Sammy Nickalls
April 14, 2016 7:00 am
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I don’t know what I expected to feel when I first saw your face.

Naturally, it happened through a computer screen. A friend of mine told me (rather cautiously, bless her) that my ex-boyfriend from college had updated his relationship status on Facebook. Like any other millennial on the planet, I immediately opened my laptop and found your profile. I guess I had to know what you looked like — put a face to the name. Or, rather, a face to the title — “My ex’s new girlfriend.”

I remember trying to mentally prepare myself as I clicked on your name. I had never before experienced that moment of discovering that an ex — someone with whom I had spent years of my life, envisioned my whole future, divulged every secret and bright-eyed dream while intertwining our bodies underneath faded bedsheets — was dating someone new. If I thought I was “supposed” to feel anything in that moment, it’d be shock, a pang of grief, a profound yearning for old memories. A twist, a knot, a lurch in my stomach. Maybe even a rush of anger, flushing my face and distorting my senses; anger at you, the new girlfriend, despite the fact that I was the one who chose to leave that stage in my life almost a year ago.

I took a deep breath — click.

The first picture I saw was a playful selfie of the two of you at what looked like a baseball game. You appeared to be positively glowing with new love. I scrolled for a minute more through a few of your profile pictures: You hanging out with your friends, you at graduation, you goofily posing with a fake mustache. In your cover photos, I found out that you, too, loved Amanda Palmer in all her weird glory, and I saw that at one point, you sported badass, bright reddish-orange ombre hair.

And I remember earnestly thinking, “Wow, good for him. She seems awesome.”

Like other women, I was taught through social conditioning that I’m supposed to hate you. That I’m supposed to constantly be in competition; that I’m supposed to assume that you, as the new object of my former love’s affections, are actually obnoxious, needy, possessive, and probably always have food stuck in your teeth. That I’m supposed to scroll through your profile and pick you apart — find (or rather, create) every reason why you’re *nothing* compared to me.

But the truth is that all the hating is just a defense mechanism. In the vast majority of cases, the new girlfriend is probably perfectly lovely, and it’s all just an attempt to prevent more hurt after a gut-wrenching breakup. In other words, if I were to hate you just for being, I’d be relying on a defense mechanism that only leads to women hating other women.

I broke up with my ex for various reasons, but they all boil down to one: I wasn’t happy. I knew that if I wasn’t happy, he ultimately wouldn’t be, either — at least, he wouldn’t be if he stayed with me. I knew he deserved to be with someone who didn’t want to change him, who fully appreciated him for everything he is, who was perfectly, unequivocally happy with him.

And, new girlfriend, that’s where you come in.

Maybe I left that stage in my life so that you could take on the next in yours. Perhaps this place, and this place alone, is where our lives will intersect. I’d like to think that if we met outside of these circumstances, we’d really get along, and maybe we’d even be friends.

But all of that is just speculation. The one thing I know is that you’re not just a title; you’re more than “my ex’s new girlfriend.” You are a person, whole and true, who deserves happiness and love.

I truly hope that you’ve found it.

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