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The Ex-Files

Depending on how things ended, dinner with the ex-boyfriend may or may not be uncomfortable. Dinner with your mom and her ex-boyfriend, however, definitely is all kinds of awkward.

Even now, I’m not sure if she intentionally tricked me into attending the meal. But it wasn’t until we were already on the elevator ride up to Caprice that my mom gave me her 30-second brief: 1) He was her ex-boyfriend; 2) They were together for five years before he proposed; 3) She said “no”; and 4) His current wife was going to be joining us as well. I think I heard a whimper from deep within my soul.

By the time elevator door opened, the nervous giggle from my ugly adolescent years had returned. “You look just like your mom when she was young,” said her ex-boyfriend. “Really? [Giggle.] That’s funny. [Giggle escalating into crazy laughter].” They probably thought I was dropped on the head as a baby.

With the slightest shift in dynamics, switch one guest for another, for instance, and a dinner table can quickly turn from safe to dangerous. Every casual dining ritual had now become a potential minefield. Simple things like “Where should we sit?” cracked open industrial-sized cans of worms. So, my husband and I jumped in to act as the human DMZ between my mom and her ex, sitting directly across from the ex’s wife. It was the rock and hard place, trumped by the fact that the angry wife was knitting her brows at my constant giggling.

“I knew a food writer like you once,” the ex’s wife said, just as the always affable maître d’ Jeremy Evrard waltzed by to wish us all a pleasant meal. “He died,” she continued. Jeremy excused himself with seamless grace.

Things started picking up when Sebastian Allano, one of the most charming sommeliers I have ever known, suggested some old world Burgundy for the table. And although there was still the occasional scabrous arrow from our awkward dinner guests, the restaurant started to take things into its own hands.

While my mom tacitly hinted she was the hotter of the two women, I was meanwhile too smitten by Chef Vincent Theirry’s signature langoustine and sweetbread ravioli to fall out my chair and die. When the ex disapproved of my husband’s career in finance (a field my dad also worked in), he made amends by offering up one of his Japanese purple sea urchins. And when the ex looked a little too longingly over at “the one that got away,” I lobbed off a chunk of my smoked pigeon to distract him.

By the time dessert rolled around, a perfect woodland strawberry tart and a petit fours plate of macarons (all for me)—the bitter hate volleys had stopped altogether. It appears that though I’m not an expert in awkward dining situations, Caprice, apparently, was. I’m sure the restaurant has seen plenty of intense business discussions, psycho break-ups, and inappropriately PDA-filled make-ups. They knew that all was fair in love and war, but the best battle plan was to keep everyone well-fed.

Oscar Wilde once said: “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.” Words with a truth that resonated loudly that night.