Hey Stranger! A no-nonsense guide to getting in touch with an ex

 (HBO Max)
(HBO Max)

Carrie Bradshaw: love or hate her, you cannot deny the sex columnist has had some truly cringe-inducing moments over the years. Perhaps it’s what makes her ultimately, despite her obvious flaws, endearing. That, hey, she’s just like the rest of us. But, as shown in the latest And Just Like That... season two trailer, her email to ex-boyfriend Aidan makes for uncomfortable (if familiar) viewing.

“Hey Stranger…” is her, somewhat unoriginal, opener. This is the stock salutation for anyone wanting to temperature test an ex – thanks to its inferred history and whiff of nostalgia, not to mention sounding a little like the title of a wistful country ballad. “Remember me?” Carrie continues coquettishly to her ex fiancé, the one who offered to buy her an apartment and fixed her dodgy toilet (even after she dicked him around for actual years).

“IF this is still your email, it’s me – Carrie.” (Saying “it’s me” is self-aggrandising and inappropriately intimate given the lapse in time).

“Was just thinking about you the other day… and I wondered how you were doing. So, how ya doing?”

It is fairly staggering that this woman is a professional writer specialising in relationships, whose syntax skills have for decades kept a (Manhattan) roof over her head and ensured her walk-in wardrobe heaves with vintage Chanel and Manolo Blahniks. Her prose reads like it was coughed out by ChatGPT or a thumb texted by a teenager who has spent their lunchbreak vaping. There’s also some significant main character energy here (naturally): the act of skiing back into someone’s life after actual years is almost certainly self-serving, no matter how much one tries to dress it up as a spontaneous ‘checking in’.

I’m sure Carrie gets what she wants in the end and her email is widely lauded a brave act by a free-spirited woman of gumption. However, mere mortals beware. Contacting an ex out of the blue is not as easy or winning as TV scriptwriters would have you believe. Obviously each situation is unique but some things are universally true, which is why we’re confident that this guide to getting in touch with an ex covers all bases.

Hey Stranger: Carrie might have breezily emailed Aidan, but for mere mortals, getting in touch with your ex is rarely as straightforward as we might want it to be (Getty Images)
Hey Stranger: Carrie might have breezily emailed Aidan, but for mere mortals, getting in touch with your ex is rarely as straightforward as we might want it to be (Getty Images)

Do be honest about what you’re doing

At the very least be straight with yourself about what you are looking for before typing those five words: “it’s been a long time…” Just admitting that you want attention, feel that you made a big mistake or simply confirmation that they still care for you in some way, is likely to save you time, energy and face.

Do be clear about what you want

If it’s not attention or a hook up, what do you want? Really? Do you want to congratulate them for a professional win or new baby? Would you like to send condolences for the loss of a parent? Do you either need to apologise or ask for an apology? These are just some of the valid reasons you might have for getting in touch with a former partner and the good thing is they are fairly easy to communicate clearly and none of them necessitate a “Hey Stranger” opener.

Do remember that they know exactly what you’re up to

You can cosplay casual but you are fooling no one, my friend: there are few things more loaded than a ‘Hey Stranger’ memorandum.

Don’t, under any circumstances, send unsolicited images

Dated, naff and potentially illegal.

Don’t get in touch if you’re feeling insecure

If your life’s giving piping hot mess the last thing you want to do is contact an ex to shore up your sense of self. Feeling emotional, insecure, unhappy or unhinged is not an ideal starting point for potentially re-establishing any relationship.

Don’t drink and DM

Almost everyone’s inhibitions lower when they’ve had a couple of mojitos which means sending a quick “long time no see” message to an ex seems no big deal. But booze also makes us less poised and alert. We can’t read situations clearly and are more prone to oversharing. Some might argue ‘in vino veritas’ (you tell the truth when you’re drunk) is a good thing but this is going to be cold comfort to anyone who wakes in yesterday’s make up, with an arid mouth and the realisation that their ex is currently contemplating 17 missed calls and a long typo-ridden DM containing a Spotify playlist of music that “reminds me of you”.

And just like that, Carrie and Aidan are back on - but emailing an ex out of the blue can be a total minefield (@justlikethatmax/@craigblankenhorn)
And just like that, Carrie and Aidan are back on - but emailing an ex out of the blue can be a total minefield (@justlikethatmax/@craigblankenhorn)

Do imagine how you will feel if they don’t respond how you’d like them to

Just because you’re ready to welcome yourself back onto to your ex-partner’s stage doesn’t mean that they want you there. It is entirely possible that they blank you completely or send you an emoji or a non-question response: “Good thanks. Hope all well with u.” They might well sign off with ‘best’ which, as we all know thanks to Samantha and Richard in the original Sex and the City, is the absolute worst. How will you feel then? Exactly.

Don’t pretend it’s closure if every fibre of your being wants to keep things open

Using the necessity of closure as a means to communicate is a classic trick we play to convince everyone - including ourselves - that we’re actually really normal and rational thanks very much when in fact we can’t bear to let go. If we keep having to seek closure because every attempt at closure gives rise to a further need for closure something is amiss and everyone involved could probably do with an indefinite time out.

Don’t ‘Hey Stranger’ someone if they have a partner

Just don’t. Unless they are Aidan, chances are they are going to send you a polite, slightly formal round up of their highlights involving dull promotions and news of their teething toddler. On the off chance they are in fact Aidan and suggest - by return - that you give it another go, things are about to get very messy and undignified indeed.