When my boyfriend and I had just started dating and he told me that he and the ex-wife had remained pals, I innocently cruised over to his MySpace profile to see what I could find out. I scrolled through his friends, and then I found her. "No, no: We'd agreed spaghetti is evil!" read a comment she'd posted on his profile where everyone in his network could see the inside joke.
I logged off and tried to quell my rising jealousy with the reminder that he was no longer with her — he was with me. But as time went on, our relationship started to founder, and the more I felt incompatible with him (he was ready to leave New York; I wasn't), the more I kept hunting for info on whom he'd once been compatible with. Cyber drive-bys turned into a full-scale scouring of her online photo albums. MySpacing turned into Googling.
Eventually, I found her last name, what shows she'd worked on as a designer ... I had just enough scraps of information to construct an identity for this woman I'd never met. My ill-gotten knowledge enriched every word my boyfriend said about her, although he didn't talk about her much. "Know-it-all" became "enchantingly brilliant." "Ambitious" meant the show she'd worked on won a Tony. "Incompatible" was code for "except in bed" — that sultry vixen with legs up to her chin. Soon, I was totally fixated on her.
Of course, we all have pasts. It's just that 10 years ago, our exes lived in piles of dusty photos buried in shoeboxes. MySpace lured me into thinking I could unlock the grand mystery of my boyfriend's last relationship. If I looked hard enough, clicked on enough pictures, scanned enough comments, I'd be able to find the real reason they'd split, what really turned him on, what power she'd really had over him ... and maybe why it wasn't working with us.
I never did, of course. If they couldn't figure out their relationship, how could Google?
Eventually, we broke up, and I told him about MySpacing her. He paused, then said, "She did the same to you."
Autumn Whitefield-Madrano has worked for Self, Ms., and Playboy.