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past, present, future, time concept on blackboard Do you stay in touch with your exes? Because I don't.

First of all, I have only two. My high school boyfriend. And my college boyfriend. Sure, there were dalliances here and there between relationships, but nothing really worth mentioning here. Particularly because certain people read my blog. (Hey, Grammy!)

So, I have two exes. And I speak to them never.

Thanks to Facebook and a scattering of once-mutual friends, I have some vague sense of what they are up to, but that's aboutΒ  it. My high school boyfriend had a baby not long ago and I saw the photos of his adorable son (and his gorgeous wife) on Facebook. I looked through these photos, the bright blue eyes of his first-born, the impossibly vast smile on my ex's face and I said to myself, This is ridiculous. If this were anyone else in the world, I would send a quick note of congratulations and say hello. It really should be no different for an ex-boyfriend whom I haven't seen or spoken to in well over a decade.

And so. Being the little rebel I am (ha), I fired off a personal message to my high school ex welcoming him to the wonderful world of parenthood. I said something trite and true like, Having kids is the best thing that has ever happened to me, so enjoy this! And then, immediately upon sending, I felt a stab of guilt like I had crossed some invisible and ominous line. And then. Then I promptly fessed up to Husband over dinner that night. We dined at an outdoor table across from the Museum of Natural History. We shared a plate of delectable flash-fried artichokes. I told Husband that my ex from high school who is now a doctor in California had his first baby. And that I congratulated him via Facebook message. And Husband smiled. He couldn't care less.

And then there is college boyfriend. We were together for more than four years. For better or worse, I don't think he is on Facebook. But I do hear bits and pieces about him from time to time. I know that he is pursuing a career that is passionate about and last I heard he is dating a girl seriously and a great girl at that. He could be married now. Who knows. But hearing these things? It makes me smile. Because, once upon a time, I care a whole lot about this guy. And his family. And his happiness.

And so. Where are we going here? It is hard to say, but bear with me. Yesterday's conversation about the viability of male-female friendships got me thinking. It was a phenomenal exchange - thanks to you guys - and sparked something in me. Many of you left comments mentioning exes. And I realized that this is a big, fat and interesting conversation unto itself.

Exes. What role do they play (or not play) in our current lives and minds?

And so. Here I am, racing the clock, clumsily writing about this. About this question. About these rules I intuit, perhaps foolishly, in our adult word. The rule that once we settle (and I say settle in the best possible sense of the word), we are implored not to shake things up by thinking (or writing) about past relationships or speaking to exes. The rule that once we walk away from someone, we are not meant to look back. The rule that once we finish one chapter of our life - whether it ends gracefully or messily - we are meant to get on with our story...

Maybe these rules don't exist. Maybe I made them up in my head. Maybe they are aspects of my own prudence. I do know many people who keep in close contact with their exes and even see them from time to time. Truth be told, this baffles me. Maybe some of us can make this work and some of us just can't.

But part of me thinks it is a shame to cut all ties and burn once robust bridges. My exes were once a part of my life and I have many fond memories of them and I think it is a bit arbitrary and capricious to insist that there is never ever any more communication ever. It just seems harsh.

Or maybe just smart?

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  • How many exes do you have? Do you ever speak with them or see them? Do you have a sense of what they are up to?
  • Do you think this modern age of social media makes it too easy to keep tabs on our past flames?
  • What dictates our willingness or unwillingness to stay in contact with exes? The nature of the breakup? Partner's proneness to jealousy? Our own fears of what might happen? Societal expectations?
  • Do you and your partner ever talk about your respective exes? Are you careful not to talk about past relationships in front of your children if you have them?

Something Sweet. Something Special.

Where's My Boy Friend?