An old boyfriend wanted to friend me on Facebook. I sometimes get invites I don’t want to accept, and I usually do accept them unless I don’t really know the person. I don’t want strangers reading about me, looking at my pictures, reading my friends’ comments, etc. There are ways to deal with that, though, through privacy settings. Or, you can also simply unfriend the person after a decent amount of time passes.
Ex-boyfriends, unless you’ve maintained a friendship with them, require their own set of rules. With one special exception, I don’t get involved with them on Facebook; I think it’s best not to start up the type of frequent contact that Facebook offers. A friendly how-are-you e-mail exchange is okay, but hanging out, which is essentially what Facebook enables? Unless you’re completely baggage free with the person, no.
I didn’t want to accept the friend invite from this very-long-ago beau, and not because of any rule. We dated when I was around 15. After we stopped seeing each other, we never spoke again, so there was no real basis for reconnecting. Most importantly, while I remembered some fun times, my immediate reaction to the thought of him was negative. It wasn’t about him, per se, but about me. I didn’t like who I was with him. He conjures memories of the worst things about myself—the things I regret that sometimes still fill me with self-loathing.
Because of another thing I don’t like about myself, which is that I can’t say no to anyone (or maybe that’s the same problem), I accepted the invite, though I didn’t respond to his note. I set my privacy settings to limit his access and considered how long I could wait before unfriending him.
Then the bizarre happened: he IMed me. That’s the closest you can get to picking up the phone and calling. I couldn’t talk at that time, but I wasn’t anxious for future contact from him. I took to hiding when I saw he was online.
But the other night, he caught up with me. I could have ignored him, and maybe I should have. But my urge to please is too great, and I responded.
A conversation ensued that was enlightening. One thing that surprised me is that he remembered how things ended (I did not), and it was with me dumping him based on something apparently untrue that one of my friends told me about him. It surprised me both that he remembered it and that he said it crushed him.
I didn’t remember him even really liking me all that much. I sure don’t remember what my friend told me about him. The memory has a Rashomon quality: I remembered myself in that relationship as the one-down person; he remembered me as the prize.
It was also enlightening that the story of the breakup contained a seed of what would eventually grow deep roots. During the chat, I said, “Funny I don’t remember that; I usually remember these things and hold a grudge forever.” Yet, as I typed the words, I realized that I had in some ways done that. That trait was still in the formation stage then. Four years later, at 19, it showed signs of firming when a guy stood me up for a first date. He called and apologized, and I accepted his apology. But when he asked when we could reschedule, I said, “Never.”
“But I apologized…!” he said.
“And I forgive you. But I won’t go out with you.” No second chances.
That black-and-white approach to morality was to become classic Betsy. I give people a pretty wide berth, accepting bad behavior and tolerating quite a lot of BS. But a line can be crossed that puts a person on my shit list for life. Only a few sins can do that—deception, disloyalty, and meanness are the main ones. And only one person has crossed back over after committing such a sin. That took a long time, and I still don’t fully trust them. Even though I didn’t recall the details, I understand now that I had moved the old boyfriend to the earliest form of the list based on whatever my friend had told me about him.
What’s interesting for me to learn from this story is that in some ways, I’ll never change. The more I think about it, the more I realize that’s true in more ways than I care to think about. And maybe that’s the reason to avoid these exes: getting slapped in the face with the past, while instructive, loosens memories that are probably best left on that shelf in the dark corner.