By E.J. Gordon
I breezed into yoga last week and snuck a look around. I didn’t see anyone I knew, which was sort of what I needed that day, just introspective peace and quiet. A woman slightly older than me was behind me chatting quietly with her friend, when a third woman walked in, and from across the room she yelled to the slightly older woman, “Hey! How was your birthday?”
The slightly older woman responded, “It was, well, you know. It was fine, but an ex-boyfriend of mine posted on my Facebook wall, and my kids saw it and got very upset.”
I happily eavesdropped as the birthday woman described how this high school boyfriend had written, “You’ll always be 16 in my eyes.”
Awwww, I thought.
It’s kind of fun to have these little gentle reminders of our more innocent, younger days. But apparently this woman’s teenagers were NOT happy.
She chuckled as she said, “I was like, ‘Yeah, kids, I’m leaving your father for my high school boyfriend.’”
Her friend responded, “I know, right? ‘I’ve been in love with him this whole time! In fact, he’s your real father!’”
The whole room laughed. The birthday woman said, “I mean we’ve been married for 30 years! They’re so ridiculous, making a big deal out of it.”
And it was funny. It was funny because this woman clearly was NOT in love with her high school boyfriend. This woman was happily married.
I told my husband about this conversation and how silly this woman’s kids were being, but he agreed with the kids. “We have this happy life with happy kids who only know us as a couple. It would be offensive to them to see some man flirting with you on Facebook, and their mom allowing it. They don’t want anyone messing with their utopia.”
“But you wouldn’t be jealous, would you? I mean that was a sweet message, don’t you think? It’s hardly threatening,” I countered.
As a rule, Jay doesn’t get jealous, but he said, “You know, your high school boyfriends don’t leave their underwear lying around their bedroom. You never have to hang up their shirts every night of the week. For all I know, you hate me a little more each time you have to put away my laundry. So, in a way, it might threaten me a little bit because all you know of them is your uncomplicated, unencumbered relationship. I wouldn’t be jealous; I’m just saying I get why her kids got upset.”
Of course, it’s no news that Facebook can be a real threat to a marriage, as we have all heard the stories.
Yes, it’s one more avenue for a mildly unsatisfied married person with a complacent spouse to walk down toward a dark corner with an old flame. But sometimes a flattering post is just a cigar.
So I began to think about my own high school boyfriends, but I agreed with the birthday woman. It would be ridiculous for my kids to get jealous over them.
You see, the ones that we’re friends with on Facebook are not the threatening ones. These Facebook friends are the ones whose lives we see played out before us.
We see them with their wives and their children. There’s no mystery. And we can see that they really haven’t even changed that much, and we’re reminded why we broke up with them.
Just the other day I saw a post from one of my ex-boyfriends. It said, “Billy (referring to himself in the third person) is the guy who helps people. Billy is the guy who you can always count on. Billy is the guy who sees someone who needs help, and helps. But when Billy needs help, no one remembers him.” All of the sudden I was flooded with memories of why we had broken up. He was so douche-y. And he had NOT changed! And just like that, the mystery was gone.
What I wanted to tell the birthday woman (and her children) is that it’s not the Facebook friends/ex-partners that a person needs to worry about.
It is the ex-boyfriend who is NOT among the Facebook friends who is actually MORE threatening, because therein lies the mystery and the unresolved feelings, and the ‘What’s He Like Now’ questions.
I have one ex with whom I’m not Facebook friends. He’s not on Facebook, so I haven’t been given an opportunity to “see” his life now, but he and I were once pretty serious, and the idea that we had been together for years, and now we have no connection, no idea where each another has landed, well, that creates mystery. To be clear, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that he and I were not meant to be together. I say all of the time that if he and I had gotten married, we would have been well divorced by now. But … where is he? What happened to him? Did he get married? Did he have kids? Does he think of me in a good way or with regret, if ever? It’s a mystery.
And as long as there is mystery, there are unresolved feelings.
The random bumping into each other has yet to happen. The pleasant chat via Facebook Messenger telling each other that it’s good to see you, but we are both in the right place with the right people, so it was good to catch up, now back to my happy life, conversation has not yet happened.
Of course with current Facebook ex-partner friends, that conversation has already happened. We tell our friends, Oh yeah, I know all about so and so … he’s in Dallas, three kids, he’s totally loaded now. Or, didn’t I tell you about him? He was arrested for that mortgage scandal, and now he’s on some work-release program. He’s always posting pictures of himself with trashy-looking girls 20 years younger than him. We have already traveled down Memory Lane, and have now closed that particular photo album with nary a will to open it once again.
But, we think, what ever happened to … and as long as we don’t know, we really can’t predict what that interaction will be like, no matter how long we’ve been married or how happy we are, because we just don’t know.
Now this birthday woman couldn’t tell her children that. We don’t answer someone who feels threatened with: “What you should really be scared of is this …” That would not be helpful.
So, what would be helpful?
Tell the kids: “Think of your boyfriend/girlfriend now. If you break up, will you not be friends with them? Wouldn’t it be nice to hear from them in 35 years and have them tell you that they remember you like this? And not like the (gracefully) aged, a little bit wrinkled, possibly weathered or scarred or tired or completely different woman you might feel like when you are middle-aged?”
I can barely remember myself at that age. It might be kind of fun for someone to remind me.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.