Little Black Book was on Starz last night. I’d seen the beginning of the movie twice, but was never able to stick around to see the ending. So while Billy packed for his business trip out of town today, I watched Brittany Murphy dig around in her boyfriend’s Palm Pilot, track down three ex-girlfriends using the Kippy Kan show as a front, and ultimately make a mess of everything.
Billy joined me while Brittany Murphy’s Stacey did her detective work on Joyce, the ex the boyfriend, Derek, still carried a torch for. When Stacey finally snagged a meeting with Joyce, she pretended to be someone else entirely and that she had never even heard this Derek guy. While they talked about Joyce’s career, the dirt on her relationship – the one they ended years ago, and the friendship they continued to that very day – with Derek just spilled out.
“Why would she do that?” Billy asked, lighting up a cigarette.
“I don’t know.”
“She’s torturing that girl.” He meant that Stacey was torturing Joyce.
“She’s torturing herself.” I said as Joyce answered her ringing cell phone and mouthed It’s Derek to a shocked Stacey. “That would be awful, sitting next to a girl who didn’t know that you’re dating the ex she’s still madly in love with and watching her get a call from him, and then watching her laugh at something he said…To watch one half of a conversation where your boyfriend is flirting with a woman he used to date that doesn’t know about you and that he never told you about. That would kill me.”
“That’s what I don’t understand, why she would do that in the first place.”
“I don’t either,” I lied. I knew why. I’d done it before. Maybe I didn’t go so far as to pose as someone else and interview the exes, but I’ve rooted around in history before.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I think we women research too much. In an effort to find out something – anything – about our boyfriend’s history, we dig. We peek at his inbox when he checks his email in our presence, we eavesdrop on his phone conversations, we ask leading questions and begin to piece together a horribly askew picture of his past and his present. We Google. In our more shameful moments, we rummage through rooms, foraging through pockets and luggage and notebooks and boxes, seeking something that will tell us what our boyfriends don’t want to tell us themselves. We interrogate friends and family in what we hope is a subtle way, we keep our eyes peeled for clues, we ask about exes and attempt to decode his answer into what he really meant. And for what? Well, we don’t really know. We’ll tell ourselves that it’s to find proof that he’s over his ex, that he’s faithful to us. But really, it’s evidence to the contrary we’re after. We want to weed out his transgression before it gets a chance to make us look foolish. We don’t want to be played, we don’t want our hearts broken. We want to know.
In my past life, I wanted to know, too. I dug and poked and prodded my way around all of his 36 years. I asked about his exes, looked at their pictures and compared myself to them. And when I did that? It only made me feel horrible. It made me sick to my stomach, but I still kept at it. I asked more questions, looked at more pictures, wanted more information. Even though it made me want to throw up to look at him locked in an embrace with someone from his past, even though it made me feel inadequate compared to these older women who were successful and well-traveled, I kept it up. And it made me a jealous beast. I began to think that he would gladly go back with each and every one of his exes – all they had to do was show up. I started to think he was being unfaithful. Whether he was or not, I’ll never know. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. I kept trying to catch him in lies. I searched the house for another woman’s presence. I smelled his shirts for a foreign perfume. I was almost disappointed when I came up with nothing. My stomach was in a perpetual knot. It was awful. I was awful. I didn’t even like myself then.
But we’re always looking for the bad. What’s in his past? What’s he not telling me? We forget that the past is the past for a reason. And we get caught up in wanting to know things we don’t really even want to know. It’s masochism.
Billy’s checked his email right in front of me, and I didn’t even look. He’s left me alone in his house – I’ve even slept there when he’s been out of town – and I’ve never even had to fight the urge to snoop. I don’t ask about ex girlfriends because I don’t really want to know. I don’t need to know what his last girlfriend looked like, what she did that made him happy or what she did that made him sad. I don’t need to know that he loved her smile or the color of her hair. Because, you know what…He loves my smile and my hair now.
But as much as I’d like to believe that my peace with Billy’s past and present has to do with my new-found maturity and confidence, that’s only half of it. The other half is that he’s open. He’ll tell me what I want to know, all I have to do is ask. And I don’t need to dig around to see if he’s unfaithful – He’s with me all the time. And when he’s not with me, he calls to let me know he’s thinking of me and that he wants to be with me.
And what’s worse is that men don’t do this. From what I’ve learned from the men I’ve dated, known, spoken with, men don’t worry themselves over their girlfriends’ past. They don’t overanalyze and wonder and think and ruminate and make themselves sick over who she used to date, how she felt about him, and what she’s doing when he’s not around. Why is this borderline psychosis so much more prevalent in women? Or are women just less afraid to admit that, yes, they want to know more?
“I don’t get it,” Billy said at the climax of the movie, as Brittany Murphy was confronted with all three exes and the boyfriend she’d been researching. “Look, everyone’s miserable now.”
I knew all too well how everyone in that movie felt. But Billy would have dig in my past to find that out.