I was running late to Liz and Ian's wedding. The reception and ceremony were being held at a barn in the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire, and not being used to driving, as I'm a New Yorker, I got lost multiple times. By the time I arrived, the ceremony was already half over.
It was pouring rain and had been so for days. I walked from my car with my heels sinking into the wet ground with each step, and tried my best not to fall. As I neared the barn the first person I saw was Adam. I stopped short, reached into my clutch to double check the address and felt my heart sink. Adam and I had dated off and on in college and here he was, unbeknownst to me, not only at the wedding of one of my best friend's, but staring at me as I struggled in the rain. I began to tremble, I thought I was going to be sick and I wondered why the hell no one had prepped me for this.
What Adam and I had in college wasn't serious, but it ended on a bad note. The few times I had seen him since then resulted in a fight or simply not talking at all. As I made my way up the slippery wet wooden stairs into the barn, with him just a couple feet away from me, my legs gave out -- from both nerves and rain -- and I slipped, barely catching myself with my fingertips.
"Chatel. Always a lady of grace," he said, as he reached out to steady me. At that moment, as he put his other arm around his girlfriend, the mood was set. It was bad enough that my +1 was in New York City and I was forced to go solo, but this added a whole new level of awful to the day's events.
It was on that afternoon that I figured out exactly how to avoid an ex like the plague at a mutual friend's wedding. Why? Because I had no choice.
Yes, far easier said than done, but if you can pretend he's not there -- even when you realize you've been seated next to him during dinner -- you're already steps ahead of the gang. Did I stay in that seat? Hell no. I picked up my place card and sat myself with a bunch of strangers. Maybe I dragged a squeaky chair there and a wee bit of a scene followed, but since denial had already set in, I dismissed my actions as OCD.
Avoid eye and physical contact.
No matter how skilled you are at denial, there will be some point that you'll lock eyes with your ex or, even worse, brush up against him at the bar. The best way to handle this is to jerk away, pretend you have a strange tick and reach for another drink. When you're stuck in a room with an ex, another drink always comes in handy.
If you're at a wedding where many people know each other, but you're the one who moved away to the big bad city, it's easy to dismiss whatever comes your way. When I was asked more than once, "Didn't you date Adam in college?" the answer was simple and one that I had down to a memorized science by the end of the night: "Not to my knowledge. Adam who? Is here or something?"
Any multi-step program will insist on acceptance at some point, and although you may not outwardly accept the situation at hand, as long as you're able to make peace with it then you're OK. Internally you know he's there, externally you've made the necessary attempts to deal with it and overall you're aware that you've moved onward and upward. Yes, it was awkward, and yes, you could have gone without the whole charade, but at the end of the day, denial trumps all. Say it with me: denial trumps all. So was he there? No. Or at least this is what you can tell yourself so you sleep at night (acceptance be damned).