Addressing an Ex

Sweetie?

Cher?

If one has have lived long and passionately enough, there are likely a number of former loves tucked away in the recesses of one’s heart. Perhaps one or two occupy more space, but nevertheless are firmly ensconced along with the others in the past, along with the particular intimacies that had sprung up between them.

And maybe there is one in particular, a truly great love, who returns from the heart’s burial ground, not as an apparition, but in the flesh—along with an entourage of familiarity. Yet the life into which this beloved arrives is unfamiliar. The landscape has changed. Where is the appropriate lodging? Where does one set down and unpack the bags?

This is the central question of a new story I’m working on based on a recent dream. My character has encountered an old love, only to discover that the love hadn’t aged. Matured, certainly, but still fresh. These two must decide whether and how to embrace these feelings so as not to disrupt the lives that had grown up around them during their absence from each other.

One of the first considerations as they begin to interact is how to address one another. Formerly, they had used their own term of endearment for so many years that the sound of their given names seemed so foreign as to belong to someone else. They might have begun their letters Darling or Dearest; they might have ended with a private closing that only they knew the significance of. When their relationship ended, they may have written terse, angry notes with neither salutation nor closing, or else nothing at all.

After time, the anger and remorse were subordinated to the pleasant, even joyful, memories. One of them decides to reach out and ask for forgiveness or understanding, and after that is exchanged, they decide they would like to remain in touch. But how do they begin their letters after they are no longer—in the legendary words of Gotye—“just somebody that I used to know”?

I’m curious: has something like this ever happened to any of you? What would you call your former love if their real name felt too formal?