My Facebook is a cemetery of once and would-be lovers, souls that, at one time, could have saved me. Could they still?
When I first reconnected, or even now, occasionally, a voice from the dead says I look great or that my kids are cute. Thanks, I say. What else can I say? They don't really care to know the history behind my new smile, the one I have learned to put on for Facebook Profile shots to help me look Happy.
Once upon a time we had to dress up just once a year, at the holidays, and pose for a picture to prove that all was well. On vacations in Maine, Miami or Madrid, the question might've risen up over the camera, like a bird of prey: could this be the one? The money shot? The one I could make glossy prints of and send out to the world to prove I'd had a great year? That I was --maybe, just maybe, sat-, sat-, satisfied?
Now, of course, any month of the year, any day of the week, any hour of the day, we can prove ourselves satisfied, pose or post or put up links demonstrating the things we've done, the wonderful life we're leading. Many can stay away from Facebook. I can't. I've never been able to resist the pull to connect no matter how tenuous the connection might be, no matter how over the love or even the liking.
I try not to stalk old boyfriends, the ones who dumped me especially. But I'll admit I'm often curious: who did they end up with in the end or, should I say, toward the end, if it is, perhaps, only the middle? Are their kids little clones? I am scared for some of those kids, but I am excited too: maybe they will, like my kids, succeed where we failed. Maybe they'll be better at holding on to those people with whom they connected, for a time, and then let slip through their fingers. Maybe they'll be less afraid than we to love with their whole hearts, with 100 percent, not 75 percent or 50 percent.
I am still hopeful, but my hopefulness is waning. I feel like we are headed in the other direction. The curtain seems to have been lifted with so much banter and blather and boastful photos, and there sits the Wizard, pants down, picking his nose. It is hard to believe in the saving principles of any one person for very long when we see how many "friends" they have and how careless they are with keeping in touch with any of them in any real, meaningful way.
The real truths, as they are never told in holiday cards, are likewise rarely seen on Facebook. Like blogs, which were supposed to deliver the straight talk, Facebook is rife with good intentions, both professional and personal, that have not quite met expectations.
I love that I have "friended" gentlemen over whom I couldn't eat for days without even a simple re-introductory hello, men I pined for before hopes were quietly dashed. What is the point, really, except to make one's peace with the past, to live in some sort of half-way reality. We are forced to understand that now, more than ever, on the newfangled playing field leveled greatly by technology.
I am tempted to delete the people I really care about from Facebook and sometimes do. I am also tempted to delete my profile and give it up altogether, although I have never done so given the consequences. There is always someone who reaches out with an odd nugget, like one brave long-ago paramour who said he'd hoped when he found me on Facebook, that I'd be "rich and divorced..."
I wrote back to him, despite his devastating rejection of me 28 years earlier, after one kiss that clearly meant more to me than it did to him: "And you assume I'd want to be with you if I was?"
Needless to say, I took great pleasure in being given the opportunity to respond.
I hold out no great hope that the boys I once longed for, now aligned in a row alongside photos of their current, middle-aged selves, will rescue me from my lonelier moments, just as I imagine they know that I won't rescue them from theirs. But the fantasy is there: one day, a fearless benevolent leader, a prophet, will arrive and post a message on Facebook that will help me figure it all out. Hello? Are you there God? It's me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steph Thompson's new column, Aging Disgracefully, on love in middle age, begins today on ParkSlopePatch.com.