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July 23, 2011

Guest blogger, Sarah Bird

 Holly here. In the late 1980's I was working in a lovely independent bookstore on Whidbey Island (Moonraker Books -- go visit, it's great)(Oops, hijacked blog in the first sentence!). I also was on the search for a fun, kinda sexy novel. Chic Lit hadn't been invented yet, I hadn't discovered Jennifer Crusie yet, but I came across a column in a women's magazine that was just as funny and irreverent as I was looking for. At the bottom of the article, a brief bio and the title of the author's novel, Alamo House. I ordered it and inhaled it and have been a fan of Sarah Bird's ever since.

 

“Your editor asked you to reconnect with an old flame? Does she know that reconnecting with a lost love can be like taking crack cocaine?"

Okay, crack cocaine. That got my attention. Not exactly what I’d expected when I called Nancy Kalish, a developmental psychology professor at California State University in Sacramento. Kalish is the leading expert on rekindled romance and I had an assignment from Good Housekeeping to write about reconnecting on the Internet.

I repeated my mission. This time with a lot less of the professional confidence I’d been able to fake the first time, “My editor wants me to get in touch with two friends and an old flame?”

“The old flame part,” Kalish said. “That’s the part I can’t believe.” Kalish had the stats to back up her incredulity. She’d researched more than 2,000 of these reunions and discovered that Facebook, classmates.com, and our old friend, Google, have wrecked more homes than a tornado in a trailer park.

"Fifty percent of the rekindlers I surveyed report that they'd had wonderful marriages — before they reconnected. They didn't expect meeting again to pack such a wallop. Now that looking for old flames is so easy and trendy, happy marriages are crumbling.” Crumbling at such a rate that her entire private practice is now devoted to attempts to save once-happy marriages devastated by Internet reconnects.

For about a second, she had me worried. I mean, I am most definitively in the happy marriage category. Then the whole thing seemed ridiculous. It’s been decades and a couple of dress sizes since the old flame and I torched through our torrid romance. I knew for a fact that age had cooled those embers.

"Doesn't matter," Kalish warned. "Wrinkles, weight, none of that matters. Some neuroscience research suggests that early loves are encoded in the brain, the same way cocaine addiction is. Seeing that person again, talking on the phone, even an e-mail triggers all those visceral memories of being young and in love. Do not get in touch with this man."

I loved all these alarmist quotes, they would be great for the article. The article which required that I “get in touch with this man.”

I kept telling myself how absurd Kalish’s warnings were. I mean, I wasn’t some sad specimen whose glory days had ended when they stuck a mortar board on my head and a high school diploma in my hand. I had a husband, son, career, two dogs, and a chubby gerbil that I loved. How could one Google search threaten that?

So I cried havoc, and let the Googling begin. Besides, it was easy to be dispassionate. I’d never searched him before since I knew the obscure object of my long ago passion to be such a diehard technophobe that there was no way that there would be a single pixel of him anywhere.

Which is why I was unprepared when, a couple of clicks later, his face filled, filled! my screen. For a split second, I recognized that he was no longer the handsome young man I had loved insanely. There were a pair of bifocals and a deeply eroded hairline. But then, like looking at a piece of fabric that magically turns iridescent when it’s tilted ever so slightly, the decades fell away and he was again, exactly, the handsome young man I had loved insanely. And, just like that the years fell away and I was once again the besotted young woman, throttled by desire, whom he’d driven from exhilaration to despair. The intensity of my reaction unnerved me. But what truly gave me pause was my impulse to delete my search history so that my husband would never stumble across it.

Not that I have intimate knowledge of crack cocaine, but it appeared that Kalish was right.

-1

In the end, me and my old beau exchanged a few innocuous catch-up e-mails that, yes, I did find I way more exciting than the ones I traded with the long lost girlfriends I found. I wrote the article and forgot about rekindled love until it came blazing back in the form of an ex-husband. Not mine. I have only ever had the one. But in the fictional form of my protagonist’s lost love who re-enters her life after her daughter and her daughter’s college fund disappear.

It was exhilarating to know for a fact about the strange power of a lost love. It allowed me to understand how fully just the sound of his voice would derail her and upend her world. It allowed me to write the reunion that I never had and to experience the dangerous iridescence of a rekindled romance.

 

 

Sarahbird

Sarah Bird is an American novelist, screenwriter, and journalist. Her father was an officer in the US Air Force, and her Catholic family of eight traveled with him around the US and the world during her childhood.

Bird’s first published novel was Do Evil Cheerfully, a mystery. In 1986, her comic novel The Alamo House was published based on her experience as a graduate student at the University of Texas.

In addition to novels, Bird has written screenplays for television and film and magazine articles for national magazines. She also writes a column for Texas Monthly.

 

 

 

Holly again. I have the pleasure of offering two copies of Sarah's The Gap Year (these are ARC's). Please email me at TLCbooktarts@gmail.com and I will let the random number generator choose two lucky readers to recieve these ARC's. [Note: one of these books has been read. By me. You won't be able to tell, honest. (It's really good).]

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Comments

Never had it happen personally, mainly because there was no relationship I wanted to re-visit. But I know it does happen, and quite frequently.

Very interesting article, Sarah! Holly, thank you for inviting Sarah to the circus that never ends...:)

I never did have an old flame.
I was usually the victim of blazing crushes that never amounted to anything because of probably living in a dream world fueled by Hollywood movies and daydreams.
I do believe the brain contains secret passages that hold vivid memories of our youth especially when we were at the threshold of spiritual and carnal awakenings.
This has been such a fun blog, Sarah.

I did that. While Steppy and I were separated, briefly. HE called me - a lot. We talked for hours. He came by. He looked the same. Really. Only his hair was longer than when were at The Newman School. We went out for coffee. We flirted. Heavily. We went for a drive. We had laughs. Lots. Questions. Why had we stopped seeing each other? Talks. We agreed. We'd never professed love. Step and I got back together.

I was on the receiving end of an old flame search, thanks to a guest blog I did here.
One Saturday morning, I woke up to an email from Indonesia, from the boyfriend who broke my heart X# of years ago.
He was all, "Hi! How are you?"
I was all, "Does your wife know you're contacting me?"
Not yet, he said, but he'll tell her as soon as he's back in the country. (Ahem.) Then he told me his life was like an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, and she was Debra and his interfering parents lived across the street blah blah blah.
He sounded miserable. [insert smiley face here]

Look up a few old flames/crushes. We tend to share pictures of our kids. I think classmates has found me more spam than friends. Since DW and I went to high school together, she knows all of those other girls. Sometimes she hits me with "You liked ...?? What were you thinking?

Ramona, lol.

Sara, hello and welcome. I'm fascinated by what that therapist told you! Wow, I had no idea. I just innocently believed that some divorced people were happily hooking up with old flames, not that so many still-married ones were wrecking their marriages over newly-blazing embers.

Pre-internet, I was briefly back in touch with my high school love, and he had turned from a lovely boy into a lovely man, but nothing sparked for me. That's fortunate since he's married to a, you guessed it, lovely woman.

Utterly fascinating!

This is such a compelling phenomenon, isn't it? We're immediately hooked. And since my kids read this blog, I won't discuss my own experience. Just saying.

Oh Nancy M, you're no fun.
Y'all know that I reconnected with my boyfriend from 40 years ago and it's been working out QUITE well.

Facebook has been amazing for reconnecting with high school and early college friends. Sometimes it's sad to learn that some friends (including former crushes) from that time have died way before their time.

My first love married a mutual friend a couple of years after he and I failed to conclude that our love merited marriage. Mutual friend is a terrific woman who has stood by him and appreciated him through thick and thin. We never lost touch, and when my mom was dying, they both came to the hospital, and the hospice, and the funeral.

I did, however, recently discover someone on Facebook whom I had loved with a deeply unrequited love . . . there was a frizzon when I asked to 'be friends' and he agreed . . . but then, just like years ago, he had nothing further to say.

I'm amazed by the reports from Professor Kalish, amazed! But, she makes sense. Thanks, Sarah!

Reconnecting with old high school friends on Facebook has been fascinating . . . and I have found some wonderful old gems among them, let me hasten to say . . . but so sadly disappointing when I discover (as has happened too many times now) that a guy I respected a lot back then has become either a lazy, sarcastic, cruel, rich bastard who cares only about protecting his wealth and that of his equally sarcastic and cruel buddies; or, that he has become a 'noble' surgeon who will make trips to 'third world' countries to donate his time to do dozens of needed operations, but wouldn't spare a thought for the poor or disadvantaged people right under his nose and is, however intelligently he frames his comments, a racist through and through. Sigh.

Great Post, Sarah. Thanks for joining us today. I think I'm still in touch with most of the men I knew, one or two got in touch with me when The Lace Reader came out. That said, I will be attending a college reunion party in August. It's not a real reunion but a group of old hippie friends getting together at someone's house in NH. The Grateful We're Not Dead Party is the tentative title. There are several ex-couples meeting after many years. I'll be watching closely and taking notes!

Good blog. I met an old flame, and he hit on me. "My wife doesn't understand me," he said. (Yes, he used that tired line.)
"I think she does," I said. I never saw him again.

Welcome aboard Sarah, and thanks for posting with us.

I have FB'd my old flame and 'friended" him. He is so incredibly different that while there could still be a spark there, I am not interested in the type of person he has become. And he probably feels the same about me. There is definitely a spark of caring. I do care more about his life than I feel about some of the female friends with whom I've reconnected. For instance, he recently lost his father and I was upset for him, and thought alot about how he was coping with that.

However, I've often thought it was probably a good thing my husband and I soldiered through the tough times and stayed married because our relationship has been so tempestuous, that had we split and married others, if we ever reconnected we would have been homewreckers. :)

LOL, Elaine, "I think she does."

An old love, who ditched me because "you deserve to have children, and I'm not ready for children" (then married the [mysteriously pregnant] woman he was having an affair with while with me) wrote me a couple of years later about how depressed and miserable he was in his marriage.

Really, what do you say? I truly wouldn't have him back if he crawled the several thousand miles from where he's living now, on all fours. We are not Facebook friends.

Lipstick Chronners, you are fun! It was so eye-opening to discover how much doing this piece affected me. I mean, dreams. Dreams like I haven't had for years. Dreams about the dream that IS sex in your late teens, early twenties. When he called me "Bird." No one has called me "Bird" in thirty years. Such a Fountain of Youth aspect. I saw SO clearly how dangerous this all could be. Which was FANTASTIC for my novel and my character, but I did the Take Your Vitamins thing and backed far, far off.

I will also say that Kalish's research shows that rekindled romances lead to HIGHLY successful marriages. That's why I felt justified in letting my character get back with her after realizing that she had the same power that he did: to make him feel young and filled with possibility again.

Potent stuff all around.

Lynn Vaughan and Laura Fraioli have won the ARC copies of The Gap Year.

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