Sunday, July 27, 2008

Facing My Past on Facebook

One of my closest friends, a few years younger than me, far more hip, and way more plugged into social networking on the Web than I, pushed me to join Facebook about nine months ago. We talked about it on the phone and then the 'formal' invitation arrived in my email inbox. I had heard about the site a few times before and was perhaps a bit curious, but thought that at 38, I was too old for such things. I remembered when my oldest nephew and niece joined some years ago, talking about romantic statuses, and finding folks they were going to attend college with, and it just seemed that this was for those younger than I, like those born in the 90's, after my college graduation. Just before my husband became a full-time graduate student, one of the administrators told the newly accepted students at the open house for accepted students that she had set up a Facebook group for folks to get to know one another even before the September matriculation. This whet my curiosity somewhat and I was interested in perusing the members. P wasn't at all. I think I tried to log in once, but since I wasn't really the accepted student, I felt like a fraud and when I did see who was in this group---damn, his fellow students seemed young, really young. I didn't take it further. When orientation rolled around and there was some talk about conversations that had occurred on Facebook, a current student said, "I am 40 and I have no idea what anyone is talking about." P and I laughed heartily. Us, too. So we were not alone, and there was something quaint (and perhaps, rebellious/maybe just clueless) about our antiquated status as nonFacebookers.

So, why then did I join Facebook a month ago? I can't say. It did start with a small group of friends who were P's classmates, a few even who are older than we, who communicated regularly through Facebook. Once I set up my account, I got into it-- uploaded a photo, filled in my profile, and began sending 'would you be my friend?' emails, reminiscent of those fourth grade passed notes (check the box for yes or no). Once I had added the grad school crew, I tracked down a few friends from Peace Corps, and one or two former students with whom I had particularly good relationships, and contented myself with my new way to communicate with these few folks. I sent inbox messages, learned to post on others' walls, and even browsed others' photos. Soon a request popped up-- a high school classmate, someone I had not thought of since school nor spent much time with when in school, wanted to be my friend. I hit the 'accept' link (ie. yes box), sent her a two-line note, looked at snaps of her husband and son, and heard nothing back from her.

But now-- a new world had opened. Reconnecting with high school friends, huh? I spent two good years at a boarding school in Jersey, actually went back for a few years to teach/work there some time after college graduation, and even hit a reunion eight-months pregnant with twins (a good reason, I figured, to have gained tons of weight since high school, so others would have less reason to judge me). But the truth was that I had not stayed in touch with folks from high school. I had two completely different sets of friends my two years there (a crowd of seniors while I was a junior so they graduated and moved on, and I cultivated a new crew my senior year) so I didn't have the base of four years of bonding in adolescent angst. Also, thanks to having four older sisters, I think I always knew that high school would not be the be all and end all to my life, so I enjoyed my time, but then got the hell out of Dodge, and didn't look back-- or at least, very often.

There was one small detail that did make me think of high school every once in awhile. Yup, a boy. The whole cliched first-love-got-my-heart-stomped-I-wonder-what-ever-happened-to guy. We were an unlikely pair. I: extremely type-A, totally uptight, stay up all night to study for an AP history test, team sports player, and good Catholic girl who didn't realize until college that a lightening bolt would not appear from an angry sky, striking me dead if I missed Sunday mass (and I never did in high school, even when I stayed on campus on weekends, walking to town for church with the one other good Catholic girl I could find on campus). He: extremely clever but unmotivated in school, skate rat/surfer, guitarist, comic drawer, and far from Type-A. How we first ended up together was a prom party gone awry, both with dates we weren't actually dating. We seemed to hook up more out of convenience than perhaps actually liking one another. The one hook-up was forgotten-- or was it? Suddenly weeks later there was flirting and some kissing in a school hallway before one of us had to get to an English-class-required evening film screening, Apocalypse Now (yes, we had finished reading Heart of Darkness). Damn, why didn't I ever pick up on that clue, until now, that this relationship was destined for turmoil?

As one who likes to believe she does not live in drama, this was my one drama-filled relationship. Together, then not. Almost back together. Then girl interrupted. And not just any girl, new best friend girl, who went after said boy while I was home for the weekend, feeling good about my new haircut, and waiting to return to school so that I could finally get back together with boy. Whoops. Then, lots of playing of Joe Jackson's Is She Really Going Out With Him? for weeks at a time, alone in my corner dorm room. Months pass. Some form of romantic apology from boy, in public, wrapped up in Cure lyrics (c'mon, it was the 80's). Ahhh, back together again. Real love this time. Real loss of virginity (on my part, anyway). Smitten, smitten, smitten. More drama. Smashed car. Argumentative parents. One extremely, pissed-off mother (mine). Somehow this just made the ardor seemed bigger and more real, our own little version of a Shakespearean star-crossed lovers thing. Off to separate colleges with no promises to stay together, but perhaps a small hope on my part, even though I was saying differently, that we just might. Then the Dear Jane letter and really no more contact.

That is until Facebook entered my life. I had heard bits of boy's life, but since I wasn't really in contact with high school folks much, I knew very little. And then I typed his name in the search box and a listing appeared. No photo. Was it him? Recklessly, I typed a quick inquiry. And the affirmative response came, and now twenty years later, the boy and I are back in touch-- enjoying figuring out how our stories developed after we parted, sussing out if we might be friends, examining if we even like one another as people after all this time.

And just because I couldn't help myself, I tracked down the girl at center of the interrupting. A new last name. Squinting at the photo, was that really her? I checked with boy. He couldn't tell either. And I could have left it alone there, but, of course, I didn't. And now I have had a lovely exchange with this woman, now living across the country, mother of five boys, including TWO sets of identical twins a year apart, and I can't help but think there may have been some karmic retribution there....

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Love this post. This reminds of what Tom Wolfe said years ago, real life is so incredible, that it's hard to write fiction that even measures up.