The other night, my boyfriend “Elec” mentioned that a questionably stable college ex had started texting him again — a girl who, over the course of their relationship, made up increasingly absurd stories and tall tales about her life. Just one example: She claimed that while vacationing in France with her family as a teenager, a government spy recruited her to become an international agent. Riiiiight.
From Elec’s description, she’s not certifiable so much as an extreme attention-seeker (like extreme couponing, but with drama instead of groceries), and I’d guess he’s probably one of many on her male “friends” roster. When Elec and I first started dating, her lunch invites and attempts to re-ignite contact didn’t give me the warm fuzzies, but usually seemed more sad than threatening. I was glad when she faded into the background, but not surprised when she re-emerged.
This time around, her messages began with a seemingly innocent, actually legitimate question, to which Elec responded cordially. Rather than leaving it at that, however, she stayed true to form began deep-sea emotional fishing (“I know you probably don’t want anything to do with me anymore” sob sob etc etc). Elec stopped responding, she started using emoticons and being even lamer, I rolled my eyes and wanted to toss cookies.
How do I know the details of this conversation? Because Elec told me. In fact, he just handed me his phone and said, “You’re going to laugh at this.”
While I didn’t laugh — more like smirk with the occasional grimace — it was a pretty smooth move from the Boyfriend Tricky Situation Handbook. Sharing their exchange was unnecessary but preferred, from a girlfriend’s POV, because it made her come-on’s humorous instead of cause for concern.
Altogether this was a non-event, but it reminded me just how differently men and women deal with such situations. It didn’t feel like Elec was attempting to make me jealous, but I’ve heard that reporting similar ex encounters to men is sometimes construed that way.
Full disclosure, at least two of my ex boyfriends still call or text at regular intervals. One (I think) wants to be friends, the other (I assume) gets drunk and mistakenly believes that possession of my number makes me a viable hook-up option.
When they call or send messages, though, I don’t bring it up with Elec. Not because it’s a secret — just because after bringing it up before, he exuded all the telltale a-man-is-hating-this-conversation signals. He looked around distractedly, went silent, leaped at the first chance to change the topic. After a few rounds of this behavior, I learned one very important lesson: Sometimes men really just don’t want to know. The BF is aware that I get occasional drunken 2am “Heyyyy, I miss you, let’s meet up,” but he doesn’t have much interest in a play-by-play every time it happens.
As a female, I find this fascinating. Downright revolutionary. I mean, if random girls start hitting up my boyfriend at Booty-2:30, I want to know *details.*
I’ve asked around, and it’s not just me — this is a woman thing. Maybe we’re the more masochistic split in our species, but there’s something that drives us to desire full debriefing on any “Um, wtf?” situation: The facts, the figures, the last time they called/texted/”casually” dropped by, what did they say, why did y’all break up, who is she dating now, did she have any major flaws that are going to help this conversation end before WW3 breaks out and I have to call all my friends to ask if they think you’re the type to start cheating…
Is this based on jealousy? Sort of. Insanity? Maybe. But when exes come barging back into the picture, most women feel better if they know what’s going on. Men, in contrast, are okay with pretending it didn’t happen. Various XY sources report that if an ex (or any other guy) texts, calls, or “pokes” their girlfriend, learning about it is irksome, not interesting. Even if they are somewhat tempted to ask for details, the majority of men have mastered the art of mental suppression. They bury the questions and move on.
Why the big divide? Well, the consensus among women has been that the extensive Q&A puts our mind to rest because if we know (or at least think we know what’s up), we’re that much closer to avoiding a blindside sucker-punch.
From the male perspective, I guess this isn’t true. Their line of thinking is more like, “If it’s going to happen it’ll happen, and hearing about it now won’t change anything.” Talking about it just isn’t a good time, so why potentially double up on misery? It’s genius, really, and I admire men who seriously just don’t sweat these things outwardly.
Perhaps us ladies would be better off if we followed the same protocol: If knowing more is just going to equal feeling more nuts, it’s okay to be blind. I’ve tried to adopt the male mindset in various situations, and can report that it works pretty damn well — Exes, outings, browser history, etc. Ever so often I catch myself in a backslide and tempted to ask for unnecessary details, but just picture the cool, calm oblivion that men seem to enjoy in dating. Out of sight, out of mind! Thanks for the tip, fellas.