My friend R called me last night on his way to Valentine's dinner in an existential tizzy. I love R because he's the ideal combination of caveman guy and overanalytical girl. Neither of us would ever hook up with one another in a million years, and so we get to be as messy and neurotic around each other as we damn well please. Our friendship is a great sounding board on which we can try out ideas for our relationships before actually attempting them in a space with consequences. Plus he gives great IM and has helped me move in the summertime, and therefore has my undying loyalty.
But I digress. R was curious about my theory that the universe is full of signs and sends us signals about our behavior. More specifically, he wanted to know why the universe was suddenly throwing ex-girlfriends in his path left, right and center. He ran into one old girlfriend out and about, and only to see her quoted in a Post article the next week. An article on Valentine's Day and relationships. A quote in which she paraphrased something he told her when they dated. And did I mention he ran into her while going to see his new girlfriend? And that the quote of hers was about a movie that I had just purchased on DVD A MERE FIVE DAYS AGO?
If you couldn't sense my sarcasm towards the end of the previous paragraph, my point is: if you take this "sign" thing too seriously, especially in a company town where everyone under 35 is a member of at least one online friendship network, you're going to make yourself insane. After a certain point, it's not the universe speaking to you; it's just that everyone yuppie twentysomething has occasion to ride the Red Line a few times a week.
Now I find this turn of events intriguing, but not as interesting as their wildly disparate views of the occasion on which they ran into each other. They wound up on the same Metro train one day during rush hour and said a brief hello.
Man response: (thought that went through head when he saw her) "There's [Old Girlfriend]. Oh, she's talking with someone. Don't want to interrupt."
Woman response: To email him the next day (I'm paraphrasing here): "How is it that you're still not civil to me three years after we stopped dating? THREE YEARS! Can't we at least acknowledge each other? This isn't a big town!"
Man response to woman response: "Uhhhh... huh? Sure. OK."
Hearing R describe this scenario last night, and reading the written summary of it in my work AND personal inboxes this morning, I was reminded of the Dave Barry book my mother gave me for Christmas.** It's such a classic example of how men and women are capable of looking at the exact same situation and seeing two completely different things. One woman's rude snub is one man's polite deference.
Who knows why this is? Who knows why men and women can be raised in the same environments and yet view common experiences through completely different lenses? It's a grand question, one that no one, certainly me, will ever be able to fully answer.
But why is the universe throwing ex-girlfriends in your path, R? It's telling you: "Look at who you had to wade through to get where you are! Don't fuck it up with New Girlfriend! It's scary out there!"
Easy as pie, baby. Throw me a challenge next time.
**True Story: My mom met Dave Barry on one of her business trips last year and asked him to autograph a copy of his book Dave Barry's Guide to Guys for her daughter EJ. While signing, he asked her how old her daughter was. "Twenty-three," my mom replied. "Ooooooh," said Dave Barry, handing the signed book back to her, "she needs to lower her standards."