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Home > Culture and Society

Friends reunited, marriages dissolved

24 July 2005

Friends Reunited celebrated its fifth birthday this week after putting more than 10 million former schoolmates back in touch. The press has, of course, been fascinated by stories about reunited childhood ‘sweethearts’. And why not? Even the most cynical hack probably still harbours feelings of deep and unrequited love for Julie in form 7PW.

Even the website’s organisers appeared surprised by the public demand for meeting up with childhood sweethearts, or merely the person you fantasised about shagging when you should have been learning about the important and relevant subject of terminal moraine. And for once, with Friends Reunited, the internet has connected with real life, rather than just Star Trek or Revenge of the Sith.

Friends Reunited has resulted in a number of marriages (and children), as well as reunions of other types, not least a woman who discovered her two unknown half-sisters. However, if you open the Pandora’s box of long-buried emotions, some nasties are bound to come out.

Mum-of-four Jenny Welham discovered this when her husband Steve dumped her for his childhood sweetheart Michelle. Distraught rejectee Jenny said: ‘I even bought him the computer and showed him how to use the Friends Reunited website.’ Even so, the story has a ‘happy’ ending: Jenny traced her old flame Peter Abbelby and now they too are married. Bless. It’s just a shame their kids are now probably comprehensively psychologically fucked.

But whatever the ‘success’ stories emanating from Friends Reunited, it’s hard to truly believe it’s anything other than a bit dodgy.

Hooking up with your boyfriend/girlfriend from school could conceivably be a good idea. But only if you’re pretty sure that the person you shagged/snogged/lusted after is the person you want to be with 10 or 20 years after the event. It would be interesting to know how many of these romances survive, not least because in the intervening years you’ve probably done a selective mental edit of the person you remember, turning Julie of 7PW into Helen of Troy. Or Helen of Terminal Moraine.

There’s also the fact that anyone from the distant past also offers a (fantasy) escape from all the shortcomings in your real life. Stuck in a mediocre relationship or a crap job? It’d all be different if you’d married Julie from 7PW. Of course it would.

But the dodgiest thing about Friends Reunited is that it is essentially about revisiting the past. If it were a person, it would be one of those people who bangs on about their university years, even though they’re in their 40s. There’s something inherently wrong about placing too much store on the past. Life should be about what’s happening now or in the near future, not what happened 10 or more years ago.

And no, you’re not going to get it together with Julie from 7PW. She’s happily married to an IT consultant and doesn’t even remember who you are.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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