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The Power of the Ex-Girlfriend

Why you have a relationship with your boyfriend's ex.

Last week was a much-needed week of rest. I went home to Los Angeles for spring break and saw old friends, where we did what we always do: gossip and talk shit.

This is a hobby that I would like to have outgrown a decade ago, but even science deems gossip:

" ... a useful social function in bonding group members together. In the distant past, when humans lived in small bands and meeting strangers was a rare occurrence, gossip helped us survive and thrive."

That being said, the most flagrant use of gossip in my circle of friends is discussing people we don't know. Specifically, the exes of our past, present and future boyfriends.

These former love interests of our boyfriends have turned us into obsessive-compulsive internet stalkers, hell-bent on digging up as much dirt as we can via Twitter or Google. Don't pretend that you haven't spent a lone sleepless night Facebook-stalking these mysterious girls, hoping that you share at least one friend in common, so you can access their pictures (even if their profiles are private).

Am I the only one who shamefully admits to irrationally yet meticulously examining every single photo, deconstructing tans, pore size, and frown lines, or criticizing outfits? Haven't we all repeatedly gone through the ex-girlfriend's profile and photos desperate to find some spelling or grammatical error as proof that they're stupid?

It's foolish, petty, and completely pointless—these ex-girlfriends have absolutely nothing to do with my life, yet they consume my free time (my work time too) like an evil voyeuristic addiction.

What is it about these mysterious women that my curiosity finds so irresistible?

These are some thoughts that I have compiled over the years:

1. I hate ex-girlfriends. All of them. I mean, seriously detest, abhor, despise, want to stuff a plastic bag over their head while they're sleeping, hate them. The simple reason is jealousy. I hate them because I am jealous of them. I am jealous that this boy that I've decided to love used to belong to this other girl. And even though it probably occurred in a different era (one in which, he was a less attractive pimply-faced adolescent), I can't help but feel a sense of envy that she had him before me, and he had feelings for her. Feelings that were supposed to be exclusively for me.

I also hate them because I'm afraid I may like them if I ever get to know them.

Human behavior expert and life coach Patrick Wanis said in a radio interview:

"Women are always in competition with their own sex. They might make some catty remarks until they get to know her and then they might not say anything catty anymore... The initial response of making a catty remark comes from being jealous and all insecurity comes from jealousy. Women are always checking out other women, more than men do."

2. Ex-girlfriends make me doubt myself. If she's pretty, I obsess to no end why they broke up, if I'm pretty enough, if he even knows what I actually look like, if I will always have to wake up 30 minutes before him to put on my makeup so he won't think some random homeless girl broke into his house and snuck into bed with him, etc. If she's very pretty, I pray to God that she's an idiot, because at least I'll have more brains.

Beautiful women serve as the foundation for my insecurities. They may also be the reason why 7 million American women suffer from eating disorders.

On the other hand, if she's not pretty, then I go crazy wondering if he only dates ugly girls, and if I am one of them. Also, I assume that she must have an extraordinary personality, so is mine good enough? Probably not.

In addition to feeling insecure, I am also baffled, desperate to solve this mystery of why this great guy would be with someone who doesn't seem as great.

3. My imagination is my worst enemy. My insecurities are cultivated by my own delusions-- delusions that will never be disproved or proven because I will never know this girl. So everything I imagine her to be is true, just like "The Secret" says. If I think she's a supermodel and Mensa scholar, then she is! Damn the Law of Attractions!

The only defense to our fatalist imaginations is to try to find people who know these ex-girlfriends and nonchalantly get dirt on them. A friend of mine was acquaintances with my boyfriend's ex-girlfriend. I always felt threatened by her, until he told me she had "huge thighs" and was "boring." Yes, I hate myself for being so shallow and superficial, but a little part of me also felt relief. Huge relief at not having huge thighs.

4. I only get over the ex-girlfriend when I get over the ex. What's interesting about these obsessions is that they usually last only as long as the relationship with the boyfriend lasts. Suddenly, I stop caring about the ex-girlfriend. She's not my problem anymore.

Instead, I become the despised ex-girlfriend, unknowingly infiltrating someone else's fragile and delicate mind-- continuing this cycle of confusion, self-doubt, and cruel physical comparisons, because in all honesty, my thighs are really not all that small.

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