a couple and how he was still finding it difficult to recover.
Just as in our relationship, Mike brought out the worst in me, or perhaps I should say I let him bring out my worst. I was constantly rolling my eyes, making snide remarks under my breath and wondering what the hell I was doing in his company.
"Friendship" gave Mike the right to constantly blurt out all his "issues" with me. Trying to be friends with my ex was nothing but punishment.
I finally knew that this thing wasn't going to work when Mike began to sound more like a jealous boyfriend than a concerned friend.
One afternoon a few of us went out for dinner to celebrate graduation. I found myself in a deep discussion with a close friend when Mike decided to join in.
"We were just talking about David." Mike looked like he was about to pass out, but he gritted his teeth and prepared to bear it. I didn't try to be cruel, but I didn't censor myself either. If Mike was going to be my friend, then he could no longer behave like the man in my life.
When Rachel asked if David was a good kisser, I laughed in delight. "You don't have to say anything else," she said with a smile.
"I don't trust him," Mike butted in, crossing his arms.
When I told them how funny David was and went on to retell a joke of his, Rachel laughed until she cried while Mike shook his head in incomprehension. "What's so funny about that?" he scowled.
After 20 minutes of Mike trying his best to rain on my parade, I decided it was time to put an end to this charade.
"You're excused, Mike."
"If you're bored, feel free to go talk to the rest of the group."
"I can't be honest? Are your friends suppose to lie to you or something?"
Decision time. My mouth was about to spew out, "Give it up, Mike. This is not about David, it's about you, as always. If I wanted to be tortured by you, I would have continued having sex with you. And by the way, I meant every word I wrote. The sex did suck and there was no mutual breakup. I dumped you, and don't forget it."
My friend would gasp. Mike's jaw would lock in anger, and I would be hurting someone just out of frustration.
Mike had ruined enough of my nights. It was time to leave. "Take care of yourself, Mike. Rachel, I'll call you later." As I gathered up my things in an urgent rush to get out of this situation and friendship, I realized the same glue that holds a relationship together holds a friendship together - liking each other.
As I marched out, tripping over my flip-flops, I realized that sometimes an ex is better left an ex.