The week editors Jennifer Wright and Ashley Cardiff debate the merits of rekindling a romance… with a former flame. See what we did there? Sidenote: ARE YOU BURNING THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS? (We stopped ourselves at using incendiary, though).
Jennifer: I think the major thing that dating your ex hinges on is how much time has passed. I think we all find it pretty darn charming when high school sweethearts – let’s call them Jill and Jack – reunite and get married in their 80’s. Especially if 65 years have passed since they last saw each other. However, in high school, if they tried to reunite after a month-long break-up, one of Jill’s friends might point out “umm, no Jack cheated on you with Mary Sue. He is an asshole.” But after 65 years NO ONE CARES. Why is that, do you think?
Ashley: Can you, uh, expand on that?
Jennifer: I am confused. How?
Ashley: I’m confused as to which side you’re arguing. It’s like you’re saying dating an ex is a horrible idea unless it becomes a cute human interest story in the back of People magazine.
Jennifer: Those stories are my favorite.
Ashley: Look, I know our stances on “The Editors Debate” are often mutable, but which side are you arguing?
Jennifer: I like it when they have old people pictured eating ice cream, together.
Ashley: Everyone loves photos of elderly couples eating ice cream, Jennifer. We cannot argue that. No one can argue that. One must have a heart of stone to reject such images. But we’re arguing about whether or not you should date your ex. Which you shouldn’t, obviously.
Jennifer: The answer is “definitely if you’re 80.” And I think the answer to my original question is “because they’re going to die soon, so they can do whatever they want. They can finally eat ice cream for dinner!
Ashley: God, being old is gonna be awesome. I’m most looking forward to that sweet, sweet kickback from all my social security taxes.
Jennifer: I’m looking forward to pretending to be deaf and then blackmailing people. And, obviously, reuiniting with my high school sweetheart!
Ashley: Swearing at children!
Jennifer: Ashley, we’re debating a different topic now. No one can argue that old age is not a bundle of laughs. So. Dating your ex, I think it can work. There’s obviously something appealing about the notion that you can go home again, yes? But it really hinges upon whether people have grown and changed to such a point where the things that were issues are no longer issues. Which accounts for why I think there has to be a pretty big time gap. Not 65 years necessarily, but some significant amount of time and personal growth.
Ashley: I don’t think people can change substantially, for one.
Jennifer: I think they do all the time. For the worse.
Ashley: Oh, yeah, that obviously, but seldom for the better.
Ashley: Yeah. Like, if you want a shittier version of a person who once sucked, then yeah, that’s doable.
Jennifer: That’s a surprising deviation from your usual sunny outlook, Ashley.
Ashley: I am sorry, I cannot hear you over this. Anyway, I always think it’s a bad idea. I think relationships end when there’s no other recourse after resentments have built up over time. I feel like if you reunite, the first bit can be great because you experience all the things you missed, but those things become issues again because people don’t really change.
Jennifer: I actually do believe people grow and change and become a little more comfortable in themselves as they age. I mean, a lot of that has to do with your life circumstances. Different careers, different cities, different friends – all those things have terrific influence upon the way we behave. And I think they have a great potential to make us better. Jesus, I like myself a ton more than I did when I was 19. Looking back at myself when I was 19, I think some of my behavior was awful. I would never do some of the things I did then now. Or I don’t think I would. I like to believe I’ve evolved since then. And remember, not every relationship ends because something terrible happened. Lots of things end because people move, or go to different schools, or have time constraint issues. 10 years later, those things may no longer be a problem.
Ashley: Okay, if the relationship ended for some outside reason like simple geography, it may work. Then again, if it was as simple as geography, I suppose I’d ask why wasn’t it worth working for? But, yes, of course people mature. People grow out of things characteristic of youth like insecurity and pettiness. But relationships end when people discover they’re just fundamentally different and start hating each other for it. Maybe you, Jennifer, can return to your high school sweethearts like Biff, Gryphon and Duke Tad Crapster IV, because they’ve all stopped putting lacrosse before your needs. …But if they were bad people to begin with, you shouldn’t go back simply for want of the comfort and nostalgia they represent. If they were bad before, they’re still bad. If they were shitty in the ways teenagers are shitty, sure, maybe, I don’t know.
Jennifer: It was more their constant quest to make the polo team than lacrosse, but that’s fair. Especially Biff.
Ashley: Oh, Biff.
Jennifer: But! I realize believing you can repeat the past is the fundamental fallacy of The Great Gatsby, but isn’t it wonderful to be with someone who knew you when you were young? Part of the purpose of relationships – I think – is to have other people who will bear witness to your life. And it’s nice to be with someone who has known you as you were as well as what you’ve evolved into, through hard work and growth and introspection and whatever else.
Ashley: I think your point hinges on the assumption that all romances should reunite when you’re at the age that ideas about morality and ambition and humanity and what actually orients become secondary and the only thing that does matter is staring down your own mortality with a delicious ice cream cone and the person you loved at sixteen who has now–like the ice cream cone you’re both licking urgently–begun to melt. METAPHOR.
Jennifer: You just won.