Embarrassment and the Ex: Dealing with the Accidental Encounter

Hello Career Girls!

I’m Lauren. Nice to meet you all. I know we don’t know each other yet, so I though I’d go ahead and let you get to know me the best way I know how- by completely embarrassing myself.

A month or so back, I had a falling out with a guy I was dating. It wasn’t the best ending to our little romance. Our offices are in the same area so I knew that seeing him again was inevitable. It had to happen. The day finally came and I saw him from across the street, at an awkwardly painful distance. We were too far away to get it over with and say hello, yet just close enough to see each other and know that running away was not an option.

After what seemed like the longest minute of my life, we finally crossed paths. I pulled my hand out of my pocket and what did I do? I saluted him. Saluted him?!? What was I thinking?? How was a salute my body’s first reaction? I was so embarrassed. (I would like to take this a step back and say that no one in my family has any affiliation with the armed forces, therefore making this reaction even odder). 

And what acknowledgment did I get from him in return? The head nod. You know the one. The I’m-too-cool-to-take-my-hands-out-of-my-pockets- “sup bro” head nod. Oh how I despise that nod.

This whole situation has made me think. For me, running into an ex outside of a bar or a friend’s party has been rare until now. In those instances you can just keep hold of your drink, blend into the crowd, or look busy talking to others. But now the ex encounter has infiltrated the workday. So what do you do?  How do you appropriately deal with the (sober) ex-run in?

As budding career professionals we’ve been groomed to have the firm handshake. But this is just one of those situations where the handshake is not appropriate.  Should we pull an Obama and go in for the fist bump? Take it back old school and bring it up for the high-five? Or should we just commit to the classic wave?

Obviously, the wave it not my default reaction.

The next time I saw this gentleman, I clenched my fists in my pockets in fear of another salute and gave the most enthusiastic, “Hi!” you’ve ever heard in your life.  It would have made you think I was greeting the delivery man who was carrying a million dollar check for me.  Again, head nod from him. Ugh.

This last time I ran into him, I was mad. Mad that I ran into him again and mad that I was about to embarrass myself once again. But I was so busy wracking my head with the most appropriate way to say hello, I just completely passed him, totally ignoring his presence. But it worked! At least, I didn’t feel embarrassed. Who knows what my face looked like when I passed him though, full of so many thoughts!

So what do you think? Which is best reaction for an accidental ex meet-up? Is it more appropriate to be formal but awkward? Excited yet fake? Or just give the cold ignore?

I wish that my story, due to the level of embarrassment, is not comparable to yours, but I think that a lot of you out there might be able to relate. So let’s start a conversation. Us career girls have got to stick together and help each other out!

Do you have a story? What do you think is best? Let’s talk.


Lauren Schaefer

Lauren Schaefer is a nonprofit event planner, comedy improviser, avid blogger and New York City single lady. She documents her own new journey as a young professional in New York at her blog From the Fifth Floor.

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