Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Old Loves

bob n suzeIn high school I read a poem about a woman watching raindrops slide down her windowpane. Each drop reminds her of a different past lover. The memories accumulate on the same plane, slipping and colliding at unplanned intervals. I remember nothing about the author or the rest of the poem, but I remember wondering if it was possible to have as many boyfriends as raindrops, and feeling inexplicably sad. I didn’t yet have meaningful relationships that could be put in the past, so this was a foreboding sadness—a sense of a dark raincloud on the horizon.

In an interview with Grantland recently, Lena Dunham shares her many “passions,” one of which is a Tumblr called “Old Loves,” that aggregates pictures of celebrities who used to date. Dunham checks it once a week. “It’s how I kick back on like, a Friday night,” she says. She cites Glenn Close and Woody Harrelson as examples of people “who dated for like, a week and were pictured together wearing denim overalls.”

That pretty well sums up the Tumblr’s concept and why people like Dunham can’t get enough of it. But one day, “the craziest thing ever” happened: Dunham saw her own boyfriend on Old Loves. It was a picture of him and his girlfriend from high school. Who was the girl? None other than Scarlett Johansson, a woman who’s literally been deemed the “hottest woman alive.”

“I thought my mind was going to explode,” says Dunham on her discovery. “I’m not jealous, though.” Sure, I wouldn’t be either. But Johansson is happily engaged and pregnant now, so perhaps both the flame and the threat have dwindled. Dunham’s boyfriend is with her in the end, or as far into it as the present can be, and I guess that’s why she can enjoy the site. Her love is in the other room. He might even be there on Friday nights scrolling the site with her. For some of us, though, our old loves are the ones keeping us company.

Minutes after watching Dunham’s interview, I found myself sucked into the Tumblr. RYAN GOSLING AND SANDRA BULLOCK DATED? I needed to know more. I dove deeper and deeper into the site, feeling worse with each click. After the immediate shock of each new relationship discovery wore off, the reality set in: these couples were all broken up. Nothing lasts, I thought. They all look so happy in the pictures. From where I was standing the site looked less like a treasure trove than a graveyard of failed relationships. 

Sam loved Andy Kaufman. Andy Kaufman used to date fellow comedian Elayne Boosler. They’re pictured together in a photo booth on Coney Island. In each frame she brings herself progressively closer to him, the final one ending with a kiss. Sam used to imitate Kaufman’s loudmouth characters, and it gave me the creeps, but I let him do it because it made him happy. No one made Sam laugh like Andy Kaufman, except for me.

Michael Jackson dated Brooke Shields, Tatum O’Neal and married Lisa Marie Presley. On that Tumblr there’s a GIF of him kissing Ms. Presley onstage at the 1994 MTV Music Video Awards. Underneath the video it says, “Before pulling Presley in for the kiss Jackson proclaimed: ‘Just think, nobody thought this would last.’"

When Michael Jackson died Sam and I texted each other at the exact same time saying the exact same thing, and the inexplicability of death was made a little bit smaller.

There are three pages of photos featuring Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo. They fell in love at the same age Sam and I did and stayed together for almost the same length too. Their arms are roped around one another in every picture, as if they’re holding on for dear life—afraid to let go. I was listening to “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan when I knew I was going to fall in love with Sam. Suze is on the song’s album cover with Dylan, their arms linked. It was late one night and I lay in bed, unable to fall asleep. I put in my headphones and began to listen to a mixtape Sam made me—the first of many to come. The Bob Dylan song started it off and by the chorus I loved it. I knew somehow that Sam would make me feel all the things that were colliding on my mental plane: euphoria, sadness. And I knew that, like the song, the feelings would inevitably end too.


Emilia Petrarca graduated from Vassar College in 2014 with a BA in English. She is currently an Online Editorial Intern for New York magazine and an Editorial Intern for ManRepeller.com. She has also written for Interview and The Daily Beast.

8 Comments / Post A Comment


I just created a Hairpin account so I could tell you that this made the hairs on my arms stand up and I got pretty misty and I'm at work but it's only my fourth day and these people can't see me cry yet.


like for real@l


That's mental. Imagine dating lena dunham and scarlet johansson, I'm pretty sure her boyfriend is that great is he? Also it is the best tumblr ever for like... sitting naked with a semi-frozen cheesecake and sobbing. it's like the ultimate rom com except nobody has to know yr on it.

Molly - empressof10000screamingworldsofterror.blogspot.com


This was wonderful! More great writing like this please Hairpin!


Oh, Mr. Dylan. How he does that.

My first love adored "Girl from the North Country." When he played it -- on guitar, himself, or simply a recording, back in the days of CDs -- it always made me melancholic. I don't know if it was just the song, or simply that I could envision a time in the future that we could no longer be together, that this song could come to be about me. That feeling was just terrible, especially because we were engaged. (Though fortunately never married.) I have now made this our song, and it remains a link, a tiny little fleshy fold of connection, to him. And on the right day, in the right mood, in the right light (dusk) calls forth tears, tears, tears. And sweetness, too.

I mean, check it:

"Please see if her hair hangs long
If it rolls and flows all down her breast
Please see for me if her hair's hanging long
For that's the way I remember her best.

I'm a-wonderin' if she remembers me at all
Many times I've often prayed
In the darkness of my night
In the brightness of my day.

So if you're travelin' the north country fair
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was the true love of mine."

Greta M.

This was a beautiful piece.

As a sidenote, Suze Rotolo's memoir A Freewheelin' Time, about her young life, including her time with Bob Dylan, is wonderful. She has since died, which made me very sad, especially after reading her book. I'm glad you mentioned her.


This is the most depressing post on that tumblr. Such a perfect metaphor for a fading relationship, a painful level of dramatic irony. http://oldloves.tumblr.com/post/61469576151/interviewer-one-of-my-favorite-pictures-that-you


This hit so so so close to home for me. My first love/boyfriend of 1.5 years broke up with me 2 days ago, and the picture I asked someone to take of us at a party 2 days before that is lingering up on Facebook.

Being dumped 4 days before your birthday sucks, y'all. Especially 3 weeks after being told he doesn't want to give up on you two, and one week after he gives you flowers and says that he wants to whisk you away for your birthday, but it's too expensive and you're just touched by the thought, and you're happy because things are going so much better than a month before (or so you thought).

Boo love! But really, it's pretty nice.

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