In that way, texts offer a kind of risk-free come-on.“Not married but I have a boyfriend,” Anne replied.Cutting ties is no longer so easy—nor, I guess, do we really want it to be. The ex who appears in automated birthday reminders. Even if you only have sex once, you will spend time with your hookup when he finds you on Facebook, appears in a mutual friend’s Instagram, or texts about a weird bump he found on his penis.We gorge ourselves on information about the lives of our exes. Older generations didn’t have a word for this kind of thing—they couldn’t have. Even casual dates have expansive biographies to plow through and life narratives you can follow for years.They can jump into your pants whenever they want by sending text messages that land in your pocket.
Because they transmit instantly and in short utterances, texts resemble conversations.
I have 700 friends on Facebook, 36 of whom I consider exes. Alarmists fret that casual sex discourages intimacy. When you share your bed, your toothbrush, your sexual hang-ups, and the topography of the cellulite on your butt with a stranger, the intimacy is real. You are privy to information his family and friends are not; you know what he sounds like when he orgasms and when he snores.
Not all are ex-boyfriends—in the eleven years that “boyfriend” has been a name for men in my life, I have referred to nine as “boyfriends.” The rest are men I dated casually, guys I dated disastrously, make-out buddies, one-night stands, vacation flings, and a few boys I never touched but flirted with so heavily they can no longer be categorized as “just friends.” These people aren’t ex-boyfriends but they’re ex-something, weighted with enough personal history to make my stomach drop when they message me or pop up in social-media feeds. There was a time, I am told, when exes lived in Texas and you could avoid them by moving to Tennessee. You may never see this person again, but he will always be your ex. Like “dialing” a cell phone or “filming” a digital video, “one-night stand” is an anachronism.
Paul escalated to a phone call, but she ignored it.
“That’s not like you,” he texted next, revealing that he “thought he saw something” about an impending wedding.
There was also a time, I am told, when staying in touch was difficult. All my exes live online, and so do their exes, and so do their exes, too.