Tag Archives: relationships

It’s OK to be Facebook Friends with an Ex

In 1983 my then-boyfriend David picked me up from work at Davison’s in his yellow truck and proceeded to drive to the other side of the Augusta Mall, stopping the vehicle in front of a dumpster. He grabbed a large shoebox from the floorboard and opened it so that I could peek inside. I noticed an amalgamation of photos, notes and cards. He looked me in the eyes, the hint of a smile emerging on his serious face. He then shut the lid, got out of the truck, and ceremoniously tossed the box into the garbage. What looked to be a valuable assortment of sentimental memorabilia was now mixed up with discarded Corndog-on-a-Stick cups, Spencer gift packaging and J Riggings hangers.

He returned to the truck and proudly announced that the box contained his entire collection of mementos from past romances. Now that he was dating me, he said that he saw no reason to keep any physical evidence of these relationships. He wanted to boldly demonstrate his commitment by destroying any connection to those who came before me. He was three years older than me and quite a ladies man, so the gravity of his gesture was not insignificant.

All these years later, I do not recall what I said, but can distinctly remember what I thought: That was a foolish mistake. It was foolish because the sacrifice made me more uncomfortable than happy. I also hoped that he didn’t expect me to reciprocate. Although my box was considerably smaller, I was attached to my collection of poems and love notes, and wanted to keep them forever. I saw no reason to discard a part of my short life story. I was not a jealous person, so I wasn’t worried that any of his exes would resurface in his life, and knew that he had no reason to be concerned about my former crushes. The whole affair made absolutely no sense to me.

I don’t recall if I gave in to the pressure to toss my small box away, but because I no longer have my early notes, I assume that I did. I don’t know if David ever regretted that audacious moment; we lost touch after our break-up and I only heard bits and pieces of his life after Angie. He has since passed away, so I am happy that I still have a few notes and pictures from my three years with him. He was my first serious boyfriend, and we were even engaged for a short time. I like to think that if he were alive today, we might even be Facebook friends, clicking the “like” button on one another’s family vacation photos.

I’m just not one of those people who think it is necessary to pretend a past romantic relationship didn’t happen. As a happily married person in my late 40’s, I am proud that the collage of my former connections has made me into the person I have become. I am 100% certain that I wouldn’t be happily married if I didn’t have a gloriously diverse combination of experiences to inform my perspective of a healthy relationship. The memories should not be dwelled on, but neither should they be tossed; I cherish my personal history.

Although I missed the chance to connect online with David, I have become Facebook friends with quite a few members of the Angie ex-boyfriend club. Networking with someone on social media is not an overly serious matter to me, and as a PR person I prefer to accept most friend requests. I find it is an intriquing way to get to know people and peek at glimpses of their daily lives without necessarily having to invest any meaningful time. So, in my mind, the fact that about 1% of my Facebook friends are past boyfriends is not a big deal. Seeing their political rants or pet videos on my newsfeed is no more consequential that the postings of say, a former co-worker or my next-door neighbor.

Every once in awhile, though, one of them will offer a thumbs-up to one of my cat photos, and I like that because I’m sure they remember how important my cats are to me. Sometimes I will click “like” on a post about an ex’s favorite baseball team, acknowledging my recollection that he was a fan. In fact, it feels quite evolved and mature when I can keep small casual connections like a Facebook friendship with these guys from my past. For example, when I see one of my exes on Facebook with his posse of small kids, I am thrilled to witness his happy, full life. I also know in that moment that the two of us were never destined to be together, since a large family was never my dream.

With a few exceptions, I am connected to almost all of my past loves and brief flings. There is only one guy in my history to whom I would be reticent to befriend, because of some borderline stalker behavior after our break-up. I confess that in my most paranoid moments, I assume I am already Facebook friends with him, imagining that he has created a fake persona to connect with me. That’s how the mind works sometimes. In reality, he likely never thinks of me and could care even less about social media. I know I cherish my past more or less than others cherish theirs, and that’s ok. We all have different stories.

I did have one ex who friended me and then un-friended me, and my hunch is that he was forced to do so by a jealous person in his life, or maybe he still harbors hard feelings about our decades-old awkward encounter. Another ex-Ron- refused my request outright, messaging me that it “wouldn’t be in the best interest of his family”. While I certainly respect the response, it is clear that he certainly gives more weight to friending than I do. At 1,300 friends, I am obviously connected to people I have never met. And, like David with his box, Ron has clear ideas about dividing his emotional past and present into different segments, cutting out the parts that are painful or tricky.

I, on the other hand, embrace the tapestry of my romantic story, a varied one filled with a wide range of personalities and difficult lessons. I look forward to the day when I am retired and can sit in my rocking chair and periodically peruse the online posts of past contacts, smiling at all the wonderful accomplishments of people who briefly crossed paths with me before I found the love of my life. I might even bring out my old shoeboxes filled with the notes and photos we all collected before the days of social media, happy that I am married to the type of person who appreciates me despite my crazy past and would never ask me to throw the boxes away.


Ladies Man in Training

I met my step-son Forrest when he was 10 years old, and even then he was already showing signs of being a bit girl-crazy. I joked with him about it, saying I was going to buy him a t-shirt that says “Forrest Loves the Ladies”.  Every day he would have a story about a pretty girl who talked to him or punched him (also known as flirting, especially during middle school years). A true ladies man was being born.

By the age of 15 he had his first girlfriend, and I will never forget how Kevin and I “fake chaperoned” his first date at the fair. We pretended to split up in order to meet again later, but we purposely kept a close watch on where they were. When they started holding hands, we were skulking nearby to witness it.

I wasn’t too crazy about that first girlfriend, for numerous reasons I would rather not discuss, but I will mention her rudeness over dinner. I suppose times have changed, but when I was a teenager we tried to impress our boyfriend’s parents, not stare at them with indifference when asked a harmless, small-talk question. She was aloof, gloomy and dismissive.

One thing that has not changed since I was a teenager is the ultimate insignificance of parental opinion. It was better if they liked your sweetie, but if they did not, you didn’t want to hear about it. I am therefore keenly aware that I have to hold my tongue about Forrest’s female friends. He reinforced that message by telling Kevin that I am the “last person he would want to hear spouting relationship advice.” I get that. So my blog is a good outlet for my opinions.

I know I can safely talk here about the young ladies in my step-son’s world because:

  1. I will change names to numbers to protect the innocent
  2. My step-son doesn’t read my blog. If I am honest, very few people do.

My favorite chickie was girlfriend #2, who made the common mistake of being too clingy and scaring Forrest away. He became so panicked by this serious relationship, he has since refused to let anyone claim they are a “girlfriend” at all. Thus my term chickie, which is about as casual as it gets. Chickie #2 was very pretty and presented herself well. In my opinion, her only deficiency was the excessive affection, which is more of a strategy error than a character flaw. Forrest fought horribly with her after the break-up, and neither of them demonstrated maturity for quite some time. Parental intervention forced both parties to act more civil toward one another, which was important because of an overlapping circle of friends.

I never had a chance to meet chickie #3, which was fine with me since she was 2 years younger than Forrest. I’m worried, though, about chickie #4, who has a distinctly different personality from the others. She is abrasive and arrogant, with not much more in the manners department than chickie #1. The worst part about #4 is how Forrest acts around her. She is a bit of an ass, and he acts like one when she is near. It it absolutely torture to watch.

We went out for sushi with them, and it was literally the longest 30 minutes of my life. It was only 30 minutes because I left before the check was even paid. The hateful things the two of them said about other teens, including chickie #2, made me go pale. I know I can’t tell him who he can date, but I certainly don’t have to be around her, and do not intend to- if I can avoid it. All I can do is pray daily that their relationship will be short-lived and that a clean, permanent fracture will end my torment.

When I returned home from that fateful dinner, I knew that the experience was a karmic payment for what my family endured during my 20 years of poor-decision making in relationships. I can recall some painfully awkward moments of guys who loathed spending time with my family, and acted like they were waiting for a root canal. Conversations were forced, dinners were curtailed abruptly.

When I returned from my sushi debacle, I wanted to call every member of my immediate family and apologize. Although I dated some true sweethearts, I know there was a solid decade of bringing home people who were less than charming. My family, true to form, were gracious and kept most of their opinions to themselves, which I appreciate tremendously in hindsight.

Knowing that my family survived my boy-craziness, I tell myself to be cool through my step-son’s girl-craziness. I must try to hold my opinions and let the kid create his own relationship path, which for now appears to be the ladies man path. I just hope he approaches it with grace and respect, and chooses chickies who know how to politely converse over sushi.

Acceptance for Blamers

I have been working with the public since I was 15;  I have been managing people since I was 24. On top of that, I was single for 30 years. These are the credentials I offer for claiming to know the most fundamental truth of all human interaction: Anything we hope to accomplish in life comes down to accountability. Regardless of personality or beliefs or socioeconomic status, all individuals fall into one of two categories: those who take ownership of their experiences, and those who blame everything on external forces. For the sake of this blog, I am going to call the latter group “blamers”, and the former group “normal people”. I hope you will forgive me for sounding judgmental. I’m actually pleading a case for blamer acceptance.


There is a book called, “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)”, which explains the mindset of the blamers. Apparently they suffer from “cognitive dissonance”, which is a fancy way of saying that they lie to themselves because they couldn’t cope with the truth of their own failures. I won’t go too deeply into why they can’t cope, because it doesn’t interest me, and because it is enough to know that these blamers are out there, with their fancy-sounding disorder. For whatever reason, they are completely incapable of the one sentence that normal people say on a regular basis: “Well, I messed that up. I’ll do better next time.”

Blamers don’t realize that admitting a mistake is not a big deal. It’s like they are stuck in the third grade, when all kids lie about who glued a frog to the teacher’s desk or who jammed their gum into the pencil sharpener. It is unfortunate, really, because people admire a person who is not ashamed to apologize and offer to make amends. Blamers think their self-worth is tied to their mis-steps, and after too many hits, the ego cannot do anything but regress into the old habit of pointing the finger. It doesn’t matter where the finger points- another person, the weather, a broken computer-as long as there is a reason for their error that takes the ownership off of them.

Here is the main “take-away” for you, dear reader, and I want you take it in slowly and pause for reflection. You cannot change a blamer or tell them that they are a blamer. By definition, they could not accept that fact. You cannot argue with them, reason with them or help them improve. Their lives belong to the wind or the random chaos that surrounds them. They do not believe they can improve their lives, and therefore if you attach yourself to them, you need to accept that a certain amount of randomness will impact you. Let them experience their own consequences without trying to save them or get wrapped up into their stories. The “drama queens” of the world are all blamers, and they all ironically claim to hate drama.

The only strategy that will save your sanity is to be able to recognize a blamer, control your emotional attachment to their issues (which they always have), and focus on their positive attributes. For example, when dealing with a “blamer” customer, who often likes to go on and on about the bad things that happened to them, just stay calm and focus on the solution. “Let’s not worry about why things went wrong,” you can calmly offer, “let’s just focus on moving forward in a positive way.” When you demonstrate enough confidence and reassurance (often through repeating the above line in what is called the ‘broken record’ technique), the blamer will eventually calm down and revert back to their core personality, which is frequently quite charming.

So when at all possible, surround yourself with people who will own or even embrace their flaws. Making mistakes is a beautiful thing. Be gentle with the blamers, understand that they are just hard-wired that way, and appreciate their good qualities. Recognizing and understanding these two types of people will simplify your interactions and minimize the drama in your own life. Now that’s what I call a fundamental truth.

Teacher becomes the Student: the first date

From the moment I heard about Kevin’s divorce, my interest was piqued. I had known him for about 10 years, and although our interaction had been limited (we used to work at the Saturn dealership together), I had always been impressed with his humor and values. So I called him to extend my condolences about the news. It sounded like a harmless gesture of support, but my intentions were not honorable. Then I dropped a seemingly innocent sales pitch to lure him to the dark side: “You are new to the single world, and I have always been single, so who better than me to show you the ropes? I know the cool things to do, and can be a good friend.” Despite the logical approach and caring facade, it was pretty obvious that I wanted more than friendship. He wisely rejected my offer to mentor him on how to have fun, wondering to himself why a co-worker from his past would be so bold.

Over the next few months, I continued my attempts to woo Kevin, with no success. He has so much integrity that he wanted to wait until the entire legal process was complete before starting anything with anyone. While this was very admirable of him, it was very inconvenient for me. We now call these months “the time when Kevin was blowing me off.” Finally he acquiesced, and we arranged to go together to check out the First Friday festivities downtown.

I didn’t hold back: I bought a new outfit and set out to look hot. I had high hopes for this date. I was still stinging from the burn of my past relationship (a word I’m using loosely here) and was anxious to start hanging out with someone new. I’ll go ahead and admit I even shaved my legs for the occasion.

Kevin brought flowers, which was incredibly sweet. I have received alot of flowers in my time, mostly for my birthday and Valentine’s Day. But when I try to picture someone bringing me flowers for a date, my mind draws a blank. It seems like an old-fashioned but incredibly romantic gesture, one that has fallen out of fashion. I was touched.

Unfortunately, the evening took a nosedive from there. You can imagine how much Kevin’s head was spinning; he was in courtship mode for the first time in over 20 years. His heart was still hurting from the failed marriage, and he was having a hard time thinking of me in a romantic way. Ever since he had known me, I had been in the category guys normally reserve for females who are relatives, or best friend’s spouses. To steal a phrase from the second Clerks movie: I was “persona non-nookie”. This combination spelled disaster, but I didn’t know it yet. At this point I was just putting the flowers in a vase and hoping for the best.

We went downtown, walked around and tried to get caught up on each other’s lives since I had left Saturn to work at Lexus. We ran into a few people who seemed confused to see us together, including a former Saturn co-worker who was unaware of Kevin’s divorce. Mostly we just walked and talked, until we finally landed at the Pizza Joint, where we talked some more.

Perhaps I should say Kevin talked. He went into great detail about Forrest and Melissa and the marraige and the break-up. He told me how she had asked him to move out of their house on Valentine’s Day, and other heart-wrenching details that are too personal to share here. Sitting across from him in the Pizza Joint booth, I saw an amazing man with a broken spirit and confused heart. I realized that my intentions for this evening were totally different than his intentions, and I felt superficial and guilty. I had not considered the possibility that he would need me to be the friend I had promised to be in my sales pitch. I hadn’t considered it because I was in my selfish, single-person’s bubble, just looking for the next fun thing. But this was real to him, and it was a big deal. Kevin wasn’t ready for dating yet, and he certainly didn’t need to date a 41-year-old with a track record of causing nice guys like him to turn into emotional puddles of mush. I didn’t know how to fix people’s damage; I only knew how to cause it. He was scaring the shit out of me.

He knew it, too. At some point, I think I completely stopped talking and just let him ramble. In addition to feeling afraid, I also felt sad. Sad for him going through this pain, sad for me having caused it in others, sad for both of us to be on a date during such different times in our lives. I felt horrible that he needed to talk, and realized that he had probably not had an opportunity to open up about his heartaches for many years. I kicked myself for not being more sensitive when I was hounding him for a date for the past 4 months. Of course he didn’t want go out with me sooner! He was still in love with his ex-wife and harboring hope for a reconciliation. All he needed from me was an ear and some friendship, and I was ashamed at myself for chasing after more.

In the end, I spent four hours listening to his sadness, and it was clear to me that our first date was going to be our last. There was no way I could have romantic interest in someone that fragile. We hugged at my apartment door, and I watched through my second-story apartment window as he walked back to his car. What a shame, I thought. There is so much I could have taught him about relationships. Little did I know, that in a very short time, Kevin would teach me about relationships. Instead of me teaching him how to be single, I would be his student, learning how to open up to someone in a real, honest way.

The first lesson he had to teach me was about communication-not being afraid to say the tough things. The day following our tragic first date, he called to invite me to lunch. Over Barbaritos burritos, he asked if our date had scared me, and I admitted that it had. So we talked about my fears, and his fears. In that one conversation, he showed me more raw honesty than I had ever seen before. He said he was not looking for the next Mrs. Maskey. He just wanted to take it slow and see where this would lead us. He thought we should give it a try. I was impressed by his courage and his forthright approach.  Kevin was not fragile, after all. Kevin was smart, and honest, and strong.

As a result of this conversation, I decided to at least open myself to the possibility of some kind of relationship with Kevin. He made me realize that I had jumped to conclusions too quickly.  I was blown away by his ability to initiate a healthy conversation, something very few people-myself included-can do with ease. In the course of one shared lunch, he showed me the potential for the Kev-Ang story, and opened the doors I had shut so firmly at the end of our date.

So when he asked me out again, I agreed, and the lessons continued from there. The education of Angela would turn out to be an amazingly fun adventure. Stay tuned!