Conventional wisdom tells us it is a huge mistake to remain friends with our exes. If you read the fine print on that policy, you'd probably find a clause that states, "Thou shall not send your former lovers holiday cards or gifts." But after a year like 2017, in which nearly everything seems to be topsy-turvy, I figured, what better time to transgress social norms than now? Yup, this winter, I decided to shake things up by sending Christmas cards to my exes.
I included everyone from my high school sweetheart, to my college study abroad fling, to even my most recent, serious ex that I once shared an apartment with. I didn’t discriminate between guys I broke up with and guys who broke up with me. Every guy I had romantic history with beyond a single date would receive some form of a greeting, and with it, a reminder that it came from none other than yours truly.
Of course, there is one important question: Why even bother doing this at all? Boredom? Curiosity? Insatiable thirst for nostalgia? Sure, I had recently watched Love Actually and The Holiday, so perhaps I felt all too aware of my current single status. But I wasn’t necessarily hoping to rekindle anything with my old flames (they were, after all, exes for a reason). I wasn’t motivated by a desire to win anyone back. No, I was initiating contact for the sole reason of being nice.
And while I wasn’t totally sure what I would gain from this experience (no expectations mean no disappointment, right?), I knew that having zero emotional investments in any of them meant I had nothing to lose.
When I think of Christmas cards, I think of photo collages showcasing couples making hand hearts in front of a snowy backdrop of pine trees. I had neither snow (it’s December and 70 degrees where I live) nor anyone to pose with (#independent), so I decided against including a photo of myself in my design. I also wasn’t too keen on advertising my single status to my exes and potentially sending the wrong signal. While I didn’t mind coming off a little brazen, the last thing I wanted to convey was desperation.
I sent each guy a variation of the following e-card. I kept the message short, sweet, and safe for work on purpose, because again, I was not in the business of sending mixed signals.
As I began typing each message, I grew nervous. For a few of these guys, this would be the first time they’ve heard from me in years. This wasn’t your accidental run-in at the grocery store. No, sending someone a holiday card is intentional. It means you care. Was I ready to let my exes know that even though I was over them, part of me still thought of them from time to time?
I closed my eyes and imagined all the possible responses I could receive from them:
C. Why are you talking to me?
D. Hi. I have a girlfriend.
E. F*ck off, Savanna.
Still, after nearly backing out several times, I finally did it: I pressed send. Initially, I felt immediate regret knowing I potentially made a fool of myself in front of five people I used be totally in love with. But within a few seconds, everything felt strangely cathartic.
Even if every single one of them ignored me, well, at least this time I was prepared for it. Hell, they’d actually be doing me a favor by helping me clean up my friends list.
And then it happened: They started responding.
Reply #1: The High School Sweetheart
Response time: Under two minutes.
The first reply came from Logan, my high school boyfriend whom I dated during 80 percent of my teen years. And while our chapter together ended 10 years ago (holy crap, I’m old?!), I still worried about what he might say to me. This was a man whose heart I literally ripped into pieces so I could selfishly have a "true college experience." If anyone was going to tell me to shove my "season's greetings" where the sun don’t shine, it was probably going to be him.
But that’s not what happened at all. In fact, he was surprisingly nice.
He then proceeded to talk about his new gym habits, which I entertained by feigning interest. Either way, I’m calling this one a win because he was kind, and even sent his own card back!
Reply #2: The One That Got Away
Response time: More than five minutes, but fewer than 10. Probably didn’t want to come off as too available.
Within a few minutes of Logan’s reply, my phone dinged again. This time, it was message from Taylor, my ex from freshman year of college. Taylor was a guy from my first film class who I fell hard and fast for, and even more so as he gradually became distant after several months dating. He finally broke up with me during a phone call where he admitted to cheating on me at a frat party, and I was devastated. I spent an agonizing two years heartbroken over our relationship, and he remained determined to pretend I never existed after our breakup. Seeing a response from him felt like finding a $100 bill on the sidewalk.
Vague, yes, but also somehow straight to the point. I guess some things never change.
Reply #3: My Most Serious Ex
Response time: Four hours after initial email.
Several hours passed before I heard another response. This time, it wasn’t over Facebook Messenger, but text message. Yikes.
It was from my most recent ex, Patrick. We had been together for three years and it's been a year since our breakup; he still has me blocked on social media. I figured the best way to send over a holiday card to him would be through something subtle, like an e-mail. A text message would be almost too inviting and potentially open up discussion about our recently deceased romance.
He reacted as I expected: hesitant at first, then pleasantly surprised. Like my other ex, he too didn’t hold back on informing me about his new workout habits. Humblebrag much?
Things seemed to be going well with this experiment. I was only waiting on two more replies.
Reply #4 : The Grinch
Response time: Unlikely.
This guy actually dumped me during the holidays, so I would not be surprised to find out he has a general aversion to anything that relates Christmas and me in the same breath.
Reply #5: Part-Time Lover
Response time: Pending?
Allow me to be totally transparent. My globetrotting ex Bryan was the person I was legitimately looking forward to hearing from the most. He’s the kind of guy who’s been sporting the same profile pic since 2012, because backpacking through Eastern Europe means Facebook becomes less of a priority. This level of mystery has made keeping up with him massively challenging, while simultaneously, keeping me intrigued. He probably won’t even see my card for another month.
Two more days passed, then four, and soon, an entire week, during which every morning, I checked Facebook to see if so much as a, "Thx" waited in my inbox. Negative. OK, time to throw in the towel with these two.
We are often told the best thing we can do for our future after a relationship ends is to distance ourselves so far from our exes that we forget they ever existed. You're not "supposed" to ever let them know you're thinking of them, because that reveals your weakness. That's how you let them "win."
Well, getting in touch with my exes again proved to me there are no such thing as winners or losers when it comes to breakups. Because while things didn’t work out romantically with these guys, each of them was part of an important and necessary chapter in my life that pushed me closer to the person I am today. And if the holidays are about showing gratitude for things that go unnoticed, then this is something I had no shame appreciating.
Even if none of them had responded at all, I still feel like this experience was incredibly positive for me. It takes a lot of humility and maturity to send well wishes to the people who have hurt you, and it’s something I never thought I’d do. At age 20, my idea of reaching out to an ex during the holidays would have taken the form of condescending subtweet, or a selfie captioned with the lyrics to WHAM’s "Last Christmas." But at 26, I’m a hell of a lot more secure with the person I’m becoming, and rejection doesn’t scare me the way it once did. The fact that I could genuinely be nice to these people is an indication to myself that I’ve grown up a lot more than I thought.
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