When Chris Evans says, "Let's stay friends," he really means it.

The 35-year-old actor, who recently broke up with his Gifted co-star Jenny Slate, has been romantically linked to a number of leading ladies over the years, including Jessica Biel and Minka Kelly. Hollywood is a small town, and on the rare occasion he runs into one of them, it's no biggie. "I've had no bad breakups in my life. Typically, if I see an ex, I give a big hug, and it's wonderful to catch up," he says in ELLE's May issue. "If you're ever fortunate enough to love someone and have them love you back, it's worth protecting that. It's rare that someone can truly know you. If you've broken through that kind of wall, I think it's important to value that."

Would his exes say the same about him? "I hope," Evans says.

Chris Evans

Randy Holmes/ABC

(Unbeknownst to him, Slate did just that in a recent New York magazine profile.)

Evans is at an age where most of his friends are settling down and starting families. While they're not pressuring him to do the same—at least "not to my face"— he does want kids of his own. "I feel deeply connected to my inner child. When I see a bounce house and those little cups of ice cream, I'm like, 'S--t. Where's mine?' I'm not ashamed of the parts of my youth that I'm still connected to, whether it's cartoons or Disney World or Christmastime," the actor says. "I think they're a real representation of my true self before the world had its impact on me."

"Sometimes when you see a group of grown-ups together acting like adults...it's just not in me," the Avengers actor admits. "I always kind of feel like a little kid trapped in a 35-year-old's body."

As it turns out, Evans was fortunate enough to embrace his inner child for most of 2016. "I took the last year off and moved home to Massachusetts," the actor reveals. "To be honest, I didn't do a whole lot. My sister has three kids. I spent a lot of time with them, just really hanging out."

"I got a dog a year ago. She's become a huge part of my life. I felt very normal, like a regular human," the actor continues. "I felt like my 12-year-old self. And I was really full of a lot of joy."

That's not to say Evans doesn't appreciate his success in Hollywood. In fact, it's quite the contrary. "It's so funny; I woke up this morning, and Not Another Teen Movie was on TV. I don't know if you ever saw it, but I had to put a banana in my butt," he laughs. "At the time, you're just so happy to be on a job. I just looked at it and said, 'Who cares? I'm earning my stripes.'"

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