Thought Catalog

Why I Won’t Ask How You’re Doing

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Some nights, when I couldn’t sleep, I would do this thing–I’d look at the Facebook profile of a guy I used to date.

We weren’t together that long, only about a month, and it never really got that serious. But for that month, for that time we were together, we were together. We saw each other almost every day and got to know each other really quickly (maybe far too quickly). We didn’t share mutual friends, but we met each others’, we melted into each others’ lives, if only for a few minutes. It was nice. It felt…adult.

But in the end, it didn’t work out. We were never really compatible, and although there were many things I adored about him, we went our separate ways. Life happens. No hard feelings.

And it’s odd, in looking at his profile, I felt this objective sense of curiosity. No emotions colored my interest, there was no fevered clicking through photos, no frantic searching for updates on his life. He wasn’t dating anyone new, but even if he had been, I wouldn’t have cared. I just found myself asking simple questions. Who is this person? What does he do now? He must be the same, he lives in that same beautiful apartment that was always a few degrees too cold. He still wears that sweater that I loved, the one I occasionally stole.

And though we weren’t a great love story, although we were just a flash in the pan–two people in their twenties, laughing and bullshitting and drinking Blue Moon, we were something. I can remember the way he sounds, the way his hair felt, the way he made tea in the mornings when the sun melted through the window. I can still hear his laugh, still taste the strawberries we got at the farmer’s market, so juicy and ripe they almost fell apart in your hands. It’s all still here. But even with such visceral memories, he doesn’t exist to me anymore.

We remained “friends” in the social network sense, that odd cobweb of personal relationships that is as real as it is illusory. Yes, we can still see into each others’ lives; no, we are not a part of them. I suppose we never deleted each other because we never needed to. There was simply a day when we went our separate ways, and to remove each other electronically would have been too final, too cold. There was no need for all of that, everybody’s fine.

He will go on, get married, have children, and soon our relationship will be fifty years behind him. But I wonder, what happens to these moments that we share together? Am I a different person for having watched it snow from his fire escape, from surprising him at 3 AM, from sharing my favorite TV show with him? These stupid, mundane moments with people that didn’t greatly change my life often seem to be the ones that haunt me the most.

And it’s so gently unsettling that now, for the first time in human history, we have this funny, innocent little peephole into the lives of others. An acquaintance, an old flame, in any other period of history, would have faded away just as quickly as they came–now, they are here indefinitely. They linger on the bottom of our screens, they pop up in our news feeds, they are still here. Perhaps it’s better to allow the natural falling-out-of-touch process to run its course, perhaps too many peripheral contacts dilute the ones we should really be keeping. But it’s too late for that. For better or for worse, people remain in the corners of our lives, too far away to touch, too close to forget completely.

It’s easy to let your whole being shake and sigh when you think about the one who broke your heart, or the one who never loved you in return. Those earth-shattering events are ones that will clearly mold you, change you, point you in a different direction. But the little things can so easily fall through the cracks, and we are all standing beneath the drops with buckets and bowls, trying to catch every one. I need 900 photos of myself, I want every email we ever exchanged. I want to feel like these moments meant something, that I am a different person for having lived through them, that we are better for the experience.

I wanted to talk to him, to write to him, to ask him about his life. But I didn’t. And I won’t. It wouldn’t be appropriate. Strangely, we are encouraged to stay in “friendships” with people online that, if used to actually communicate, would suddenly seem odd and out-of-line. To see my picture on his computer every day wouldn’t be weird, but for me to say hello one day, well, he wouldn’t quite know how to respond. And I wouldn’t know what to open with in the first place. I don’t want to get back with him, I have no jealousy or ill will or untied ends, I don’t even have anything interesting to say. I just want to touch his life again, to know that it was real, to know that we are real, and to know that moments that pass don’t just evaporate into nothingness, even if I really know they do.

You can’t go back. I can’t go back. But I hope he’s doing well. TC mark

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  • Susie Q

    this was beautiful

  • QueenofIndie

    Beautiful story, wonderfully written.

  • AntiRape

    I can't believe TC continues to let this woman write.

    • jessucka

      oh stop dwelling.

    • Mandi

      I'm glad they did because I really like this. Was not the biggest fan but I genuinely think she is, or is at least becoming, a good writer.

    • ricky sccchitliyz

      shut the fuck up

  • Sarah

    The internet doesn't require you to keep these “friendships”. It's really easy to just defriend someone. It saves unwanted drama, and removes the “peephole” into their lives. Oh and what “happened” to those times you did stuff with that mystery someone you had a thing with? Nothing, they remain as memories. Nothing more, nothing less. And yes, you can go back if you wished, what's wrong with becoming actual friends with that person again? Yeah, it'll start off a little awkward, but once you get over that and make sure never to step over the friend line again, it would have the potential of becoming a great friendship.

    • mopey P

      But who else can she stalk online at 3 am if she defriends him?

      But agree about actual friendships. But! I think FB can faciliate it. My exes from short term relationships (<3-4 months) that I'm not FB friends with are long forgotten, but I'm still good friends with a couple of them thanks to facebook, even though it took a little bit of a cooling off period after dating before we started interacting again.

  • Matt Stevenson


  • Abbey R

    First of your stories that I really truly enjoyed!

  • yes and no

    Completely agree with the strange non-dynamic of internet “friendships.”

    That being said, the last time I counted a month-long relationship with someone as a real relationship, I was in eighth grade.

  • Meghan

    “Am I a different person for having watched it snow from his fire escape” is really a beautiful line.

  •!/WordNerd Ethan

    Great piece, Chelsea.

  • OT

    a lot of facebook stalking articles on here, I never knew it was a popular thing to do
    now that i'm passed that, i'll try giving this a read

  • Melanie

    i really enjoyed this! can definitely relate.

  • Tom

    I think this is the best thing I've read on TC. Perfect.

  • Jamesdean

    Maybe it would have worked out if you didn't dress like a slut.

    • georgie

      Get over it. This is great writing and your irrelevant comment is not funny nor encouraging.

  • devin howard

    I don't think its unnatural to remain emotionally invested after parting ways. For two people who clearly cared about each other and more broadly care about and are interested in the lives of other people it only makes sense that curiosity exists long after the relationship has ended.

    Our digitalized social networks may prolong that feeling, but it will fade, and even if you continue to wish that person the best forever, interest in their day to day activities will also fade.

    It was a good piece though, a narrative that resonates with a lot a people, and told well.

  • Sophia Ciocca

    It disgusts me that some commenters aren't even commenting on the article, which was lovely by the way. They're just dwelling on one article this person wrote that they vehemently disagreed with.

    Move on, people.


      “look forward, not backward” – Barack Obama

  • Scarlett

    So now I guess you're trying so hard to be inoffensive that we're all subjected to this overlong, boring tripe?

  • Aelya

    People need to shut the fuck up, and learn to distinguish between their feelings about a person and that person's work.

    Chelsea, this was beautifully written. I enjoyed reading it.

    • Noah Tourjee

      You know, I was thinking maybe you're right. But then I changed my mind because a person's work – especially their Opinion Piece on why dressing like a slut gets you raped…very likely says something about the brain thinking up those words. Not to say I am angry at her, more like angry at a culture that successfully teaches women that kind of self hate.

      • Kack

        I think her slut article portrays the reality of the situation. Ideally, it would be great for women to be able to wear whatever we wanted, without others assuming what we are trying to express, but thats not real.

      • Aelya

        Totally get what you're saying. I didn't agree with the Slutwalk article either, but that won't stop me from admiring this piece of writing, you know? Also since this is not an opinion piece, but rather a memoir, and from what I gather from the comments, a common trend in many lives.

        I too, dislike a culture that perpetuates self-hate. I just got peeved because this isn't a political article in any sense.

      • Aelya

        Basically, how you feel about someone shouldn't come in the way of your feelings for their writing.

  • Noah Tourjee

    I was so confused about why everyone was giving you such grief until I realized you wrote that disgusting slut article.

    I liked this :
    ” Perhaps it’s better to allow the natural falling-out-of-touch process to run its course, perhaps too many peripheral contacts dilute the ones we should really be keeping.”

    Thats totally true, and you have the power to return to a more natural system of living.

  • AJordan

    I liked this article because it's true to life without giving your audience a way-too-close view of your personal/sex/whatever life (re: almost every other TC article in love & sex). I think this well-written piece will resonate with a lot of people.

  • Dave P

    You *could” start by just saying “hello.”

    Would it really be so bad?

  • laurenwilford

    This is beautiful, and you are beautiful, Chelsea. I have been having this thought lately: Where do you put the memories? Because it's not enough to say “it's a memory.” I need a drawer, a little section of my heart to put things to rest in, and it is not there. Please keep writing. I read your tumblr often.

    • chelseafagan

      This comment was like a bouquet of daisies. Thank you, Lauren.

  • Schnickelfritz

    If you don't like it, don't read it. Quit yer bitching and go back to pretending to work.

    @ Chelsea– true entry. i think all of us are guilty of friending an ex or old friend purely to poke into their lives without seeing them face to face.

  • soulunsold

    The last line was so poignant. I think that's where the preciousness of life, love, and relationships lie–the fact that we are real in this moment only. The fact that our memories can evaporate into nothingness means they're real, and makes it doubly special.

    Loved the title too, very spot-on. Great job.

  • Shon Mogharabi

    100% me -> “
    These stupid, mundane moments with people that didn’t greatly change my life often seem to be the ones that haunt me the most.”

  • Hanna

    This. All of this is amazing.

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