05/10/2013 07:13 am ET Updated Jul 10, 2013

Remember Me, Amy? Reconnecting With Ex-Lovers On The Internet


Once upon a time, perhaps in high school or college or both, you had a very special sweetheart. Maybe two. Possibly eight. Whatever. At the time, you were madly in love with each of them. You did everything together, mostly sex. For some long-forgotten reason, you broke up. Now, 30 or 40 years later, you wonder whatever happened to them. Are they married? Divorced? Single? What have they been doing for the last three or four decades? Have they been pining for you all these years? (Unlikely). Do they like Sarah Palin? (Perish the thought.)

You want answers, so what do you do? You turn to your best friend, Joe Internet.

For some people, reconnecting with an old flame involves little more than nostalgia or curiosity. But others may harbor the hope that the long dormant flame of passion (good title for a cheesy romance novel) still burns. (Warning: your ex-lover may not feel the same way.)

I recently published a novel on this very subject, a story in which a recently-divorced man of forty suddenly feels guilty about the way he mistreated several former girlfriends and decides to find them and apologize in person for his youthful indiscretions. (No, I'm not self-promoting; I'm just... um... offering credentials for my expertise.)

Like my protagonist, I decided to look up three of them, figuring I'd be lucky to find one.

Granted, apologizing is not a common motivation for most people. It wasn't even mine (after all, the book is fiction) although I confess to feeling a few pangs of guilt (I couldn't recall who broke up with whom) so I approached my search with some trepidation. Would their memories of me be pleasant or rotten? Would they be glad to hear from me? Or would they just snore?

I found Amy (not her real name) on Facebook. She still used her maiden name and it was a common one so I had to inspect a few Timeline photos. Except for a more conservative hairdo and a few extra pounds, she hadn't changed much. I put in a friend request and she confirmed me.

The other two went by their married names but I located them after a quick Google search. One of them had a Facebook page so I friended her; the other did not but I found the title of the firm she worked for and emailed her.

All of them were surprised to hear from me. Two were married; only one had kids. Carrie had been a promising classical musician but gave it up for a corporate job; Lisa, who had been an aspiring novelist in college, was a successful attorney; Amy, who was cynical skeptic in college, was now an ardent follower of New Age philosophies and practices and wrote bizarre, incomprehensible poetry about... I don't know what.

We all corresponded for a while, rehashed old times. It was interesting to hear how they had changed over the years, what they cared about, who they were (thankfully, none of them liked Sarah Palin). The years had taken their toll (as they have with me), but all three were still attractive for their ages, although I wouldn't have recognized them in a crowd.

But it soon became apparent that none of us had much in common anymore. We had been like-minded kids in college but our lives had taken radically different paths. Amy was put off by my sarcasm (which she used to appreciate) and unfriended me; Carrie and I stopped corresponding after a few weeks -- childless, she seemed bored whenever I talked about my kids. We're still Facebook friends but no longer communicate; Lisa simply stopped emailing me for some reason.

On the other hand, I've read Facebook posts by people who have resumed ancient relationships. Some say their affection for each other never faded and they are dating again.

I'm married so I wasn't looking for romance but even if I had been, it would never have happened. These women were now complete strangers to me. When we first met we shared the same interests --- we smoked grass together, attended Vietnam War protest rallies, inhaled tear gas and found deep meaning in the lyrics to Pinball Wizard. But our strongest link back then, the soil of our common ground, was the struggle to find ourselves. Now that we had, the connection was just a memory. Sad perhaps, but not surprising.

One last thing: Amy, if you're reading this, I'm a little annoyed that you unfriended me.

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