San Francisco is an awfully, awfully funny place when it comes to dating. There is an intrinsic casualness and quirk to the city as a whole – one that manifests itself in everything from startups that entice employees with their “Whiskey Fridays” to how we celebrate Easter. So it’s no wonder that when it comes to dating, San Franciscans are constantly bending, twisting, and shaping anew the rules that apply to more mainstream practices.
If you plan on living in this city for long, one of those rules is that you have to be on amicable if not good terms with your exes. San Francisco is tiny. And even smaller than the physical boundaries of San Francisco are the number of social hubs where you’re most likely to hangout with your friends. And if there’s a hotspot that caters to your particular cultural stylings, it stands to reason that your ex (and their friends) are likely to be found at those same places.
The list below is obviously biased towards me as a Lower Haight resident, but I would say 90% of my social outings you’ll find me at one of the bars below (desperate call for stalkers, please):
- The Page
- The Mix
- Lucky 13
Think of the top 10 bars you go out to – and think of how often you windup going someplace else. Running into an ex (or someone you’ve dated even briefly) becomes an inevitability. Learning how to end romantic relationships – or continue them as friendships – becomes an essential part of navigating what might be a potentially otherwise awkward future social situation. I’ve even run into exes while both of us were on concurrent dates. If there was any bad blood between us, I don’t think it’d make either party look very good, and furthermore would just show there’s still some romantic investment.
Maybe we don’t mind being friends with so many exes because San Francisco promotes casual sex, and at a point, it’d be impractical to barricade every person we’ve hooked up with from the friend zone. Maybe it’s because San Francisco places such an emphasis on gender neutrality, and we think of many of our female friends as “one of the guys”, much like they think of us (okay, maybe just me) as “one of the girls”. Maybe we don’t mind if an ex is in the room while we’re changing because rare is the day we take public transit and don’t see someone naked.
But the truth is this: I like my exes. The very thing that makes me think that you’re a cool, smart, funny, fun-to-be-around person that I want to sleep with? Yeah – those are the EXACT same things I look for in a friend, minus the wanting to sleep with them part – and even still, that’s a bonus. Once we fuck, it actually makes it a lot EASIER to becomes friends. There’s no more tension and unknowns about what boundary we may or may not be crossing, titillating fantasies about what the other is like in bed, etc. because we’ve been there.
But how am I to be expected to treat someone with all the qualities that attract me to people in general as though they don’t have those qualities, simply because we’re no longer romantically involved?
I’ve had three separate roommates who I dated prior to their becoming a roommate of mine. One particular ex and I literally shared a room together in college college while we both were in relationships. Knocking and quickly running into the room to grab a beer from the mini-fridge while the other was engaged in intercourse was never a big deal. “It’s cool, bro – been there, done that! Also, she likes her hair pulled!”
And as a straight male, I will attest that having more female friends certainly attracts more romantic liaisons, which in turn, creates more female friends. I tell women pretty early on that most of my friends are females, and that most of them I’ve hooked up with – and oddly, it seems to create a certain camaraderie when they meet, as if to say, “We know what you’re going through, and it gets better.” And on the flipside, I frequently act as a sounding board for my friends – giving them advice on guys they’re prospecting, warning them if a dude seems full of shit, etc.
And while I can’t say that everyone I know has this relationship with everyone from their past, I certainly see it enough. It’s really gotten to the point where I just assume that anyone who has friends of the opposite sex has probably hooked up with those friends. There are friend zones. There are fuck zones. And in San Francisco, there is a van diagram of the two that seems to be the comfort zone.
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