Our tale begins in early summer when I went on a date with a woman I met off Bumble. We grabbed drinks, and I quickly realized there was no spark here, so I ordered two more drinks to drown out my lack of interest. During the course of our conversation, she revealed her ex worked for my friend’s father. I had never met her ex, but had heard of him and said nothing.
Due to mutual disinterest (she sent me an unfounded breakup message two days after the date), we never saw each other again.
(Editor’s note: they actually ran into each other a week after this was first written, but the passion was still not there.)
A month later, I matched with a new prospect and scheduled a first date. Before the date, I hung out with my best friend who had been going steady with “Paul” for several months. Over drinks, I inquired whether my best friend knew anything of Paul’s past and exes. My friend said they had not discussed such histories. The one time my friend ventured down that rabbit hole on social media she came up empty-handed.
Fittingly for where this story is headed, my friend dropped me off on my date. The date and I hit it off immediately and headed to a second bar. While at the second bar, my date began showing photos of her cats and her parents’ dog. When she showed me the dog photo, it was on her Instagram and I noticed that Paul had liked the photo.
“You know Paul!” I said reflexively.
“How do you know him?” she asked.
“He’s dating my best friend.”
Her entire posture froze. She bent over her Tito’s and soda water with rigor mortis.
“I don’t know him that well,” I tried to rectify the situation.
“Richmond is such a small town,” she moaned. “Paul’s my ex.”
I’ll be damned.
For four years, Paul and my date had been together off and on until things ended, seemingly amicably. For about 30 minutes, the date seemed to derail as she vented frustrations and disclosed history I really did not want to hear. After the next drink, I fled to the restroom to text my friend. “Are you with Paul? Omg tell me you’re not with him.”
My friend tells me she thought I was about to reveal he was a murderer when she received my message. Instead, I cut to the chase: “I’m on a date with his ex!! Omg.”
Our date seemed to re-center when I returned from the restroom. Because this was a confusing period in my life, we went on two more dates. I asked my friend if she minded that I was seeing her boyfriend’s most significant ex.
“She and Paul seem to get along fine,” I supplied without much tact. “And she’s so unlike you.” I offered this as support for I don’t know what. That her boyfriend wouldn’t return to his ex? That my friend is a better person? (She is.)
At the time, my friend christened my fling with goodwill. Last week, months after I stopped seeing Paul’s ex, she shared that she was so glad I ended that. “We are all so glad,” she emphasized.
A month after this incident, I began a fling with a new person we’ll call “Lauri.” Lauri seemed much more promising, i.e. I thought we might make it six weeks versus two. Early on, I realized Lauri knew my most significant ex to date: they were Facebook friends. I never broached this subject, but on our second date, my fling said, “I knew you were cool because you know [insert my ex’s name].”
I downed my vodka Diet Coke before saying, “Oh... yeah… How well do you know her?”
They were friends in college, but hadn’t spoken since. Phew. A good seven years of silence sat between them. I couldn’t be seen as spitefully dating my ex’s friend, though I’m not above similar sins.
After several more dates, Lauri and I felt compelled to share relationship histories. Here is where I revealed the extent to which I knew my ex and she disclosed that her own ex worked with my other good friend. Unbeknownst to Lauri and the general public, my good friend had had a brief relationship with Lauri’s ex. So, basically, I was two for two at dating my friends’ exes’ exes. Amazing. Who’s keeping score?
Naturally, I ran into my own ex a few days later. (I’m also confused.) By this point, she knew I was talking to her long-lost friend.
“Small world,” she remarked.
Lauri and I were short-lived (like I said, I predicted six weeks), and I soon began talking to a new prospect. In early conversations, I deciphered that she had last dated a radiologist. Through further sleuthing, I discovered this radiologist was a close friend of my ex’s who I had met once or twice. There aren’t that many young radiologists running around Richmond. How was this possible?
This story comes full circle last weekend when I attended a birthday party for the friend whose father employed my original date’s ex. Guess who was at the birthday? That date’s ex.
“It’s so nice to meet you,” I said. “How do you know everyone?”
By the end of the party, he had a friend’s number and they may or may not be going on a date soon. Over the years, I’ve been warned what an incestuous cesspool dating in a mid-sized city can be, but I never knew my hands would get so dirty.