A while ago now I did a shameful thing. I Googled an ex.
I speak in hyperbole, of course. First, this person was actually somebody I went out with three times a year and a half ago; it’s putting it pretty strongly to call him an ex. Second, I’m not all that ashamed of the fact that I Googled him. It’s what you do.
Even he offered a similar disclaimer — we live in such times while explaining that a throwaway line from what was then the top result when you Google me had really freaked him out. Anyway, that line was also hyperbole. If its contents were a dealbreaker for him, couldn’t I point to his failure to comprehend and appreciate hyperbole as a dealbreaker for me? Yes! Yes, I could. I could and I did. And on the off chance that he’s having a similar shameful moment and has Googled me again and found this blog, I have two words, and those words are SUCK IT, and I don’t mean them literally and for God’s sake don’t e-mail me.
Where was I? Yeah. So OK. To be even more precise. I looked him up on Facebook. And here is where I really squick at sharing this story because I have to share a certain number of details to make it make any sense at all. But, well. This fellow. He got married not long before I found his page. And for reasons only comprehensible to the terrifying and soulless persons who determine how Facebook privacy settings work, I was able to view every single last one of the photos.
Now, one thing I think every reader of this blog already understands, and that this poor gentleman (who was, to tell the truth, not actually very nice to me) did not understand, is that I am not a particularly nice person. I’m a lot of things similar to nice: friendly, empathetic, even patient (in very particular circumstances). But I am not nice. I will say the wrong thing at just the right time nine times out of ten, and the tenth I am too busy flirting with your best friend from college to bother. I will fail just when you expect me to come through. And when I stumble across your wedding photos on the Internet, rather thn click away and move on like a sane and well-adjusted person, I will crack open another beer IM my friends with the links. We will trade snarky comments about the bride’s dress or her decision to change her name. I will open another beer and sigh, thinking I dodged a bullet. I might be particularly likely to feel this way if I at one time badly wanted this person and got cruelly, cruelly rejected. As happens on occasion!
However. What I felt on looking at the photos was not at all It could have/should have been meeeeeee! nor was it Thank Gawwwwd it wasn’t me.
I think a big part of this is that the photos were…really, really good. Here is where I exclude details about the celebration and where the ceremony and reception were set, and feel a little uncomfortable about sharing with you that this man didn’t pay attention to the news and didn’t own any movies made after 1960. And the movies that he did own were things like Sabrina and Three Coins in a Fountain. I suspect he liked these movies because his mother loved them. Now, I like a lot of movies for no reason better than that my mother loved them. I’m just saying the aesthetic of these photographs was very, very cinematic and very, very 1950s. Not long before I Facebook-stalked this party it occurred to me that the problem was merely that he and I lived in very different worlds in our heads at the time that we met. In the world in his head, you met somebody and looked at them and you just knew, and someone knew to saturate the colors just right on your wedding day enough to make a certain kind of audience member cry.
I am not that kind of audience member. Still, it wasn’t long before I found these photos that I found myself thinking of this person and the world in his head, and thinking, there are a million girls out there who would eat that shit up. Not dumb ones, either.
I have seen very few romantic movies made before 1960, and in the world in my head, the colors are all undersaturated a tad. There are really gorgeous moments, but people also walk around with their heads down too often and alternate between overthinking everything all the time and making lots of really impulsive choices, some of them excellent, many of them poor. Somehow, things work out OK in the end. Not staggeringly great, not usually. Not terrible either. Just OK. A certain kind of audience member cries or is inspired by this, squeezes their date’s hand a little harder maybe. Other kinds of audience members find this kind of thing utterly demoralizing.
Of course, the girlfriends I talked to were happy to affirm that this former gentleman friend of mine was living in a dream world and seemed to have found someone to fit into it. But the thing I kept trying to stress, trying to find the words to tell them, was that every single person is living in a dream world of some kind. Sure, my stories and the way I choose to frame them — they’re more ambiguous, they’re more interesting, maybe the world in my head more closely resembles Planet Earth. But honestly, on Planet Earth, people sometimes suffer horribly for making poor choices. On Planet Earth, people make good choices and prosper. It’s also true that bad things happen to good people, and that just-OK things happen to just-OK people, but the world in which everything is a little too complicated and ambiguous and works out in some ambiguous way — that’s a fiction too. Leaving me to conclude that the trick is probably to find someone whose internal lie is compatible with your own — balances it, mind you, in the right ways, but compliments it where it needs complimenting. I guess that’s the question I should have asked in the poll. I guess that’s the question I should ask on first dates.