You’re going about your day. It’s a normal day and you’re doing what you normally do. You’re sitting in your cubicle, closing out the Candy Crush window when anyone walks by. You’re crying over donuts in your car. You’re flying Anastasia Steele around in your private jet… You stop for a moment as it’s been a while, and glance at your phone. And there it is: a number you may or may not recognize, with anything from a non-committal “Hi!” to a “Wish I were inside you right now” or even a digital representation of an (un)familiar phallus. Inevitably, as is the intention of the sender, the course of your day is, for a moment changed. One millisecond of your attention has been ransacked, but now what?
You become the Sherlock Holmes of tracking exes. If you programmed the person into your phone and it’s still there, you know exactly who it is. You get a frisson from the communication, your stomach plummets, or you sigh. Or perhaps it is an unusual number from another State, setting your wheels in motion about that trip to Oregon in 2008. Did you erase this person from your contacts to prevent you from calling them? Did you forget to block them in that most convenient section in your phone provided in this digital age, which might well be called “Psycho-proofing?” Or are you at this moment saying “Um, who is this?” Ah, but that is exactly what your fishing suitor wants.
Perhaps this is someone you already had some contact with. You sexted with them, or had some version of electronic sex. You had a one-nighter or even something approximating a relationship. Just as likely though, is the fact that you’ve never done anything more than flirt. Then things got busy, other dates came along, or perhaps your MacArthur Genius Grant finally came through. The person didn’t respond and you gave up on them. And yet… this individual is popping up to say, “Hi winky face” with the not-so-subtle subtext of “Might you, now, consider having sex with me?”
I recently experienced a Sex Checkback TWENTY-FIVE YEARS after the main event. I feel motivated to capitalize this fact because it shows a nerve possessed by very few. In the days well before texting I was obsessed with a certain hottie who treated me alternately as a respected creative peer, a decent fuck object and an annoying little sister. We dated for three months or so, until I gave up on ever getting more than agida from him. I was infatuated enough to mention him in my book in the context of stupid drunk schoolgirl-ish behavior and had given him a cursory unsuccessful Google a while back in a “Wow, glad I don’t sink tons of energy in people who don’t love me, anymore” kind of way.
And then he popped up through this very medium dear reader, demanding not only friendship (catching up would have been fine) but alluding to the sexual proclivities (he may or may not have researched) and offering to meet my requirements squarely. He did not want to meet for cookies and lemonade, that scamp, even if we could have. He was in another country, so I guess the impulse was to satiate his need for intrigue/adrenaline/eventual consummation, aka hooking me.
My blocked callers list is illustrious, full of people I met online during one of the Trampages or in person, who insist on popping up randomly and saying “Hi.” Their attention would come around every 3-6 months, and I was supposed to be grateful for the crumb. One guy who had already established he didn’t want to date a writer who might write about him (sorry buddy) would pop up every week for several months straight with the scintillating “Happy Hump Day.” Until I blocked him. What did he want from me? What do any of them want? And what do you owe them?
I understand that people get lonely and also horny. I myself have been guilty of the Sex Checkback, but when I do it, I am direct and unambiguous. “Do you know who this is?” Then say who it is, then offer a nice thought such as “I was thinking about you” or “I enjoyed our time together.” Not “Hey” not “How’s your Sunday?” Offer someone something, contribute a morsel of energy, don’t just intrude upon them hoping they might have gotten desperate enough to respond. And don’t do that other thing I have also experienced, an unsolicited dick pic, followed by a “Wait, who is this?”
Who this is, my dears, is someone they already blew it with. Whether a month ago or a quarter of a century ago, the fisher –man –woman -person has had plenty of time to profess their interest in you, if interest were what it was, and not just a grab for attention or sex. And if you’re interested in the sex HAVE AT IT. Just don’t get confused – the mean IQ in this country is low, and sometimes self-esteem is even lower, but be awake enough to know what the terms are of this engagement – limited release, rolled out for a short time only, or going wide with a chance it has legs.
Reaching out with a potential bait and switch smacks of selfishness (“Good morning, here is an emotional time bomb”) and also it’s insulting, unless the person has a real reason why it’s taken them so long to reconnect. My standard response for someone being mysteriously resurrected after ghosting is “Were you in a coma?”
In some ways it pleased me to hear from my teen “boyfriend”; he was gorgeous and admitted he hadn’t treated me fairly and explained why, what person doesn’t want that vindication? And he gets to keep that little piece of my heart forever, lucky bastard, even as someone else now has a bigger piece. Just as I’m getting over the need for (male) validation for superficial reasons post-divorce (in marriage I only ever required my husband’s validation) comes the biggest crack pipe of all called, “you’re still hot.” And with it the sad realization of how much that still matters…