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Coupling

The Past Is Present

Reestablishing ties with your exes online can mean flirtation, fun, and (sometimes) friction.

By Jessica Cerretani
January 25, 2009
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Some women save worn love letters, the paper gone yellow with age. Others keep pressed flowers from long-dead bouquets. Some even still wear the jewelry, unable to let a good gold bracelet go to waste. Personally, I've never been one for mementos. But that doesn't mean I don't keep my own reminders of past relationships. I collect my exes themselves -- virtually, anyway -- by "friending" them on Facebook and MySpace.

It started with a glass of wine. OK, maybe three. Home from a night out and too wired to sleep, I fired up my computer and logged on to MySpace. After searching awhile for random people with whom I'd lost touch, I hit the jackpot. There he was -- an ex-boyfriend who was a real jerk. He now had a shaved head -- and a wedding ring. Emboldened by booze, I clicked "Add as Friend" and typed a quick note. Despite his bad behavior, I still held a nostalgic fondness for him, the way you might save a spent shell casing to remind yourself of the bullet you'd once dodged.

The next morning, my MySpace inbox had a message -- and my Friends list had an addition. "I saw you here months ago," he wrote, "but I didn't think you'd want to hear from me. I was such an [expletive] back then." He apologized for his antics a decade before and proudly sent pictures of his young daughter. Now I post birthday wishes on his profile page. But mostly I've stopped thinking about him and our ill-fated relationship. The Internet, it seems, has brought us closure.

My first foray into drunken social networking had been successful, but my next ex addition was even more enlightening.

I was back on MySpace, sober this time and browsing former classmates, when I happened upon College Hookup. After a night of awkward fumbling -- which had ended our brief dating relationship -- we had politely avoided each other until we met again years later at a mutual friend's wedding. He had seemed pleasant then, so I added him to my Friends list now. Again, I received an amiable e-mail the next day, with an intriguing postscript -- "Promise you won't be offended" -- and a link to his popular blog. There he had, several years before, posted an entry about his "most embarrassing sexual experience." It starred yours truly. I should have been angry -- or embarrassed myself -- but instead I was oddly flattered. His memory of me was of a wanton seductress who owned her sexuality, a far cry from the shy 19-year-old I had really been. For a moment, I remembered my gawky teenage self in a different light, and it was an ego boost. We've had a good laugh over the story and stayed in touch. Occasionally, we exchange flirtatious Facebook comments.

Of course, there are some exes perhaps best avoided in cyberspace. I haven't friended my ex-husband, for example, but then again, he doesn't seem to have a Facebook profile -- believe me, I've searched.

I suspect my current boyfriend gets weary of hearing tales of my exes' Internet follies and our mild Facebook flirting, but he'd never say so. After all, he has his own cyber exes to occupy him. Specifically, there's Sexy Ex, a woman whom I've never met but genuinely like, partly because she lives 1,500 miles away. Still, I admit to suffering a twinge of jealousy when they instant-message each other over Facebook.

Then again, I've cultivated my own IM relationship with my old high school boyfriend, Dave. We've been friends ever since our puppy love fizzled out around the same time as Milli Vanilli's career. But Facebook has brought us closer. The website's status updates keep me apprised of his comings and goings, and the photo albums allow me to ooh and ahh over his two dogs. All these years later, Dave and I have a lot in common, including our taste in men.

The fact is, the best Facebook ex to have is a gay ex-boyfriend. He remembers me fondly and has actually gotten hotter with age, but he poses no threat to my current relationship, and vice versa. My boyfriend and Sexy Ex may chat about her family and the pets they once shared. Dave and I chat about the state of his facial hair, people we went to school with, and the boys we both liked in high school -- unbeknownst to each other, of course. Lately, we've been comparing our mutual crush on a boy we haven't seen since 1992. Now if only we could find his Facebook profile.

Jessica Cerretani is a freelance writer and editor in Boston. Send comments to coupling@globe.com.

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