Ex on the scene: zombies & brittle smiles

Halloween is nearly upon us, and what better time to talk about zombies? Zombie ex?

Zombies and demons.

Zombies and demons and how we transform into monsters.

Zombie hand and hand with flowers

When your ex pops back up on the scene, it’s always going to be a kick in the teeth. So how do you avoid pissing on each other’s shoes?

There are three scenarios one might encounter:

A) they never left

B) they are back and working their way through all your friends

C) they are back and have replaced you

Each brings its own series of challenges to your personal sense of zen. So let’s have a look at navigating each one with a sense of decorum.

Nah, let’s listen to the demons.

Ex on the scene?!? Urrrgh!

Miss sexy specs, 30

They Never Left

It burned hot and spicy. It didn’t work out.

Far from becoming a platonic friendship that lost its spark over time, this crashed and burned. Someone did something unforgivable. Someone just couldn’t make themselves care enough to put human respect for you above their plans and vices. Someone became a clingy unattractive pain in the arse that you just couldn’t bring yourself to meet with, let alone carry on with as a party partner.

Trouble is, they aren’t gone. In the small, closed world of the swing scene, you go the same places. You know the same people. The very place you’d like to reinstate your animus as an independent sexual being, this zone of carefree frolics, they turn up like a mosquito in the bedroom to kill your buzz: Usually appearing right at the moment you are pants down, about to get freaky with some tasty new distraction.

As far as erotic empowerment goes, it would have gone better with your granny bursting in.

An ex who never left, who is going to be predictably about, generates its own special challenges. For a start, it’s impossible to pretend they aren’t there. When you choose what to wear, you know they are going to see it. When you get down to playtime in front of them, how do you avoid it becoming a pantomime spectacle of ‘see what you are missing out on?’

When you are both on the same chat group, how do you act normally? How do you avoid it becoming a test of showmanship and trying too hard? How do you avoid descending into bitter personal digs or displaying yourself for all to see like a cat on heat, just to teach them a lesson?

One might imagine that the opportunity to regularly see your ex around would ease the emotional transition, firmly remind you of all the reasons you aren’t suited and be a positive, healthy thing for adults to do. Unfortunately it’s virtually impossible not to descend into competing, information gathering, attempting avoidance or control.

Basically, doing everything except being the cool and unaffected person you are trying to be. It feeds all the negative parts of your (undead) relationship and keeps them alive, while giving you nothing of benefit. Adulting is just too hard.

Return of the ex

You stayed, they left. Maybe they went abroad. Maybe you fell out and they ran away. Maybe they ditched you for a vanilla. Maybe they just ghosted and you never really knew why. The crucial part is this: they left the scene. You stayed. Now, suddenly, they are back. They are single. And they are everywhere.

If you had a bad ending or some unresolved questions, one might imagine that the polite thing to do first would be to contact you and make things right. Just as a first port of call. Before cherry picking parts of your life that you nourished and grew but they chose to abandon. A little heads-up.

If you have invested time in the scene, you have got to know people. Made friends and lasting connections. Perhaps even made a name for yourself. You are rooted. Your hard won accolades of acceptance, social power and sexual prowess are not meant to be plundered. Especially by the one who didn’t see enough value to work with you. The story of the little red hen tells us so.

In vanilla circles, for an ex to rapidly sleep their way through all your friends and colleagues would be considered abhorrent, and a serious cry for your attention. Yet on the scene this is exactly what they will do. It’s unavoidable. Then you are left with three choices.

Your three choices

Do you use your greater power and influence to block them at every turn? Have them taken off groups, banned from events, warn all your tribe off them? Be the evil witch they made you out to be? All to exact the most ongoing, petty form of revenge? How will this ever make you feel better about anything? How do you not come to look in the mirror and see a monster?

Do you ignore them, or pretend to? Carry on as though they don’t matter. Watch them have sex with all your friends but not you. Have to listen to your friends talk about them in glowing terms for things you know are completely untrue, and feel a sense of responsibility for when your ex does what you know they were always going to do, but this time it’s to your friends? Can you warn your friends without it sounding like sour grapes and jealousy? Is there even any set line between feeling responsible and being hateful?

Once your ex has stepped back in the ring, the dice have been cast. There is no pretending.

Do you act the magnanimous godlike figure? Do you specifically include your ex in things, in the way you would any of your friends? Will that make it all okay? Will it feel like progress?

How can you stop this from becoming an ongoing, attention seeking display of how wonderful you are? Look how much they are missing out on by not being on your team anymore. How do you stop yourself looking like the most desperate show-off? At least you can partake in strangely dead sex with them. Strictly casual and meaningless. A weird hollow re-enactment of how it used to be. Like a carnal Ouija board, calling out to a spirit you can no longer be sure is even there.

Why on earth has an ex decided to zombie?

Of course, one might wonder why they would choose to return to the very scene that you are in. To resurrect themself onto your turf. How can one imagine that it isn’t designed to get a reaction from you specifically? This strange haunting? Surely the whole scene must be one big joint memory of the two of you together?

Why not come to work in your office? Join your sports team? Take up all the same hobbies and interests as you? Invite themself to Christmas dinner with your family.

No amount of ‘Oh no, I’m not here because of you’ will ever ring true in your soul. When we could easily divide the world into vanilla sites like Tinder, and swinger apps like KK, why would they choose to still come pee on your shoes in this little corner of society?

There is no part of your being which will ever completely believe that they aren’t just doing it to annoy you. To force you to watch their sex antics and have an eternal Mexican standoff. Mixed with a tiny sad spark you try to extinguish that keeps hinting they are there because on some level they want you back. They want to try again.

They are back with YOU mark 2

A particularly awful variant of the return of the ex comes when they reappear, but not alone. It may be that they re-emerge from the start of their unannounced come-back tour with the new model, or worse yet you’ll go through all the confusion and torment of having them single on the scene for a while before they then pair up with someone else. And then they swing together. Do all the things that you used to do. Maybe your Franken-replacement even looks a bit like you.

This variant of ‘return of the ex’ has an additional twist for you to deal with – there is absolutely no good option as to what your replacement is like. Is he better in bed than you? Is she really pretty? Well, that just blossoms every latent insecurity you have ever had, like ghastly buboes of the Black Death. Is he/she less than conventionally attractive? Well, that’s even worse! Because apparently he/she is STILL hotter than you. More fun. More loveable.

Maybe more innocent? How can you ever regain what someone merrily took away from you, little by little, all smiles and dreams as they did so, before discarding you and then starting afresh on someone else? The demons will poke you with 100 little forks like this until you realise that circles of hell can be found long before you reach the underworld.

Almost certainly, your ex will allow you to see and know all the little ways in which their new muse is receiving more consideration, affection and respect than you were ever allowed in their position. Again, this will be firmly asserted as nothing to do with you. They have totally moved on and just want to be friends.

This is especially unpleasant if you have found no fitting replacement for them yourself. An unnecessarily poignant touch they can add is the retrospective downplay: For you to then hear from your friends about how you were never really ‘together’ in the first place.

So that would be the hat trick then; unloved, mean, and delusional? Better buy some silver for your inner werewolf.

What can you do with a zombie ex?

Listen to’Mr. Brightside’ on repeat?

Dancing with wolves….. or the ex who you’ll see at the swingers party. Really it’s the same thing! I did this for maybe 18 months. Many, many times I went to show him what he was missing. But after ‘reengaging’ a few times in a drunken (me) early morning hotel romp, I’d end up feeling lost and down when he went back to his new girlfriend.

After a while I went to show him I was better and more beautiful without him. And so were my sexy friends that I’d met along the way. It’s a daunting prospect to date someone on the scene, and even more daunting to keep bumping into them in your lingerie. But just remember to keep your head and your heels high. And your friends close at hand for moral support when you need it.

Miss R, amazing woman

I wish I had an answer for you, my lovely ladies and baby ducklings. It’s certainly a psychiatric pressure cooker situation to be stuck with, in the very world where you used to go to be free of such worries and memories. What to do? To face them down as a mortal enemy? To try to ignore every hurtful action? To try to rekindle? To try to just be friends?

How do you vanquish a zombie ex?

Reality is that whatever you try, there is no solution that works long term. You can’t rekindle because of all the past hurt and anger in the way. You will devour your own soul and mind if you try to fight with them, and forever be stuck in the same pit of pain.

Pretending to ignore everything will frustrate you to the point of outburst, and being friends is probably the hardest tightrope of them all to walk and stay straight with. Yet it seems the only logical way to rebuild the jagged thing stuck between you. Let’s all just force ourselves to be grown-ups right? Light as a feather, carefree, slightly erotic friendship. Like back at the start. In the old days. Before everything went so very, very wrong.

Zombie land

This new urban landscape of casual, sexy friendship is not the old city of passion repaired, however. It’s a shanty town, propped up on the sand and sharp, broken shards of that which was destroyed in the fallout. All the destruction and wreckage still lies there, just beneath the surface. The things you loved don’t live there anymore, in the places you used to find them. Just ghosts. There’s a maze of shrapnel to pick your way through, and a lot of unexploded mines. Mind where you step.

Maybe there is no way to win. To be friends. To find a way to be okay with the new normal. Maybe the only thing one can do is set sail for pastures anew and leave the zombies of the past stumbling around in what used to be your kingdom.

It only takes one small shit floating in the barrel to spoil the rest of the milk.

Maybe the best you can do is to keep your own demons at bay. As the saying goes, ‘this too shall pass’.

It’s an endless torture. You want nothing more than for it to be over, so you can go back to just being yourself. But at the same time, you are terrified of when that’s going to be, because then you’ve missed all your chances to ever fix things. Whatever level you’ve got to, that’s as good as it’s going to get. And you realise that you can’t remember the last time you felt totally relaxed and happy all the way through. And that whatever does or doesn’t happen now, you probably never will again. That’s a hard thought to carry around.

Miss A, single woman, 30s

Happy Halloween my baby ducklings. Some adventures are funny. Some are dark.


-Did you find a good way of dealing with a zombie ex? Please comment and share your experience.

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