Alfred Tennyson said, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Perhaps it can also be said, “In the winter a not so young woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of Googling old love.”
January can be a bit of a bummer. The magic and merriment of the holidays have passed. Now we hunker down to face frigid, dark days, incoming credit card bills, and our extra holiday pounds. The days are short, money is tight and our jeans are tighter.
The holidays serve as guideposts along our life journey. During the holiday season, we reflect and reminisce about the past. Sometimes after the holiday let down, those memories evolve into daydreams and we continue examining our past in great detail. The subject of our scrutiny may be, “The one who got away.” and it is easy to become entranced with finding “that one”. We rationalize that it is merely curiosity and so one sleepless night, in our stretchy sweat pants, fighting our desire to finish off the leftover Christmas cookies, it happens— Nostalgia plus curiosity blend with boredom and a bit of denial. Endless access to technology eliminates all impulse control and POOF! — We are Googling “The one who got away”.
Women, particularly those in less than stellar relationships or who have had single status thrust upon them, may be the most vulnerable to mistaking nostalgia for possibility. Looking back may feel more hopeful than looking forward. No longer wanting to self-soothe with shopping or eating, they turn to the “wonderful world of what could be.”
Let’s be honest, there aren’t many of us who haven’t in a moment of curiosity looked up an old love, but most do not pursue contact. Not that long ago, our best efforts to find a prior boyfriend included asking a friend we may have in common or finding an old phonebook. Those efforts seemed to suffice our curiosity. Now it requires absolutely no effort to look up and hook up with an Oldie and hope he is a Goodie.
At first, the connection feels magical…the fascinating part is that the chemistry hasn’t changed! You don’t see a paunchy, bald guy, but the virile young football player. And he doesn’t see the middle aged, gray haired muffin topped woman, but the young, slender, shiny faced you. And beyond loving him, you love the way he sees you!
Sue Miller speaks of this phenomenon in her novel While I was Gone,
“But here’s what I thought: that if I had a crush, it was on an earlier Eli, one who didn’t exist anymore, and the real Eli was just a vehicle for it. Or, perhaps even more complicated, that the crush — if you could call something so psychologically distorted by such a playful name — was on myself. The middle-aged Eli contained for me, of course, his youthful self, yes. But he contained me also. The self that had known him then. Myself-when-young. And that is what made him attractive to me. …, I could understand the potency of that connection. The self intoxication you pass off to yourself as intoxication for someone else.” You fall in love with another, younger version of yourself…..”
What could be more intoxicating then young you finding young love?
It is true that many couples who found each other in their youth reunite later in life after divorce or death of a partner. These romances are wonderful and the connection is strong and solid. They share a history and shared experiences. Their stories fill us with hope and possibility. It feels so much easier than “starting over” with someone new. Maybe, just maybe we think, it could happen to us, and so in our yearning, Google provides that magic ride into the past.
However, it seems as if most of the successful reconciliations that “click” later in life occur when the young couple was separated against their will, either by distance or familial intervention. Those relationships never got to play out and so there is a possibility that if they had played out they may have worked out.
But a lot of those old relationships DID play out. He broke it off or you dumped him. There was something back then that didn’t click. When I speak with women who went back and reconsidered “The one that got away” they often find that what broke them up then breaks them up now. For example, she broke up with him because he drank too much in college, now he is an alcoholic. He was unreliable then, now he barely makes a living. He cheated on you then and today, still married, he is carrying on with you now.
The intoxication begins to wear off as other memories flood back- the less favorable ones, the ones you edited out by fantasy- your frustration, disappointment, maybe lack of trust. Suddenly you are back in the present– an adult grieving not only for the loss of a present relationship but for the loss of the idealized “younger relationship”.
So, am I saying that you should not look him up? You know you will, because curiosity and hope are stronger than rational thought especially when it comes to the promise of “true love”. However, before you ease on down that Google Road, ask yourself why you are pursuing him now? What is it in your life that needs attending to that you may be avoiding? The intoxication of an old love can certainly serve to distract you from the issues you don’t want to address in your present life.
And consider this….What happens if it doesn’t “work”? On top of all that new pain and disappointment, your unaddressed emotional baggage is still there, right where you left it before you hit “send.”