Kate’s Dates: It’s not ‘Facebook stalking,’ it’s ‘research’

Kate's DatesBy Kate Richlin-Zack

My husband has accused me of “Facebook stalking” my exes. The audacity! Obviously, this practice is called “research.”

Oh, who am I kidding. I will be the first to admit, though I probably shouldn’t, that I love keeping tabs on people via social networking sites.  My exes are no exception and, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, that task has become much MUCH easier. Probably too easy.

Now that I’ve started writing my column Kate’s Dates, I’ve been poring through my journals from years ago and reliving every bad date.  All that reflection has led me to the inevitable question, “What if?”

What if I had never met my husband?

What if I hadn’t been living with my parents for all those years? Would I have had MORE bad dates and made MORE bad decisions because I didn’t have to come up with a cover story? (Probably.)

What if I had stayed with my loser, dead beat, suspected drug-smuggler boyfriend? What if he’d never stolen my bank account information to pay his DUI surcharge?

What if Pennsyltucky Tyler didn’t dump me? Would I be living in Pennsyltucky with pre-diabetes because they consider French fries a vegetable?

Quite a few of my exes are question marks. Actually, they’re all question marks (some bigger than others) because I have a firm policy of never speaking to an ex after we break up, regardless of how amicable the split. I firmly believe you cannot go back to being “just friends” after you’ve seen each other naked. It’s just impossible, even after years have passed. Whenever you see that person, inevitably, you will think about them naked, and who can handle that kind of awkwardness in a friendship?

Forget friendship, even bumping into an ex is awkward. What do you say? Do you say anything? Do you pretend like you don’t know each other? Do you hug? Shake hands? There’s no protocol. What if they don’t look the same? Maybe they got really fat so there’s a feeling of relief, like “oh that’s unfortunate,“ immediately followed by, “Wait, did he look like Fatty McButterpants when we were dating?” Maybe the break up is recent enough that you can still remember all the stupid things he said in the heat of the moment. I’m cringing just thinking about it.

And god forbid you meet an ex’s current girlfriend (or boyfriend … sometimes people switch teams … it happens). It’s too easy to visualize them having sex. You already have 50% of that picture from your own firsthand experience, and after meeting the new squeeze, you can pretty easily fill in the blanks. Or maybe that’s just me and my overactive imagination.

But I digress. The point is … we are all fascinated by “what ifs,” especially when it comes to past relationships. And in an effort to answer those questions, I’ve turned to the internet – where you can find all the answers to life’s important questions.

Now enter social media. For those of you who don’t have a semi-photographic memory or the creativity to piece together your ex boyfriend’s current sex life, there’s Facebook. It allows you to answer your “what if” questions without having to deal with any face-to-face interaction where you can’t stop dry heaving because you don’t understand how you managed to sleep with someone so unappealing.

There are however, consequences that you must be prepared for when you start “researching” your exes online. Like what happens if you can’t find any trace of him? Do you start to get concerned that he’s dead or that there’s some horrific story behind his virtual disappearance? Suspected Drug-Smuggler Connor had several online profiles and then suddenly went dark a few years ago. Granted, his virtual disappearance coincided with the restraining order I filed against him, so perhaps that had something to do with it. Perhaps he blocked me. Oh the IRONY! Every once in a while I wonder what happened to him.  Did he end up in jail? Was he kidnapped by the drug smugglers I was convinced he was working for? He always had too much money for a guy who didn’t really have a job and I had the jewelry to prove it.

There are other possibilities to consider before delving into your “research.” You also need to be prepared for the possibility that he’s happier without you. Ouch. Pennsyltucky Tyler was probably the worst break-up I’ve ever experienced.  Our long distance relationship was pretty far from perfect, but I didn’t care. I was madly in LOVE. Then one day, he called me out of the blue and said, “I can’t do this anymore,” thus breaking my heart in a million unrecognizable pieces. Six months later, I came across his online profile and from then on, whenever I wanted to wallow in self pity, I’d check it. I tried to convince myself that he was miserable without me and he’d never find someone as amazing as me and some day he would regret breaking up with me and come crawling back but by that point I wouldn’t care and I’d have my chance to break his heart.

These delusions persisted until he posted his wedding photos. My heart fell to my feet when I saw the black and white photos of him in a tux… smiling… with a ring on his ring finger. Two years later and he’s married?! And he looks happy?! This cannot be!  I was beside myself. The worst part was that I was at work. (Who checks Facebook when they’re supposed to be working?!?!) How do you explain to your boss, “I need to go home because I’m upset that my ex-boyfriend who dumped me two years ago is now happily married and I can’t deal.” Not an easy sell.

So my advice to you is: proceed with caution. Maybe you don’t need to answer all those “what ifs.” Maybe you can leave well enough alone. Maybe you can focus on the good things about your real life instead of attempting to piece together a life that never existed.  But if you can’t resist the temptation, please remember that what’s passed has passed. There’s a good reason that things didn’t work out, even though it probably doesn’t feel that way. Trust me, if I can triumph over 15 years of losers, users, and abusers, anyone can.

Kate’s Dates is a column that runs every other Wednesday on Kate-book.com. It is written by the lovely Kate Richlin-Zack, who you should follow on Twitter @K8RZ.

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