Last year, right around this time, a good friend of mine went missing. He just vanished, without a trace. None of the events leading up to his disappearance seemed unusual or out of the ordinary. There were no clues, not even a “goodbye” note left behind to indicate what his fate might have been.
The debate among our mutual friends about what could have happened to him went on for months, but nobody had the slightest idea.
I had known Cory for over thirty years. We had first met in middle school and continued on to the same high school, where we spent the next four years together on almost a daily basis. But as we got into our mid twenties our lives started to move in different directions, and I began to see less and less of him.
From time to time we would connect at the odd get-together or reunion, but we really didn’t make too much of an effort to stay in touch.
I liked Cory, and because of all our shared history, whenever we did get together we would fall back into our old rhythm just as if no time had passed since we last met; but despite that, I wouldn’t say we were “close.”
However, in the last two years since he had signed up for Facebook I was able to follow along with the events of his life, including the activities of his three young children and his wife of seventeen years. And slowly but surely we began to “touch base” more often, albeit in a virtual way.
And that was why his disappearance was even more puzzling to me…..
Oh, did I mention that he disappeared from Facebook?
One day I went to post something on his timeline and he was gone. I couldn’t find him. He wasn’t listed among my “friends” anymore and my inquiries into the “search” bar came back empty. I didn’t have his phone number or email address, nor did I know exactly where he lived, so for all intents and purposes he was gone, having slipped the surly bonds of Earth, or at least the social network.
Then about six months later as I was perusing my “wall,” the most miraculous thing happened. As suddenly and unexpectedly as he had disappeared, he reappeared. In what could only be described as a “Lazarus-like” event, he came back from the “dead” with the following photo and caption….
Having strawberries and champagne with my sweetheart right now. Life is good!
“Honey…..,” I yelled out to my wife. “I found Cory.”
“What?” she replied. “Where?”
“On Facebook. He’s getting divorced.”
“What, how do you know that? Did he say that on Facebook?”
“No, but he’s posted the ‘strawberries and champagne’ photo.”
“Oh,” she said. “His poor kids…….”
I’ve seen this phenomenon before with a number of my male Facebook friends. Suddenly, out of nowhere the “strawberries and champagne” photo goes up online. It’s the universal code for “I’ve left my wife and I am playing out some contrived notion of what romance is supposed to be with a chippy half my age.”
Trust me, when you’ve been married for seventeen years and you have three small kids, chances are you’re not all of a sudden doing “strawberries and champagne” with your wife.
Although not as common, I have also seen the analog variation of this post from some of my female Facebook friends. It usually goes like this;
Out with my girls tonight, rocking the Appletini’s….
When you see this come up on a mother of four’s Facebook wall on a Wednesday night, you can be pretty sure that the divorce papers are in the mail and she is already sleeping with a personal trainer named “Vinny.”
And you can almost tell how bad the divorce is going to be by the type of picture that is posted. If they post a photo of various cheeses, meats, crackers, and olives in between two glasses of Chardonnay, with a view of the Caesar’s Palace in the background and the caption, “Luxuriating with my baby before our spa treatment in Vegas,” somebody is going to get taken to the cleaners big time.
One of the sad character traits of my gender is that at times, especially when it comes to matters of the heart, we can be ridiculously cliché’, to the point where even if you are blind without a cane you can read the signs a mile away.
Back in the 80’s my aunt fell in love an Australian man, moved to his home country, had three kids, and built a life together with him. I hadn’t spoken to either of them in over twenty years when one day my mother mentioned that my uncle Charles had taken up “crewing.”
“Apparently he is really getting into it,” she explained to me. “He goes to the rowing club and practices three days a week.”
“Really,” I said. “So how long has he been cheating on aunt Cynthia?”
“What? What do you mean cheating on Aunt Cynthia? Why on Earth would you say such a silly thing like that?”
“Mom, he’s forty-seven. He hasn’t exercised a day in his life. And now, all of a sudden he is into crewing? C’mon, do the math.”
“Oh, that is just stupid talk. There is nothing unusual about a grown man deciding that he wants to get in better shape and then doing something about it. Stop being so negative. You have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Okay, fine.” I said.
Two weeks later my aunt called to say that she was packing up the kids, moving back to the US, and starting divorce procedures against my uncle. It turns out that he had been cheating. With a twenty-seven year old woman. Who happened to be a member of the Australian Olympic crew team. Wow…who’d have known….???
Social media didn’t create this phenomenon among men, it just allowed it to scale and replicate in a predictable pattern. Once the “strawberries and champagne” post goes up, the script is pretty standard going forward.
Their status immediately goes from “married” to “In a relationship,” hyperlinked of course to the new love of their life’s page, and all timeline posts prior to meeting their “soul mate” are “scrubbed.”
Then it gets weird. And by weird I mean, bizarre.
Usually a string of random, airy, and forced pseudo-poetic posts materialize over the next few weeks….
Sometimes in life we look for things we shouldn’t. And it takes someone special to show us that what we want, what we desire, what we yearn for is right in front of us. I’m so thankful for all my friends, and family, and loved ones who are there to support me and the special people in my life. Often we get lost in the hectic pace of this crazy world and I’m blessed to know now how to be at peace with that world, thanks to my new best friend and partner. Life is good. I love you all and can’t wait for you to join me on this new journey in the next chapter of my life.
Then comes the profile picture update, which prominently shows them and that new “best friend” of theirs, usually in a low-cut mini-dress and heels.
What bugs me most about this, is how this new person is just foisted on you without any explanation, context, or heads up. They just appear, as if they were perpetual, having always been there. And nobody else seems to seems to care. They just put up comments like, “Dude, so happy for you both,” or “So glad you are in a good place now in your life.”
Dude, I’ve been your friend on Facebook for two years and I’ve known you since sixth grade. I know you have been married for seventeen years. I introduced you to your wife. I was at your goddamn wedding. I threw the bachelor party for God’s sake. At least message me and fill me in on the backstory bro!
Imagine if there were four couples who had spent the last ten years going out twice a month for drinks and dinner. Then one night, out of the blue, with no warning, one of the guys just shows up with a new lady who is so young she gets carded by the cocktail waitress. He doesn’t say anything about her, or who she is, or why she is there, or why his wife, your friend, and the mother of his children is suddenly gone.
You want to be nice, but she doesn’t know the history. The nicknames. The inside jokes. All the little subtleties that make a relationship special. And you end up just staring at her with a vacant smile on your face, knowing that in six months she will be a memory anyway.
That’s the real world version of what too many of my friends seem to be doing on Facebook these days. I get it….it’s their life. I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to endorse it. But I guess I have to accept it. However, there’s no way in Hell that I am going to accept a “friend request” from their transitory relationship placeholder. Even I have my standards.