Quare Reactions: The contentious topic of exes, and what to do with them

Image Credit: Ellen Nugent

While my last column discussed red flags, green flags, orange and pink flags, and their various differences depending on the sexuality of the subject in question, this column will discuss another contentious issue that is intrinsically linked to both the issue of red and green flags, and the stark differences between the queers and the straights, and their diverging understandings of the ways that various relationships operate and evolve.  

I’ll start off with an anecdote from my weekend at work this past Saturday. I was, naturally, bored despite the shift being quite busy, with plenty to do. I started texting various friends; “I’m bored at work lol come say hi”, “You around? Work is so quiet lol”, “Wanna come say hi? I’m at work. So bored lol”. You get the general idea anyway. Being a queer, naturally, many of my so called “friends” are also my exes. To me, and my many queer pals, this is completely normal. To be expected even. One such ex, turned friend, responded “Oh, I was actually heading down there anyway!” followed by “Are you allowed coffee on shift? Will I grab you a coffee?” And so, in strode my ex turned close friend, coffee in hand. I graticiously accepted the iced beverage (for the gays, it’s always an iced beverage isn’t it? Even in the middle of a storm…) and introduced them to my coworkers. We chatted, about work and general life and all the very cool artsy things they’re up to at the moment (I’m quiet in awe to be completely honest with you). After she left, one of my coworkers approached me “Ahh! That’s so cute! Are you back together then?” I laughed. I actually couldn’t help myself. This particular ex turned friend had been so resolutely designated to the realms of platonic friendship, that I had actually almost forgotten that any of my coworkers even thought of the pair of us in a romantic way. “What are you laughing about!?” she exclaimed “She just brought you a coffee! Into work!” I continued laughing, absolutely hysterical in fits of it. 

This particular episode, with all of its hilarious presumptions about the nature of various kinds of relationships (platonic, romantic, sexual) and their particular boundaries and hierarchies, made me consider why this particular (heterosexual) coworker presumed that we must be “back together” as she put it. All this ex turned friend had done was brought me a coffee in work? Albeit an iced coffee, a particularly homosexual beverage, I still couldn’t see why this meant we must be “back together” so to speak. Then it hit me, loving and caring acts of kindness, no matter how small or inconsequential, equated to romantically significant indicators of “fancying” and “flirting” and “dating” to this hetersexual coworker of mine. I should say that not only was this coworker a heterosexual, but she was also a heterosexual woman speficially, so I understood that her standard for romantic gesture must be particularly low. “Jesus Christ”, I thought, “That’s the absolute bare minimum.” 

It got me thinking though, this interaction, about yet another joyous gift of being queer. And while I don’t want to make black and white assumptions about the moral higher-ground that the queer community beholds (because, as many of us know, there are plenty of morally unsavoury characters in the queer community too), but at the very least I can accept an iced Vietnamese coffee from a friend without assuming its to ask for my hand in marriage, or some other activity that heterosexual woman consider when interacting with other people, including, apparently, their friend. 

We, as queer people, have a unique opportunity to understand our relationships (platonic, romantic, sexual, etc.) as sweetly non-hierarchical. What if I had told my coworker that I had in fact gotten “back together” with this friend of mine? What would that indicate to her? What would that indicate about me? My life? My love? My experiences? Would it cancel out any of my other relationships (again, platonic, romantic, sexual, etc.)? Would she presume when I said I was going on a date that I meant only with this one specific person? Why did I have to choose? And why does the word “ex” have to indicate a relationship that is fundamentally incapable of evolving? Of shifting? Of continuing to be loving? Caring?