i’m not sure if any of you out there have ever had the dreaded “ex sighting” in which you surprisingly find yourself face-to-face with an old boyfriend or girlfriend. and it always seems to happen at the most inopportune time. you’re unshowered, your fly is undone, you have pesto in your teeth, you just got your eyebrows waxed and there’s a blister between your eyes…
for me, it seems all the interesting things happen to me either during a Stanford football game or after. years ago, my in-laws met my family for the first time over the din of a Notre Dame/Stanford game. and then, later, I had to have an ex sighting at Applewood Pizza.
my husband and I were having pizza with my dear friend and his fabulous girlfriend. and there, amid the smell of pepperoni and tales of recent motherhood, I look up from my imported beer and see him. the man who, on his birthday, told me I smelled like onions. the one who proposed to me in his best friend’s doublewide trailer after we had been dating for three weeks. the one who told me the way I looked at him with love in my eyes was, “downright irritating.”
now, I am a married woman. i adore my husband. i have children and, at the time of said sighting, i had all the trappings of being a mother: spit-up on my bra, defined biceps on my right arm from carrying my son’s infant car seat into any available Starbucks… and yet despite all the maturity and worldliness that comes with marriage and parenthood, I turned into a complete moron at the sight of him. i couldn’t eat my pizza, for fear that a stray piece of cheese would unknowingly attach itself to my upper lip.
i was frozen in a time warp, flung back to 1995 and memories of myself on the back of his motorcycle. and all the fantasies I had about seeing him and kneeing him in a particular area of his male anatomy flew out the window. god only knows why my knee jerk reaction was to be nice. “hi! how are you? where are you living?” all smiles. rats.
i should have taken pleasure in the fact that he was wearing the exact same t-shirt he used to wear when we dated. i should have reveled in the presence of the red-headed gal with the marlboro dangling from her lips who kept tugging on his arm the entire time we talked. but I was too preoccupied with making sure that there wasn’t a stray piece of pepperoni on my chin. i had to ensure that everything i said was light and witty and wonderful and that the sheer wonderfulness of my husband was portrayed in the brief introduction. my poor little husband’s unibrow was just furrowed the whole time.
in retrospect, i think what bothered me most about the sighting was just the fact that i was not able to fully realize the images i had about seeing him again. whenever i considered running into him, i always envisioned it as a solo act; walking down the street with a number of Bloomingdales shopping bags, my sunglasses atop my head and my tan, unbelievably flat mid-drift (ha!) peering out from my designer jeans. i’d accidentally run into him, while rummaging in my purse for my cell phone. i’d look up, see it was him, toss my hair back and smile.
“my goodness, if it isn’t…um…uh” I’d say.
“it’s steve (*name has been changed to protect the man who told me i smelled like onions),” he’d say, correcting me with a slight frown.
“right. steve. so sorry,” i’d laugh, baring my newly whitened teeth.
and as he would begin to speak again, i’d draw back one of my Bloomingdales bags (the one with the newly purchased three-pound Dansko clogs) and belt him repeatedly, my cell phone ringing to drown out his cries.
but, no. i had to be nice. gracious, even. i had to take the high road and inquire as to his health, his job, his life. i had to dig deep into my soul and be a wife and mother.
and, really when you think about it, despite the spit-up encrusted brassiere, being nice…gracious even…is really quite beautiful.