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Steer clear of your ex, and do it in style.

I’ll be entering Ex Territory this weekend when I go shopping with my fellow HRM Sensational Single Wendy Walker for our auction next Thursday. And not a little timidly. Because no matter what they tell you, you cannot be friends with an exYou should avoid your ex as much as possible. If one person still wants to rekindle the fire, contact MUST be avoided.

I learned this the hard way. Post-breakup last fall, after polling the idea on Facebook (and getting a resounding NO), the optimist in me tried the friendship thing anyway. Dinner with the Ex. At a cozy restaurant we’d been to last when his family was in town. A few weeks before Christmas. (I swear I wasn’t trying to get back together. I’m just apparently really good at evil, cruel plots when I’m not trying.)

It was disastrous and awkward in all the ways it could’ve been. I was 10 minutes early; he was 20 minutes late, without explanation or apology. And (ironically) he was way too happy to see me; I had to shrink from an attempted kiss (really, Ex?)! He’d brought a nice, personal gift. I’d brought a nice, impersonal gift. He was expecting to get back together; I was expecting friendly catch-up conversation. The shortest dinner in our history later, he choked a goodbye and left (in tears).

Yeah, I got out of the try-and-be-friends business. But every few months since then, there’s always a call or text. I ignore, but I am really careful whenever I am nearing Ex Territory, as I’m never sure if there could be another scene or totally inappropriate attempt at PDA.

Luckily, Hampton Roads is PERFECT for avoiding your jilted lover or your soulless dumper (that would be me):

1. LOVE THY TUNNELS

Yeah, I know it can be a pain. As someone who’s lived, worked or otherwise heavily frequented Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Isle of Wight/Franklin, and Williamsburg, I know. But really, guess what? The HRBT, Monitor Merrimac, Downtown Tunnel, Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and Midtown Tunnel are your greatest post-breakup allies. Learn to LOVE your nearest tunnel and you are a rare creature— 90% chance your ex isn’t thinking the same thing! If you don’t have a problem putting some distance between your most frequented locales, it can be the best manmade barrier between you and dreadful ex-encounters.

Also, think of it as free therapy! (At least an hour’s worth.) Because dumper or dumpee, you might need some time with your thoughts to let the breakup dust settle.

2. FIND A NEW FAVORITE RESTAURANT

Yeah, probably not a good idea to go into you and your former-beloved’s favorite spot—at least not yet. Painful memories aside, there’s nothing that puts a more bitter taste in your mouth than an unexpected run-in. Stay away! Luckily, there are plenty of restaurants that are worthy candidates for being a new favorite. Check out HRM’s 50-50 deals on awesome local spots. I’d tell you my own local faves, but I’ve gotta be protective…just in case!

3. CHANGE YOUR WARDROBE: GO INCOGNITO

Winters that start late and snowfall in March? “Hurricanes” more timid than your last toilet overflow? Hello, Hampton Roads weather! What we lack in predictability, we make up for in intensity. Whenever fall-like weather actually begins this year, we know it’ll get cold very suddenly. So, take advantage of the region’s well-defined seasons. Hopefully you were proactive and your breakup occurred at the end of a season, so necessary wardrobe changes can be tied in with the need to look totally out of character.

There’s also no overarching fashion rule governing Hampton Roads; we dress metro, hip, grunge, conservative, sporty, sophisticated. Anything goes. I’m not saying you should change your entire look just to avoid your ex. But hey, if you’re gonna cut your hair or buy new clothes for the changes in season anyway, the opportunity is there!

4. HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS

Hampton Roads is very friendly to the social. And, it’s an awesome place to live, so people stick around for awhile. So, if you don’t have a lot of friends (maybe because you somewhat neglected them by being sucked into your relationship? It happens), reconnect or MAKE SOME.

Try not to venture into EX-VILLE without them. Because a scene is much less likely in numbers. And it’s much easier to duck behind a person than to find an appropriate you-sized object. Don’t risk it!

Do you go out of your way to avoid an ex? Does anyone have a non-psycho ex? How do you handle the unexpected encounter?

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