Going home for Christmas. Aah, the joys! Not only do we find ourselves reverting to our stroppy teenage selves for Absolutely No Reason Whatsoever – [whines] “but mum, you know I hate brussels sprouts…”- we also end up bumping into our exes. Back on our old stomping ground, it’s only a matter of time before we run into Conor (first kiss, 1990) at the pub, Brian (first fumble, 1992) at the petrol station, Ruairi (first heartbreak, 1995) outside the chipper, and Stephen? Niall? Sean?? (ewww… 1996) while buying haemorrhoid cream for housebound gran.
If you’re on decent terms with the ghosts of boyfriend’s past, it’s fine, but if not, it’s a pustule on the armpit of Christmas. Not only are you older, fatter and more wrinkly than they remember, but these throwbacks have a habit of appearing only when you’re in the fug of a Bad Hair/Skin Day post-Baileys hangover. Having forgotten to pack your foundation and GHD, you’re now borrowing your little sister’s BB cream (shade Creosote) and on the verge of actually ironing your frizz. (The only saving grace here is that your exes are also older, fatter, wrinklier and also balder than you remember).
For me, my Animosity Ex is like Cliff Richard – he only appears at Christmas time. A Brit abroad, I haven’t lived in my hometown since the year 2000. But just as Mistletoe and Wine is guaranteed to annually curb your festive enthusiasm, Animosity Ex will be in the pub on Christmas Day. Or, worse, the car park. Too far away to strut on over with my sunniest disposition, and shortly-but-sweetly tell him how well I’m doing these days, but close enough to feel his eyes judging me as I ‘nonchalantly’ ‘chat’ to my dad during the long walk into the boozer, it’s cringier than an errant pine needle.
Silly really, since I’d thought I’d made my peace with my past long ago. A few years back my long-term Irish boyfriend and I went to Wales for a mutual friend’s wedding, where Animosity Ex was best man. I was nervous but smug: Animosity Ex’s long-term girlfriend – whom he’d met within weeks of dumping me – had left him. He was working for the same retailer in the same hometown as when we were a couple. I, on the other hand, had lived in three different continents and enjoyed exciting and progressive roles in publishing and the arts – oh, and did I say I had a long-term, and hot, Irish boyfriend? I was so empowered that even the father of the bride didn’t visually recognise me; I had become the new woman I always wanted to be rather than the crushed, cheated-on, mascara-smudged flotsam of yesteryear. The best bit though: Animosity Ex and Irish Boyfriend, by sheer serendipity, ended up holding hands during the group dance to New York, New York. I will remember this delightful fact when our paths cross at the pub this Christmas. The circle of life, oh yeah.
@LucyWhiteDublin is the Deputy Editor of Cara, the Aer Lingus in-flight magazine