There is a very real adrenalin rush that surfaces in my weak, weary bones and explodes into my heart the moment the springtime blooms. It starts to slowly boil in the early Ides of March, and it is full blast-bubbling over by the time April 1st, rears its pretty-little-head.
Springtime kicks off what I like to call “queer party season.” Queer people come alive and are the best, glitteriest versions of their queer selves the moment those sexy beams of sunshine delicately kiss our exposed skin. We hibernate in the winter.
“If you don’t leave your apartment, and come out with me tonight, your life is going to get very ‘Grey Gardens’ pretty soon,” My straight friend Ruba barked down the phone to me mid-winter of last year.
“You mean ‘Gay Gardens’?” A smug smile sprawled across my face as I gazed into my glass of wine, knowing full well that there was no way in hell I was about to peel a stifling pair of tights on to my pale legs, wing my goddamn eyeliner, and brave the freezing Tundra to go to some mediocre bro bar in Brooklyn. “I’m resting. It’s about to be GAY SEASON, baby.”
“Oh. Yeah. GAY SEASON. Forgot about that. Well, you better rest up. I’m surprised you don’t become a full blast alcoholic by the time Labor Day weekend hits, girl.”
“Don’t be jealous. You can totally come tag along to Cherry Grove with me this year, babe.” I purred into the phone.
And what really kicks off our glorious partying season is the legendary Dinah Shore Weekend, baby! Oh, the notorious sexually-charged pool party where queer women travel in wolf packs from all across the globe to gather as a united force of Lesbian Nature in the sprawling California Desert where they spend a long weekend partying, socializing and dancing their sweaty bodies by a glistening pool whilst showing off the brand new Tankinis (I will defend The Tankini till I die. It’s a staple of Lesbian Fashion).
And then after the Dinah, you have Aqua Girl and Girls in Wonderland and a slew of Pride events (and if you’re a New Yorker you have the whole Fire Island circuit and city rooftop parties, full of scantily clad lesbians overlooking the Hudson River). It’s intense. It’s fabulous. It’s sexy. It’s worth a winter spent in hibernation.
However. There is one aspect of Queer Party Season, that can give leave us reeling with a pesky case of anxiety, and that’s the ole’ ex run-in, honey.
I came out in my very early 20s and quickly realized that the dreaded ex run in, is inevitable during this time of year. Being a lesbian is sort of like being in a small prep school in New England where you have to face the demons of your past in the high school cafeteria every day. There is no hiding. Everyone knows everything and that twerp you hooked up with at the party last Friday will be lurking by your locker when the bell rings every single afternoon for the rest of the school year.
Every time I got to events like Dinah, I see all these fresh-faced 21-year old lesbians–girls who have only been out for about a year–and their energy is just so EXCITED and FREE and ENERGIZED. They aren’t bogged down by ex baggage. Watching them strut into the pool party all free and excited like the world is their lesbian oyster makes me seethe with jealousy.
Me, on the other hand–I know that by the time I check into my hotel room, I will have run into 16 exes, four hookups, three Tinder dates gone awry, two girls I ghosted and one girls that has ghosted me. I just want to shake the pretty little baby dykes by their sun-kissed shoulders and yell “ENJOY THIS WHILE IT LASTS. IN A YEAR YOU’LL BE JUST AS WEATHERED AS THE REST OF US!”
And then by the time we actually get the pool party, the scene will turn into this:
“I think my ex is here!” my friend Sasha* will squeal to me.
“I think all of my exes are here, including the crazy one that tried to push me off a balcony!” I’ll squeal back as I attempt to hide my face in my black mane of hair.
“I think my ex is here too. Oh, and we like just broke up. Right before I met you…” the girl I’m dating will sheepishly reveal, sending me spinning into an ugly galaxy of anxiety and jealousy.
And suddenly we’ve all been pulled out of the glorious lesbian pool party moment. The energy has shifted. In an instant the energy transformed from carefree blissfulness to stress, stress, stress. You can feel a shift in the air when a toxic ex is near. It’s like a dark, melancholy cloud shades the bright-blue glimmering pool and a sudden flash of deadly lightning scatters across the cloudless California sky. Even your new girlfriend can feel it. And you’re feeling all kinds of conflicting feelings and you don’t know if you should say hi to your ex or pretend she isn’t even there, but the one thing you do know for sure is this: someone’s going to end up pissed off.
if you completely ignore her, yYour ex will send you a scathing text message: “Thanks for saying hi, bitch!” Your new girlfriend (who has probably tossed back too many tequila shots anyway) will get really dramatic and upset if you do say hi, and might even lock herself in the hotel room and weep in protest if she’s really wasted. I know this whole scene sounds melodramatic, but it’s unfortunately all too accurate. Especially in your mid-to-late-20s, my God. The end of your 20s is like adolescence all over again! Between the ages of 25-29, I cried at every lesbian pool party event I ever went to.
But you know what? I turned 30 and learned it doesn’t have to be this way. Finally, after years and years of amazing lesbian events being tarnished by ex drama, after years of feeling anxious as I winged my eyeliner for every single Pride after party, I’ve figured it out. And here is your lesbian big sister’s official guide on how to deal when 1,000 exes are going to be at the party and you’re bringing your new gf.
I’m the Reigning Queen of Avoidance. I’m the kind of girl who will ignore a dent in the front and center of her car, just because I don’t want to deal with the blistering headache of getting my car fixed.
But you know what I’ve learned, babe? Avoiding reality, especially when it comes to love and relationships, is a giant, mega mistake. If you have the feeling your ex is going to be at the same party as you and your new girlfriend, confront it head on.
The best thing you can do is calmly say to your new girlfriend, “Hey, babe. I just want to give you a heads up. My ex–yes the not-so-stable one, I told you about–is going to be at Dinah this weekend, too. We’ll probably see her, and she might even give us one of her classic gaze of death–but who cares? I’m so excited to be going to Dinah with YOU. Actually, I’m so happy that you’re in my life and we’re going to have an AMAZING weekend.”
Don’t get too dramatic about the whole thing and start projecting terrible scenarios on to your girlfriend. That’s giving too much life to the situation and will instill fear and paranoia in the poor girl before anything bad has happened at all. You don’t want to attract dramatic energy. Discussing the possibility of ugly drama attracts ugly drama. Just coolly warn her and move forward.
But DO warn her so she doesn’t find herself totally thrown, wasted and vulnerable when your ex comes sauntering up to the bar, her crazy eyes radiating a wild mental instability, clutching a cocktail in a string bikini, sending her spinning into a dark hole of insecurity and darkness. There is nothing worse than being all blissed out and beautifully buzzed in the Palm Springs Desert sunshine only to have your new girlfriend’s ex slaughter the positive energy with her negative prowess. Put yourself in her shoes. You would at least want to know.
Come up with a game plan.
I know it sounds stupid to formulate a game plan, but I think it’s a life-saver. We’re dealing with feelings here! Irrational feelings! Feelings of jealousy! Feelings of hurt! You need to be able to manage all the FEELINGS of having both your current lover and your scorned ex-lover in the same space. It’s not a natural habitat in which lesbians thrive.
Formulate a little game plan for yourself, or one with your partner, if she’s expressed that she’s feeling insecure about the ex run-in. I’ve done this with my girlfriend before.
“Okay, so if we run into my ex, I want to leave and go to the opposite end of the pool because I don’t trust her and I don’t want to put us in an uncomfortable situation,” I would chirp.
“Okay, well my ex isn’t as crazy as your ex, so if we run into her, I’ll introduce you, we’ll politely say hello and move about our business,” she would chirp back.
This way we both felt prepared and SAFE and on the same, united team no matter what had happened.
Introduce your new GF or don’t talk to your EX at all.
One time in my early 20s, I was at some party with a new girl I was sort of dating.
“Hold on,” she whispered into my ear. “I have to go say hi to someone. I’ll be right back.”
I watched her stomp away in her Doc Martin boots, as her friends sighed and shook their heads in disapproval.
“Who is that girl she’s talking to?” I innocently asked, guzzling back some sugary champagne. I was the new girl in town and had no idea who any girl at the party was (other than the girl I was sleeping with and her friends).
“That girl is her ex,” a tall gay man said to me, aloofly puffing on his cigarette. “Don’t worry—they are so over.”
Suddenly I was very aware of the champagne bubbles swishing around my brain. I could feel them pop in my skull, one by one. When my girlfriend sidled up next to me a few minutes later and put her hands around my waist, I felt my body go stiff.
“Why didn’t you introduce to me your ex?” I slurred, pushing her arms off me.
“Oh, well, I didn’t think you wanted to meet her.” Her voice sounded like a deflated balloon. She knew she had fucked up.
And just like that, in an instant, her ex became an “issue” in our relationship. I’m not a crazy, jealous, girl (unless I’ve consumed whiskey. Alas, I avoid whiskey for this very reason!) but I felt, if my girlfriend couldn’t introduce me to her ex, clearly she was hiding something. I decided there must be some lingering feelings left over, and the thought sickened me.
And maybe that wasn’t even true. Maybe she was just trying to avoid an awkward situation for herself. Maybe she was trying to protect me. Regardless of your sweet intentions you will instill paranoia into your girlfriend’s head if you saunter off, have a giggle with your ex and then come back to her like nothing happened.
So either you don’t talk to your ex if she’s toxic, mean, snide or crazy, or you do if you’re still friends (which I support) and she’s nice, sane and sweet. But do it while firmly clutching the hand of your new girlfriend.
Which leads me seamlessly into my next point:
Be sensitive, baby.
I don’t really care if my girlfriend innocently flirts with other women in front of my face (sometimes it even turns me on, shh). I mean, I’m a pretty flirty creature by nature myself. However, I’m wildly, wildly sensitive about exes. I mean how can you not compare yourself to your partner’s former lover, even if you know it’s “wrong”? Isn’t it a part of human nature to be curious about the other human being who shared a bed, had sex with and brushed her teeth next your girlfriend? Aren’t you at least a little stung by the thought of your new lover being intimate with another woman? I know I am. Especially if your new girlfriend had a pretty fresh breakup, you’re going to know that their run-in is emotionally loaded, which is going to make you as the girlfriend pretty uncomfortable.
So be sensitive to these feelings. Understand that these kind of thoughts are probably swooshing through your girlfriend’s brain even if she’s acted all removed and cool. Give her a little bit of extra validation. Kiss her a few more times, publicly, so everyone can see you’re proud to be with her. Channel all of your attention onto her. Make sure she has a drink.
Take care of her. This way she’ll feel secure about your relationship and is less likely to spiral into darkness when your ex comes skipping by shooting her evil looks of death.
Don’t be too sensitive AF.
While you definitely want to be sensitive to your girlfriend’s insecurities and give her extra attention, don’t be too sensitive. Don’t be weak.
In fact, if you’ve done everything right (introduced her to your ex, given her all the attention in the world, validated her feelings, assured her that you’re happy to be with her) and she’s still pouting and being a drama queen, she’s either drunk as fuck or this could be a giant, shiny red-flag, honey.
I once dated a girl who was so madly jealous and infatuated by my ex-girlfriend she emotionally shattered into a million little pieces every time someone mentioned my exes name. Turns out this girl I was dating had deep-seated insecurity issues, and terrible impulse control. A few months later she went through my entire cell phone while I was curled up sleeping trustfully next to her.
If your new girlfriend is acting out, getting irrationally angry at you, or holing up inside the hotel room weeping just because your ex is lurking around the pool, this is not a good sign. As your big lesbian sister, let me tell you: You’ve done nothing wrong. It’s not fair of your new girlfriend to be lashing out at you just because your ex is on the premise. Dinah is an event for all of us! There is enough room for all of us girlfriends and exes and former hookups to coexist together in harmony. If your new girlfriend is going to act all crazy and mean about your ex, don’t indulge her crazy. Because then you’re setting up the groundwork for a wholly dysfunctional relationship. Trust me. I’ve been there. Far more than once, too.
Irrational jealousy is always the sign of a controlling, insecure person. And you don’t deserve that, babes. This is your party, too. Which leads me into my next point:
Remember you’re at a party.
If you’re getting all wound up and feel yourself getting caught up in the intoxicating arms of drama, take a step away. Go to a little tucked away corner by yourself. Maybe bring a cocktail. Or a beer, if you’re a girl who drinks beer. I don’t know. Bring an avocado if that’s what makes you feel safe and cozy inside. I don’t care. All I care about is you.
I want you to gaze into the sea of beautiful, diverse, wonderful queer women living it up by the pool. I want you to feel the glamorous California sunshine on your bare skin. I want you to remember, “Hey, babes, I’m at a party! One of the best parties in the world! In the most gorgeous state in the country! I’m surrounded by my people! And so many of these people at this party are able to express themselves more freely then they ever thought possible. How fantastic! I’m going to tap into that positive energy and just feel blessed to be at this queer mecca that happens only once a year.”
And if you can’t get there alone, just imagine me sitting at the pool next to you. I’m wearing a chic black string bikini and chunky platform boots. Huge white Chanel sunglasses take up half my face. I’m smoking a long, skinny cigarette. I sit next to you. I whisper: “Hey, remember, girl—you’re at the best party in the world.” And pretty soon, you gaze at me, and I gaze back at you, and you realize that I’m right. You smile your gorgeous mega smile and walk back to pool party fool of glorious gratitude.
Don’t get blackout drunk.
I’ve blacked out more times than I can count. I’m not proud of my blackouts. I’m a small person who takes 20 mgs Prozac daily (What? I’m depressed!) and tends to overdrink when I’m feeling socially anxious, which is most of the time. The pills, my size and my social anxiety are a surefire recipe for a blackout.
Blackouts are dangerous, terrifying, soul-killing and, worst of all, leave you totally ill-equipped to handle a situation like this. I totally understand the impulse to get wasted at these kinds of events, when exes are hiding in every shadow and drama is permeating the hot air. You don’t want to deal with the vast array of feelings and fears that are exploding in your body right now—I get it. But sister, that’s the not the answer.
You need to be in control right now, so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Alcohol is deceptive little bitch. When you’re drunk, you can feel feelings that aren’t even real. Like maybe you’ll start to question if you miss your ex. Or maybe you’ll misread your own behavior and think you’re being kind to your new girlfriend, but really you’ve been ignoring her all day. You need a clear head to manage all of this.
You don’t want to wake up the next morning not remembering what happened, but afraid to look at your phone because you know it’s going to be a series of scathing text messages and questions you don’t know to answer.
So, girl, get buzzed. Dance like it’s 1999. Meet cool queer girls that will be friends for life. BE CLASSY (don’t instigate drama). Be honest. Have amazing sex. And have the best Dinah weekend ever!
I love you. And I hate you because I WISH I was going to be in Palm Springs dancing the days away right alongside you. I’m there in spirit, babe. Wherever there is a lesbian pool gathering in the world, my spirit leaves my body and teleports to the party.