Over the course of the past year I’ve described a scenario to various people, and been surprised by the reaction of women. Just for fun (and readers interested in serious stuff are free to skip this post), I’ll lay it out here.
The narrator is in a relationship with Lucy. Ten years before, Lucy had a serious boyfriend called Pete, who she was with for about 2 or 3 years. She said there was a time when she couldn’t bear to be without him, and when they split up it was amicable but they gradually lost touch. The narrator has just looked at Lucy’s social media account.
I should have given the account a wide berth, but the next morning I opened it. There was a photo of the toy rat, propped on its hind legs against a black ceramic skull she’d brought back from London. I’d been with her when she unwrapped it, and behind her as she took the picture. There was one comment underneath, a single word – ‘Beautiful!’ – left by Pete. ‘Thanks!’ Lucy had replied.
My throat tightened as the anger built inside me.
I looked at other photos and found more comments from Pete. I clicked on his profile, and saw comments from Lucy less than a month old. The interaction was ongoing, and in both directions. A photo from Glastonbury caught my eye, the caption alluding to how much he missed it. A sympathetic comment from Lucy lay underneath.
Lucy was outside a long time, probably on the phone with someone. By the time she came back I’d got a grip of myself, and when she sat down I buried my rage and said in a friendly tone, ‘Can I ask, is there anyone who still holds a candle for you?’
‘You mean an ex who still likes me?’
‘Michael still texts me. He wants to get back together, but there was really nothing there to begin with.’
‘All right,’ I said, nodding. This didn’t bother me. ‘Anyone else?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘How about you? Any of your exes still interested?’
‘Jane might be, I think. I get messages from her sometimes, asking how I am.’
‘So the rest of your exes – you’re no longer in touch?’ I asked.
‘Including those from university?’
‘Yes!’ she said, getting cross. ‘Why are you asking about this?’
I ignored her and asked, ‘What about Pete? Are you still speaking to him?’
‘Not at all?’
‘Why do you keep asking about this?’ she demanded again.
‘Lucy,’ I said gently. ‘Please don’t get mad, I’m just asking some questions and I’m doing it nicely.’
‘Look, if I saw him at a party I might say hello, but I wouldn’t make any special effort.’
‘So let me ask you something. It’s going to seem like a strange question, but humour me, okay?’
‘If you needed to contact him urgently – for whatever reason – could you do it? Could you get hold of him within twenty-four hours, for example?’
She stared at me in silence. I stared back until she answered the question.
‘Well, I might have an email for him somewhere,’ she said, trying to act casual and failing. ‘I don’t know, I’d have see if I still have it. Why?’
‘I’m just wondering. So you still have his email?’
‘It’s probably somewhere, but like I said, I’d have to look. What’s this about?’ Her temper was building, I had to wrap this up fast.
‘So if you wanted to get hold of Pete quickly, you could do it. Is that what you’re saying?’
With a face like thunder she picked up her phone, and I watched in silence as she furiously searched.
After a minute she stopped. ‘No, see!’ she said triumphantly, showing me the screen. ‘He’s not in my contacts any more, it’s gone. So no, I couldn’t get hold of him, even if I wanted to.’
‘Okay,’ I said neutrally. ‘That’s fair enough, thanks.’
When I’ve put this to women, their reaction has usually been to doubt that Lucy had lied, saying something to the effect of: “Maybe she didn’t think being in touch meant being friends on social media?” Men are a little less forgiving.
What say you, readers?