Like the old Twinkie mystery, but with sex.
January 10, 2013 4:37 AM   Subscribe

Got a message out of the blue on a social network the other day from an ex; mentioned it to my partner (we're both big believers in transparency when it comes to random messages from exes) and we're each taking a different read from the message, so we figured we'd turn to the hivemind for input.

The message reads as follows (with edits to protect privacy and resist googlability): "Hey, Had a vivid dream last night about you and the good 'ol days! We sure had some fun! (winking smiley face emoticon). Thought I'd just say hi and hope you're doing well! Hope (city) is treating you like you deserved; are you still working in (industry)? Tell me about your wonderful partner and family!"

Now, I take that as read. The ex and I did used to have a lot of fun, and this sounds like someone who is just reaching out at random to an old flame they've not spoken to in a while, hoping they're doing okay.

My girlfriend, however, thinks the presence of a winking smiley indicates that this must've been a particularly sexy dream, which makes this rather different from just a friendly 'hi'. She posits that it reads as someone whose relationship is on the rocks and is looking back to past partners and 'fishing for potential leads', so to speak. I'd normally say that's a stretch, but of her many talents, one of them is a seriously decent gut feel for what turn out to be awkward situations and/or sketchy individuals.

If it was someone else's ex, I'd happily defer to her gut feel, but I'm really hoping she's wrong in this case. The ex in question and I broke it off because she still had feelings for her previous boyfriend, with whom she'd been with for several years, wanted to give it one last shot, and they've been together ever since. I've no hard feelings there; we parted well, I genuinely want her to be happy, and I think the experiences of that relationship helped to make me the person my girlfriend loves today. And the idea that my ex might be falling out with the guy she chased happiness with makes me just a little sad.

So, do you think my girlfriend's radar is so highly tuned it's picking up on signs that aren't there, or am I just oblivious and/or predisposed to see what I'm wanting to see?
posted by MarchHare to Human Relations (60 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm with your girlfriend on this one.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:42 AM on January 10, 2013 [37 favorites]


Definitely sex dream IMO. Whether the rest is true is harder to say byt your girlfriend's reading is very plausible. Of course you know the ex best.
posted by missmagenta at 4:43 AM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Even before you mentioned it, my thought was that your ex wanted to tell you about a sex dream she had of you. No question. Now, whether her motivation in doing so is to rekindle something with you, I'm not so sure.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:43 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


+1 to girlfriend's version. The "Tell me about your wonderful partner and family!" is fishing for a "You know, I am actually single" from you.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:44 AM on January 10, 2013 [39 favorites]


I think it could be interpreted in both ways. However, the final line asking about "your wonderful partner and family!" acknowledges that you are in a relationship in a positive way.

I think that even if this is a fishing expedition, it is extremely easy for you to write back cheerfully about your current life, including your girlfriend, thus cutting off any fishing lines.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:44 AM on January 10, 2013 [45 favorites]


I say it was a sexy dream (more from the word vivid than from the winky) and it prompted your ex to reach out to see how you're doing.
posted by kimberussell at 4:44 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree with your girlfriend 100%.

I think it was definitely a sexy dream. It also sounds to me that she may not be super happy in her current relationship and is contacting you to:
1. see if your relationship is failing like hers (Her "tell me about your wonderful family" thing is just a prompt so that you can say how it isn't wonderful and how you miss what the two of you had together)
2. see if you wanted to rekindle things

I say this because I have known people to do this sort of thing before. I have had friends that would send their ex occasional messages asking about their family and life (always in a positive tone) but had their fingers crossed they would come back with "Oh, we're divorced" or "I'm so miserable, what you and I had was so much better")

I wouldn't reply. She's fishing, and replying would only give her a tug on her line and incentive to keep casting her line in your general area. If you feel you do want to reply, I would state in no uncertain terms how you aren't available and that you are extremely happy in your relationship. And I would end the email in a way that didn't prompt for replies. (No questions about her and her life that she has to answer.)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:45 AM on January 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's definitely a flirty message and I agree that it was a sex dream. I agree with Sciencegeek's reading of the matter.
posted by josher71 at 4:45 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also agree with sciencegeek. At the moment all you're being invited to do is say 'hi' back so far as I can see. Not to reply seems over-sensitive.
posted by Segundus at 4:47 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sexy dream, are you available? To which you answer "happily partnered, have a great life, kthxbai!"
posted by headnsouth at 4:47 AM on January 10, 2013 [16 favorites]


I too think it's more likely that there is some "fishing" subtext here than not.

But I think it's a stretch to read it as evidence that she's had a falling out with her partner -- she could just be frustrated at work today and looking for a little ego boost, or just trying out a plausibly-deniable moment of being "naughty." (Who says she actually had any dream at all?)

A short, kind, subtext-free reply seems the way to go.
posted by argonauta at 4:48 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sounds like there may be issues with your ex's current relationship (if she still even has one). Especially if she initiated your breakup, knew you were/are wishing her the best, etc.
posted by aielen at 4:50 AM on January 10, 2013


100% trying to rekindle an old flame. It seems kind of sweet to me, but it's also very flirty.

You should reply with complete transparency about what you want to happen next.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:50 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sex dream. "Fun" with a winky face doesn't refer to Scrabble games.

And "tell me about your wonderful partner" means "Why no, I would never dream of breaking up your current relationship... oh, wait, your partner isn't so wonderful/isn't around any longer? Gee, I'm so sorry to hear that! Well, I care about you, and I'm here if you need someone to, you know, talk to."
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:00 AM on January 10, 2013 [27 favorites]


My immediate thought was that she had a sex dream. But the only person who knows for sure is your ex. Some people use winks when describing a trip to the grocery store. I've had vivid dreams about exes - that I wanted to share with them - where we were doing something completely innocent but the dream brought back a flood of memories and positive feelings.

It's likely that she is sussing out your status, but I don't see a reason to believe that she intends to try to sabotage your relationship.
posted by bunderful at 5:01 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


You're the one that knows what she's like and understands the nuances of her communication. Did she write to her previous exes when she was with you?
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:01 AM on January 10, 2013


Totally a fishing expedition! Don't bother replying and delete.. don't fall into the trap!
posted by xicana63 at 5:01 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obscure Reference: Did she write to her previous exes when she was with you?

MarchHare: The ex in question and I broke it off because she still had feelings for her previous boyfriend [...]

=> This is a girl who needs a looong time to flag and move on.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:07 AM on January 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


You're both right, but your girlfriend is more right.

This is a fishing expedition, but its a relatively classy one that you can totally defuse and follow up on with a message that heavily references how awesome your current partner is while remaining perfectly classy. Just be sure to heavily reference your current partner and maintain good boundaries that you discuss before hand with your generally cluefull girlfriend.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:07 AM on January 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think it could be interpreted in both ways. However, the final line asking about "your wonderful partner and family!" acknowledges that you are in a relationship in a positive way.

I think that even if this is a fishing expedition, it is extremely easy for you to write back cheerfully about your current life, including your girlfriend, thus cutting off any fishing lines.


I agree with this. Plausible deniability.

But it also depends on the kind of person she is. Is she a generally bubbly and positive person? Then it's more likely her intentions are pure. The more out of character this upbeat, positive message is for her, the more likely it is to be a fishing expedition.

If she is a nice person and there is no baggage, I would cheerfully write back. It could be anything, and your default response in most situations should be to take people at their word and ignore (possibly imaginary) subtexts.
posted by gjc at 5:12 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would take it at face value because if you do, whatever your response, if you decide to respond, is either innocuous or cuts the line on the fishing expedition. You'll not know unless she pursues it further and more blatantly, so why all the negativeness? Just take it at face value and tell her all is great with you, with you and the gf and your folks are doing ok to. Speculating as to her motivation is an exercise in futility.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:15 AM on January 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'll agree that it is a fishing expedition, but not go so far to characterize it as a "trap" or malicious. First part of message communicates she remembers your relationship fondly (specifically your intimate relationship via the word "vivid" etc.). Second part of message is the polite way of asking if you are now available.

She may or may not have had a dream, but by phrasing her message that way it lets you give an easy reply with the least amount of awkwardness. Imagine if the message was:

"Hey, I've been thinking about all the great times and sex we used to have. If you are still involved with [girlfriend], any chance you are looking for an out of your current relationship?"

Certainly ignoring her will send the message you're not interested, but I don't think a short polite deflection (Hey good to hear from you, life with [girlfriend] is awesome, etc.) is going to lead her on (unless she has a history of stalking exes or extremely wishful thinking).
posted by mikepop at 5:17 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, your girlfriend is right. (It didn't occur to me there was a way OTHER than a sexy dream to read that until I read the comments.) As trial balloons go, this one is fairly classy and plausibly deniable. But it is most definitely a trial balloon.
posted by pie ninja at 5:20 AM on January 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Vivid" got me thinking its a sexy dream too.
posted by NikitaNikita at 5:20 AM on January 10, 2013


My girlfriend, however, thinks the presence of a winking smiley indicates that this must've been a particularly sexy dream, which makes this rather different from just a friendly 'hi'.

She might be right about this being a sexy dream, but it doesn't mean that the wink isn't anything other than a friendly one.

She posits that it reads as someone whose relationship is on the rocks and is looking back to past partners and 'fishing for potential leads'

I think your gf is very wrong about this. I'm reading this that your ex sounds really happy and wanted to get in touch with someone she cares about and about whom she has really fond memories.

That said, don't be ambiguous in your reply that you and your lovely family are doing great, just in case I'm wrong.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:24 AM on January 10, 2013


I think it's a fishing expedition on her part.
But regardless of what I (or others here) think, your current girlfriend thinks it's a fishing expedition, and so you have to treat it that way, whether it is or not.

Reply to the ex if you want, but reply with the thought of a suspicious girlfriend foremost in your mind.
posted by annekenstein at 5:45 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was definitely a sexy dream, but it is not an exploratory e-mail to find possibilities with you. I read that in a few different ways, I imagine that you had a flirty relationship with her when you had one.

Sexy dream and telling you about it and actually asking you to re-enact the sexy dream are two different things.

The rest of the e-mail actually asks about your partner and in asking, she is creating a safe buffer so that you don't think she wants to do anything but reach out. If you reply (and I am saying IF because you don't have to if it makes your present partner uncomfortable you know) you don't have to address the part about the dream and go right to telling her how wonderful the city is, how awesome your partner is and how healthy everyone in your family are.

Show your girlfriend the e-mail and tell her it will end there, IF you decide to reply.
posted by Yellow at 5:46 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seems pretty unanimous in here, and I would agree. Sex dream, fishing expedition, but with easy deniability for her. Personally, I'd ignore it (safest option). If you must, then reply with a *very* brief "Things are great, my girlfriend is awesome, work is awesome, hope you're doing well!" kinda thing. Emphasis on the "things being great" for you, so there's nothing to indicate that you're available/looking.
posted by Grither at 5:57 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's certainly couched in plausibly deniable terms.

I think it's some kind of litmus test.

Here is how I would translate:

"Hey, Had a vivid dream last night about you and the good 'ol days! We sure had some fun! (winking smiley face emoticon)."

Translation: I really miss the amazing sex life we used to have and I'm thinking that now would be a good time to remind you of it.

"Thought I'd just say hi and hope you're doing well! "

Translation: Thought I'd just say hi and hope you're having a mid-life crisis like I am!

"Hope (city) is treating you like you deserved;"

Holy ambiguity, Batman, you sure she doesn't have something against you? Just checking.

"are you still working in (industry)?"

Translation: must make this look like a general catching-up type enquiry. Stretch interpretation: my career is on the rocks too? I need to network and can hopefully catch your attention with a bit of veiled sexting? That would really be stretching the interpretation thin though.

"Tell me about your wonderful partner and family!"

Translation: are you divorced yet? Or perhaps your relationship is on the rocks? I need to know if you can be resuscitated into a live prospect here.

"The ex in question and I broke it off because she still had feelings for her previous boyfriend, with whom she'd been with for several years, wanted to give it one last shot,"

Sounds like your ex has trouble letting go and can't resist the lure of the past and what-might-have-been.

"She posits that it reads as someone whose relationship is on the rocks and is looking back to past partners and 'fishing for potential leads',"

That's how it reads to me too.

"I'd normally say that's a stretch, "

So would I, but what if you were single or your relationship was on the rocks? If you were, you'd be much more sorely tempted to read this message a particular way.

"of her many talents, one of them is a seriously decent gut feel for what turn out to be awkward situations and/or sketchy individuals."

Indeed. If you wanted to accuse the message sender of anything, the "crazy ex who reads stuff into stuff" stereotype would come back to you like a boomerang. There's a reason why men are stereotyped as being dumb, guileless, and incapable of being manipulative; and women who perceive hidden meanings are stereotyped as Bitches Be Crazy. Meanwhile, Columbo had a lengthy career portraying this superpower; the trick is to just let people think you're an idiot if they need to.

tl;dr The message is exactly what your girlfriend thinks it is. Keep her around at all costs. She is the goose that lays the golden eggs.
posted by tel3path at 5:58 AM on January 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


I'm kind of in the middle here.

I do think your girlfriend is right that your ex is implying it was a sexy dream. However, there is a possibility that your ex isn't fishing, and is just saying hi - albeit cluelessly. I have had exes reach out to me like this when they were not fishing, they just wanted to reminisce and were just really clueless about how what they were doing wasn't appropriate.

I mean, it's very likely your ex is fishing too, but there is at least enough evidence to the contrary that you can choose to publically assume good faith. But reaching out to an ex you haven't spoken to in years with a wink-wink nudge-nudge sort of conversation is still pretty bold, and needs to be politely but firmly shut down, either with silence or a brief general "my girlfriend and I are good, kthxbye" thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:59 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Booty ping.
posted by anildash at 6:06 AM on January 10, 2013 [21 favorites]


I would add this: to anyone saying it's not certain the ex is looking to rekindle things, I agree. You wouldn't know that until she actually tried to stick her tongue in the OP's mouth.

But why suddenly get in touch after a long period of no contact, and have the first thing you say be an allusion to having a sex dream about the message recipient, who happens to be your ex? Even if she's not trying to rekindle something, the timing and content of the message would be likely to put the idea in any reasonable person's head.

What if she just wanted to reach out in a catching-up, mending-fences sort of way? "Hi there, Ex, was thinking of you and wondering how you are doing. [I'm | we're] great here, had a good Christmas catching up with all the relatives. I'm still working at Acme Corp, how about you? How are things in Newtown? How's the family?"

That's what an unambiguous catching-up message looks like. Note the complete absence of allusions to any sex dreams. Could be the ex just wants the OP to *think* she might want to rekindle things, when in reality she doesn't have any such intentions and is just looking for an ego stroke. But I do think the OP is meant to read this and get ideas.

Having said that, if someone is getting all subtexty with you when they shouldn't, take them at face value. Then either the subtext will have to become text, or they'll look elsewhere for whatever it was they were trying to get but couldn't ask for straight out.
posted by tel3path at 6:12 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Regardless of what she meant (you can't really know unless you ask her straight up, amirite?), the fact of the matter is, while they seem innocuous, winky faces are serious business and do not belong when speaking to exes about recent dreams or times that they've had. One is bound to get (or give) the wrong idea.

If you were emailing an ex on purely friendly terms, would you be so careless as to let any ambiguity slip into your communication? Oh-ho, no. You would not.

Obviously nobody can say for sure but I'd bet dollars to donuts (how does that work, by the way? If I win I get donuts and if you win you get money?) that homegirl is looking to see if you're interested in steppin' out.

I think that you should be respond "Hey old buddy! So nice to hear from you on completely platonic terms. I am totally in love with my partner and things are great. Bye!" and then notice how rapidly all of the winky faces (and probably communication of any kind) disappear.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:13 AM on January 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


She could have sent you the same message without mentioning the dream if she just wanted to say hi and see how you are doing. She is definitely fishing.
posted by marimeko at 6:15 AM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


What is the old Twinkie mystery?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:31 AM on January 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


Sexy dream, fishing to see if she's single again, but not pushy or creepy because he gave her a huge out (and showed some respect) by asking about family/partner. A cool and calm "things are great, my husband is great and we just celebrated our X anniversary, good to hear from you and hope you're well" should send the message clearly.
posted by Miko at 6:33 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The ex in question and I broke it off because she still had feelings for her previous boyfriend, with whom she'd been with for several years, wanted to give it one last shot, and they've been together ever since."

Incidentally, this is really really not the strong argument against her potentially chasing you, her now previous boyfriend, that you seem like you might be thinking it is.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:39 AM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wow I feel so innocent and naive after reading this thread. I never would have thought this was a fishing expedition. Well maybe not never but the end reference to your partner totally made the whole thing innocuous to me, but given the overwhelming response in this thread I'm now rethinking a few emails I've gotten over the years...
posted by whoaali at 7:00 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it is probable that, for whatever reason, she is not happy right now in her current relationship. I don't think she's necessarily looking to see if you're interested in her, but I think that as her connection to her current partner wanes, her longing for that kind of connection waxes. So she wants to connect again with you.

I can certainly read it the way many other posters are, but here's an alternate read, too.

"Hey, Had a vivid dream last night about you and the good 'ol days! We sure had some fun! (winking smiley face emoticon).

Translation: I remember what we were like together and how strong a connection we had. Do you remember that? Do you still love/value me? Do you remember me fondly? I am lonely, and want desperately to be loved and wanted by someone.

Thought I'd just say hi and hope you're doing well!

Translation: I am appearing in your life again. I wish the best for you. I am a positive influence, not a negative ex that you need to cut off.

Hope (city) is treating you like you deserved; are you still working in (industry)?

Translation: I know you have not always been well, I want to believe things are better for you now, because that makes my own decision justified.

Tell me about your wonderful partner and family!"

Translation: I want to talk to you. I am lonely. But I don't want you to think I'm trying to sleep with you. I just want to talk to someone who loves me and have that connection again. Also, please don't hold any hard feelings against me. I know it looked like we parted well, but if things haven't gone well for you since then, you might resent me, and not want to give me the supportive environment I crave.

I've mostly only had exes contact me out of the blue when they were lonely and wanted to talk and be listened to, not sex. But of course, your mileage may vary.
posted by corb at 7:09 AM on January 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


I had typed something incredibly similar to what tel3path wrote, but she said it better, with less personal baggage.

I'd ignore the message personally, but I'm with the consensus here that, regardless of the ex-girlfriend's intent in sending it, your response should ignore any possible subtext (and, of course, respect the boundaries of the relationship you're in right now).
posted by crush-onastick at 7:17 AM on January 10, 2013


My theory is that she is pregnant. I had ex-boyfriend sex dreams all the time during those months, and my hormones...oy. Reaching out and reconnecting, well-wishing, remembering sexy younger me, asking about someone *elses* family when my whole world was about to shift, I get it.
posted by rabidsegue at 7:23 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The ex in question and I broke it off because she still had feelings for her previous boyfriend, with whom she'd been with for several years, wanted to give it one last shot"

Sounds like history is repeating itself. The last line sounds respectable on the surface, but I'd be willing to bet she's fishing to see if you're still attached and if so, how strongly.

Definitely with your girlfriend on this one. Ignore, and if you must respond, keep it brief, distant and "we" (you and girlfriend) rather than "I".
posted by muirne81 at 7:25 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb raises an interesting possibility, and also has experience with the particular outcome of an ex reaching out for comfort.

So maybe the ex just is asking to be comforted. But, it's difficult to get that from what she's actually said here. I also think that it would be fair to straight-up ask to be comforted, if that's what she wants; it is understandable that she wouldn't blurt out her feelings on a first message, of course. But that leads me back to looking at what she did say.

What she actually said implies that she is fishing for sexual interest. There are better ways than that of asking for caretaking of her emotional needs. So she may want what corb describes, but she's really made her message look like something it's not, if that's the case.
posted by tel3path at 7:28 AM on January 10, 2013


I'm totally with you on this one. She had a dream about someone she used to have sex with. What's so surprising about that? And it reminded her that she hadn't reached out to say hi to you in a long time. And since you had such a healthy relationship, she felt it was OK to tell you what triggered her out-of-the-blue message and even be slightly playful about it. My gosh, what's the big deal? Don't people have more important stuff to worry about?
posted by Dansaman at 8:13 AM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think it's definately fishing but I don't see why that is innately being cast as a terrible thing to do. Geeze I have totally enjoyed talking with exes about the fact we used to have hot sex, especially because I don't have sex anymore. What is wrong with wanting a bit of flirtation or flattery with an ex you had an amiable relationship? For me the key is both being single.

I don't flirt with people in relationships because that is so unspeakably lame. If you state clearly "I am really happy in my relationship", she should back off to the point of either not responding or saying something very simple like "Oh that's awesome! Take care!" End of interaction.

I have male friends/exes that I'll flirt with when they're single but I don't talk to at all when either of us is in a relationship. If we do it's something like "You doing alright? Oh good! K take care!"

Also, what corb said. Which is something that I don't see anything innately wrong with for people who are comfortable with that sort of thing. As long as everyone is available for that type of emotional intimacy.

This all reads differently to me if she knows you're in a relationship. I think the weird emotional ties to exes that some people like to have work better in a more poly/open relationship context (or when people are single) where it's acknowledged that emotional intimacy is part of sexual intimacy and that sharing a lot of that with exes or former lovers requires a lot of effort and awareness of how it affects others involved and often does lead to sexual feelings and romantic feelings. These can certainly be dealt with for the sake of having a friendship, but the way you wrote this it sounds like you're ready to fall pretty far back into an emotional investment with your ex, to the degree I understand why your girlfriend thinks you should just avoid nursing this relationship in any way. The reality is, raw and real compassion is actually the core of most good sexual relationships. Just because you aren't thinking about romance/sex doesn't mean your feelings aren't beyond what is respectful to carry on outside of a primary relationship without negotiating that first.

You did good discussing this with your girlfriend. I think a lot of people become entangled with weird emotional/romantic flings very innocently, and awareness is the best way to stop those sorts of things before they start.
posted by xarnop at 8:19 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fishing. Starts with a vivid dream, ends with an ask about your status re: partner and potential family.

Think you're seeing what you want to see here. If it makes you sad to think of her in a bad place, then you may well be trying to minimise the message.

The way I read it:
1) you and ex broke up
2) you took lessons and moved on, she want back to old boyfriend
3) you met new girlfriend and seem quite happy
4) tra la la, green fields and blooming flowers
5) ex sends you an email about a 'vivid dream' and 'what's going on with your girlfriend? are you married?'
6) that probably means ex is fishing, which probably means ex is having relationship trouble (according to your girlfriend's spidey senses)
7) you are happy with your girlfriend. your happiness in part came from lessons from ex.
8) you feel sad that ex may be on hard times.
9) you are minimising ex's interest in you because it makes you feel bad that she may be on hard times.
10) here we are.
posted by nickrussell at 8:33 AM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Your girlfriend is right on here. And good on you for discussing it with her. Ask her to help you compose a reply where you tell your ex how madly in love you are and that you have never been happier in your whole entire life! Then delete and don't respond to any future queries from her.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:45 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can we still be friends? Or what? (Door's open.)

I haven't had a lot of luck with Exes as buddies. Back in the day there was some mixing and matching going on--um, communally casual serial pairings among a group of friends, but committed relationships were different.

You know her better than your SO does. Unless she's a Fatal Attraction, then probably she was just asking a non-specific question regarding possibilities. My take is that a relationship with her may require a bit more maintenance than your SO wants to put up with. A polite, clear response is in order.
posted by mule98J at 8:59 AM on January 10, 2013


She had a dream about someone she used to have sex with. What's so surprising about that? And it reminded her that she hadn't reached out to say hi to you in a long time. And since you had such a healthy relationship, she felt it was OK to tell you what triggered her out-of-the-blue message and even be slightly playful about it. My gosh, what's the big deal?

This is actually a good example of what I was getting at - how someone talking about a sex dream to an ex, after no contact, isn't always perceived by the person doing the comparing as a bad thing. It IS possible your ex thought "huh, that's weird; hey, now that I'm thinking of March Hare I wonder how they're doing?" and it IS possible that that's the spirit you received it too. By contrast, some people do all sorts of mental gymnastics to avoid the "we had sex once" elephant in the room when they talk to their exes, because it brings up weird associations; I'm really good friends with a couple exes, and one has been so for 10 years in one case, and yet from the way when either one of us acts when the fact that we once dated comes up you'd think that we were asexual Puritan siblings or something. (He can't even listen to the "Pina Colada" song in my presence without blushing because we met via a personals ad like they do in the song.)

So you have a couple of different issues - 1. did your ex mean that she had a sex dream, and 2. how do you respond. The answer to 1. seems to be "yes." As for the answer to 2. - bear in mind that how you respond is not just informed by how you feel about that, but also how your girlfriend feels about that. If you and your girlfriend are both a little wigged out that your ex referenced your sexual past, then great. If you're not, but your girlfriend IS still a little wigged out, you need to respect that. If you and your girlfriend both think it's hysterically funny, that will also inform how you respond.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2013


Ex- is wondering if you're single. Yeah, it suggests an intimate dream, just ignore that. A polite "Partner & I are doing great, the twins, both boys, are now 6, and keeping me fit running after them. I'm now working for Blahblah, but wondering if it's time to move on. I hope to hear things are going well with you, too"

I recently located an ex- because a mutual friend mentioned she'd tried to track him down. He didn't mention his relationship status, and part of me would be kind of interested to find out if he's single, so that's a data point.
posted by theora55 at 9:46 AM on January 10, 2013


Have you ever heard someone say "I had a dream about you" without it being a prompt for "what happened in your dream?". Yeah, I haven't either.

I wouldn’t respond to her message. There are ulterior motives afoot.
posted by Shouraku at 10:20 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it was totally a sex dream. I want to say that I think all the people crying "fishing expedition" are suspicious and over-reacting. Except, when I really think about it, the only ex I would drop a line to about a sexy dream is (coincidentally?) also the only one I would totally have sex with again, given the opportunity. On the other hand, he's also super flirty and that's just how our relationship has always been, even post break-up.

I tend to agree that it's a pretty innocuous contact, though. If I didn't know my ex was in a serious home-owning relationship with someone, I could see sending a message like that. If he sent an answer that started with "Hey, living in this town improved dramatically when I met my awesome girlfriend!" I'd get the message. Unless things with your current girlfriend really are rocky, in my opinion there's no danger in a friendly catch-up of a reply. Unless you aren't interested in any further contact, in which case, just ignore it.
posted by looli at 10:34 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, I have sex dreams about people alllll the time, and plenty of them are with people I have no interest in actually having sex with. I can think of one friend of mine (not exactly an ex, but a good friend with a sexual history) who I haven't kept the best contact. If I had a sex dream about him and it sparked my memory and made me want to get back in touch, knowing me, I would mention the dream. I'd mention it, not because I was trying to hook up, but because, yeah, it's a little flirty and fun, and because having great sex is part of the good memories I have of him. Then I'd probably mention his partner, to make it clear that I acknowledge he's in a relationship and I'm not trying to hook up, and genuinely ask him how he's doing.

Unless you think her mentioning a sex dream is extremely out of character, I wouldn't make a big deal out of it and just answer. Tell her about your wonderful partner and your life.
posted by hannahelastic at 11:58 AM on January 10, 2013


I think more of the question here is why does it matter? If you're happy with your life and your girlfriend, why even speculate as to any potential hidden meaning, or lack thereof?

It could mean anything, it could mean nothing. Whatever it is, it has more to do with her than it does with you. Speculating about it with current girlfriend just seems like drama and letting someone who is not in your life back in unnecessarily by going 10 rounds with it.

If you are happy let it go. Say you're quite happy and thanks for writing. Either way to what you do, I don't see what affect it will have on your life other than what your letting it be now.
posted by readygo at 1:43 PM on January 10, 2013


Yes, she's looking for a little validation. No, this does not necessarily mean that she's got an agenda of renewed sexytimes with you.

I've received emails like this; I've sent emails like this. It's nice to be able to send an out-of-the-blue "hi there" to a long-ago ex and know that you still rate a friendly hello in return.

Is she flirting a little? Sure, maybe? Maybe consciously, maybe subconsciously, maybe not at all. Does it even matter? It's not an explicit email, if you regard it as a friendly hi and respond likewise, that's what it will be. (If you want to reply with your favorite pornographic memories of your relationship, that would perhaps be a problem.)

You parted on good terms and with well-wishes and obviously moved on. Having some fondness toward a person from the past is not disloyal. Former romantic involvement does not give her the power to pry anyone out of his pants with the magical winky emotion.
posted by desuetude at 2:38 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Gosh, I feel really naive; I wouldn't think anything of an ex-girlfriend reaching out like this. Probably was a sex dream, so what? Peeps have sex dreams about other peeps all the time.

I dunno, I don't have a long list of exes, but I'd like to think I remember all the serious ones fondly and would be happy to hear they are doing well and still think of me - and our time together - happily, as I do with them. I touch base with my most serious ex about once a year or so and vice versa; we both have kids and stuff now, it's just keeping in touch, not a cry for a hook-up. I dunno, maybe I'm too young or something.
posted by smoke at 2:44 PM on January 10, 2013


She's expressing fond sexy memories. This is not an evil thing. Maybe you have fond sexy memories of her too. You also have a smart gf, who doesn't want you exchanging fond sexy thoughts with your ex, because fond sexy memories, when mutual, can threaten current relationships. Totally valid. Write back a polite note that references your happy relationship, show it to your GF before you hit send, and you have a win-win -- your GF will appreciate your presentation of your coupledom and you'll have a positive memory of your involvement with your ex.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:00 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the responses, folks. We were astonished to see so many responses when we woke up this morning.

-My girlfriend audibly cooed at the idea that people think she is my "goose that lays the golden eggs." It was really quite adorable.

-We're both glad people agree with our general policy of letting one's other half know about things like this that come up. Sunlight being the best disinfectant, and all that.

-Neither of us think there's anything wrong with remaining friends with exes that you're able to have a post-romantic friendship with, in and of itself. For example, we're both on good amicable terms with her ex-husband, and she's remained friends with an ex who one of her highly significant life events, in the same sense as my ex, and thanks to her being open with me about when they're in contact, I have no need of feeling threatened or jealous, and he and I have developed a friendship to the point where he's told me over pizza that he's glad my girlfriend found me in her life, because she seems happier now to him than he'd known her to be before, including when they dated.

-If she had a MeFi account, my girlfriend would be favouriting futureisunwritten and fingersandtoes' answers *so hard*. She's been asking how *we're* going to reply with an impish grin since pretty much as soon as I showed her the message.

(also, Rock Steady: I don't post much in AskMe, but my girlfriend suggested this was not 1,000 miles removed from my last AskMe about a split of opinion we had concerning the edibility of what appeared on initial inspection to be a couple of particularly out-of-date twinkies.)

tl;dr : my GF is stoked so many of you are on "team GF". I'm formulating a suitably "I'm dandy hope you are too, go isotopes kthxbai" response. 
posted by MarchHare at 3:11 AM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Glad to hear all is good on the home front.

Twinkies may have an expiration date on the package, but that is just to appease some government entity somewhere. Those things, if they survive bankruptcy, will survive a nuclear war. They are like a fine Mad Dog Apple wine. Can be eaten right away, but no worse for age. While I love the little cakes, like McDonald milkshakes, I think they are one molecule away from Styrofoam.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:19 PM on January 11, 2013


If I had written that message (and I could have, though not to anyone in particular I can think of, it's just the kind of thing I would do), I would definitely mean I had had a sex dream about the recipient. But I'd be passing that along mostly because I thought it was fun, and that perhaps the other party would enjoy knowing he had been remembered in a positive light recently. This would, I am sure, not go over very well with some people. I would have to guess based on my relationship history with the person whether he would be one who would find it amusing rather than icky.

But if it were me, the line about your wonderful family would have been inserted quite intentionally to illustrate that this *wasn't* all about dragging you out into an alley and jumping you. It's the other side of the plausible deniability coin-- if you don't want to take the conversation down flirty lines, here's an out, so you don't feel pressured to do so. For me, it wouldn't be an invitation for you to tell me things were going badly and it was probably time for us to start boning again. Especially if, as it seems from your question, you and your former lady friend no longer even live in the same city. It would be my way of ensuring that you felt safe to continue the conversation even if you didn't want it to go That Way.

Also, I am sometimes a horrible, horrible flirt, and with no intention of jumping into bed with anyone. (In my defense, I am up-front about this at the time.) Flirting can be fun and validating. So that informs my reading as well.

But yeah, your GF is totally right about the general subtext. It's just that your ex might not actually be looking to rekindle anything, just a little validation and entertainment.
posted by Because at 4:43 PM on January 11, 2013


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