Oh, Pride! This is the month when we trot out our sequined outfits and shortest of shorts to dance on floats, go to late-night drag and burlesque shows, and possibly drink more booze than is advisable.
It’s a wonderful time to run into every queer you ever met, worked with, danced on, and gave the side-eye to at a party, and that person who you had a brief intense friendship with one summer that flared out but you had always wondered what happened to them. They’re all here!
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It is also a time to run into your exes, which can bring up a lot of feelings. Some exes barely register on the Richter scale of bad news—you notice them out of the corner, and maybe you wave hello, but it’s not a big deal. You may notice a little bit of nostalgia or anger creeping in, but if you look the other direction, it disappears just as quickly.
But there are other exes- the big bad ex, the recent ex, the broke-up-with-you-and-started-dating-one-of-your-close-friends ex that you will also see, and it is better to have a plan for these encounters. There are as many strategies as there are people, but here are some that people have tried that work.
Surround yourself with friends
Bring your friends, your dogwalker, the last three people you went on dates with, the barista that remembers your name, your mom and this girl named Karen you just met who happened to make braces look adorable—who does that? Karen does that.
You will be so deep in your thicket of friends that your exes will barely be able to see you past the shoulders of your very attractive friends who all think you are very, very funny and are paying close attention to you. Be sure to remind your crowd that it would be helpful to all turn their heads to look at you when you know exes are afoot.
It’s not hard to get on floats/find somebody to march with/have a last-minute need to volunteer for the Dyke March to wear a sparkly outfit and carry a donations bucket. There are so many things that could be needing to get done for Pride, and you could be the one to do them!
If you want to get really earnest, there are plenty of places that could use your help with lobbying and local initiatives. Marriage equality doesn’t mean our political work is over, and they could use your help!
Focus on something else
Conversely, scanning the crowd for your exes takes away from your enjoyment of whatever is going on in front of you: wet T-shirt contests! Dancing! Drag queens! Earnest septuagenarians in khaki Bermuda shorts carrying neon signs that say “God Loves Everyone!” Leather-clad square dancing enthusiasts! There’s lots of pay attention to! Stop staring at her!
Go somewhere different
I personally love going to Pride in other cities, because anyone you run into is a surprise rather than a chore, and it makes the familiar somewhat novel again. There will be the usual run of the mill of churches, derby girls, and pet rescue places, and radio stations and banks depending on how corporate your pride is, but it’s someplace new! Everything old is new again!
Alternatively, friends of mine are big into going camping/hosting brunches that include rounds of gay trivia/something called “Pride Yoga”/staying home and rereading Stone Butch Blues. For years now I have been meaning to make a walking tour of the gay history of Seattle for the month of June and have never gotten around to it. You can make Pride weekend gay in whatever particular way you want, and you are also allowed to sleep in and not worry about it.
Ultimately, Pride gets to be what you want it to be, and it will bring up a lot of your history around gayness, which includes such landmarks as coming out and significant relationships. Exes can be very fraught relationships throughout the year, but Pride is a time when we are so earnest about our community, and possibly feeling tender about our own history and working to make the world a better place, that it can be a surprise to run into Rachel, who still owes you $200. Go ahead and do Pride the way you want to, knowing that exes will be there, but so will every other queerdo—your friends, frenemies, and Cheryl from accounting.
Maria Turner-Carney is a therapist and writer who lives in Seattle. You can follow her work at seattlefeministtherapy.com/blog.