It seems that no matter how much time has passed after a breakup, running into a person you once dated is just plain awkward. What do you say? Do you hug? Shake hands? Do you ask personal questions? Do you run? These are all valid questions.
We've laid out a few scenarios to help you navigate these strange ex waters, because you know someday you'll run into that guy you went to junior prom with decades ago and it will STILL be weird.
If you recently broke up amicably:
If it was truly amicable, aren't you already doing what the celebs do — remaining friends (while often co-parenting peacefully)? In this case, pleasantries and a hug are great — since you'll probably see them later anyway.
If you recently broke up and you were the dumpee:
If you got dumped, that's a whole different story. Resist the urge to yell something obscene or throw your eggnog at the person if you're still in the anger stage. Instead, simply smile politely to show you're an adult and move on with your day. Though you'll probably spend the next 36 hours dissecting your ex's outfit, expression, new haircut, who he was with, and why you even got dumped in the first place. Sorry, this is a tough one.
If you recently broke up and you were the dumper:
Chances are you shattered this person's heart into a few million pieces, so go easy. Don't wave obnoxiously or run up and give them a hug in order to make yourself feel better. Instead, smile and keep walking.
If you dated in high school:
If you run into an ex from years and years ago, chances are this little run-in could be really sweet and fun. You can reminisce about the good ol' days together and ask about their family, and feel like you were 16 again. This is probably the most ideal ex situation, except if you're single and already feeling bad about your life and you see your ex out with his wife, kids, dog, new car, and completely perfect existence. In that case, just pretend like you didn't see him?
If things ended TERRIBLY:
Hide. Just hide. If your relationship got really ugly in the end, do yourself a favor and don't make a scene. You might be really really tempted to yell at him in the Target parking lot about how he dumped you for your ex-best friend, but you don't really want to go there, do you? 'Tis the season to move on.
If you're still in love with them:
Resisting the urge to scream at your ex in a parking lot is hard, but resisting the urge to try to win back your ex might be even harder. So, heck, in this case, why not go for it? There's a chance he could feel the same way and this could make for a most epic holiday love story (you know, unless he's dating someone else or married or lives across the world now or something).
If you had a fling with them:
This could go either way. The person's probably seen you naked, so there's a tad bit of strangeness there, but if it was just a fling, it likely won't be too weird to reconnect and make some small talk (read: "flirt"). Warning: This could turn into another fling.