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Pajiba Answers: 'Should I Track Down The One Who Got Away?'

By Emily Chambers | Seriously Random Lists | April 28, 2017 |


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As our long running series shows, Pajiba wants to help you become the best “you” you can be. And as such, sometimes we like to help you answer important questions. Today’s important question: should I track down The One Who Got Away? Let’s investigate.

No. Don’t do that.

Now let’s talk about why you shouldn’t do that. For starters, we need to clarify this idea of “The One Who Got Away.” This is not the same as looking up your high school sweetheart on Facebook, and seeing what they’ve been up to. Nor is this a case of emailing an old flame to see if they want to catch up. The One Who Got Away is a very specific, mostly made up figure. It’s the person who you are sure you were destined to be with, but a tragic twist of fate means that destiny wasn’t fulfilled. And now, in order to set the scales of the universe right, you have to find a way to follow through on that love. It’s the plot of Serendipity basically, and Serendipity is garbage. So before anyone runs off to let that guy at the library know that the two of you are destined to be together, you might want to keep a few things in mind. Like:

The One Who Got Away Probably Doesn’t Remember You
There was a guy I went on a few dates with back in college, and then things kind of fizzled out (I think these days the kids would say I got ghosted, but at the time I chalked it up to finals/drink specials). But I always remembered him fondly. A couple of years after college, I randomly ran into him at a party and greeted him warmly. He did not remember me. And the thing is, he was totally right. I remembered him fondly because the “break-up” was largely uneventful, and for my 19-year-old mess of a self, that equaled success. Only it was not at all a success. It was, as stated, a non-event.

So before you go knocking on any doors, whether physical or otherwise, really consider the person you are grand gesturing. Did you really have a significant enough relationship that they would know who you are? Did they give any indication at the time that they wanted to be in a romantic relationship with you? Do you have any reason to believe they’d like to be in a romantic relationship with someone like you now, i.e. does their sexual identity match up with yours, are they actively looking for a romantic relationship, are they otherwise engaged in a romantic relationship? And bear in mind that when you contact the object of your fated affection …

You’re Invalidating Large Parts Of Their Life

This is the biggest difference between The One Who Got Away and Hey, I Wonder What That Guy’s Up To? HIWWTGUT (Shonda Rhimes other best show) is about having someone from your past with whom you’d like to reconnect either long-term or as a one-off lunch. It’s about acknowledging the distance in a once close relationship, and seeing if both parties are interested in rebuilding the relationship. TOWGA is saying, “We were supposed to be together, but fate itself was derailed, and cannot be put right until we fall in love again.” Or “Everything you’ve experienced in the past 20 or so years has been part of fate’s big fuck up. Your life isn’t what it’s supposed to be.”

Yeah, you can see why most people wouldn’t be thrilled about that. And no, there isn’t a way to not invalidate TOWGA’s life. By identifying them as The One, you’re stating that whatever life they’ve lived wasn’t what it was supposed to be. Did you have relationships, marriages, kids, jobs, friends, miscellaneous other meaningful events? They can get fucked because you were supposed to be with me.

“But, Emily,” you say in the imaginary conversation I’m using as a rhetorical device, “maybe they just mean that they always regretted not trying harder for a relationship with The One Who Got Away. They should have tried harder or been a better partner or not screwed up as much.” Sure, fine, that’s what they mean. But why do they wish that they’d tried harder, been better etc.? Is it because then they would have stayed with TOWGA all these years? They wouldn’t have wasted decades not being together? The lives they lived would have been better and more meaningful because they’d have been together? Is there any way to frame the idea of “The fate/ God/ the universe itself took a giant shit on us when it forced us apart, but now we’re getting our lives back on track by being together” without also shitting on the lives they’ve had? None of which really matters because …

You’re Definitely Not In Love With That Person
I take a rather hard stance on what I believe to be genuine love. Namely, I require that people who claim to be in love with someone have had a conversation with them within the past two decades. Which is why Hey, I Wonder What That Guy’s Up To is acceptable, and The One Who Got Away is not. HIWWTGUT acknowledges that two people had a connection, and wants to see if it will work again. TOWGA states unequivocally that they are in love, and know they are meant to be.

Only you don’t know them.

If it’s been any significant period of time (and almost by definition of TOWGA it has to be), the person you believe to be The One has changed, and changed in ways that can’t be tracked on social media. They might not have changed significantly, but there will be some difference. Or maybe they haven’t actually changed, and you’re remembering your time through rose-colored glasses. Or you’ve built them up in your memories as smarter/funnier/cooler than they ever were. Or maybe you knew that person in your early twenties, and all of the memories of them are booze-tinged. Or maybe you knew that person in your early thirties, and all of the memories of them are booze-tinged. Or maybe you knew that person in your late thirties, and all of the memories of them are booze-tinged. Maybe I need to find more activities that don’t involve booze. Who knows? The real point is that without recent, meaningful contact with The One, you can’t say you’re in love with that person. You’re in love with an idea.

So what’s the final conclusion? Should you make a grand romantic gesture to let someone from your past know they’re The One Who Got Away? Or as it should be properly framed: Should I contact the person who represents the idea of a perfect partner to invalidate their life choices despite the fact that they probably don’t feel the same way, and possibly don’t even remember me? If you can’t answer that one yourself, even Pajiba can’t help you.


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