Chance is a funny thing.
Sometimes we find a dollar on the sidewalk, or run into someone we missed from our childhood after many years or see something that particularly speaks to us.
Giving these little moments our attention long enough to ask, “What are the chances?” or to even go so far as to ponder what could have been, is an acceptable, human behavior. We have a tremendous fascination with alternate timelines and serendipity.
But when one of us decides to write to an advice column, while considering throwing a whole life away in exchange for a chance encounter, we have to question how much pondering is too much.
This past week, via Dear Prudence on Slack, a woman wrote in for advice about something happening in her life that felt like it was coming straight out of Serendipity.
The woman wrote:
“Sixteen-plus years ago, I met a man at a night club and we had an amazing connection. He was a young elementary school teacher and I was a college student.”
“We danced the night away, and when the time came for us to exchange digits I thought it was romantic to tell him, ‘If it’s meant to be, we’ll meet again’.”
The woman then went on to explain that this was during the early-2000s and she was obsessed with the Kate Beckinsale-John Cusack rom-com, Serendipity. Apparently, she had totally bought into the idea that a couple destined would continue to run into each other, so she left it to the fates and didn’t trade phone numbers with him that night.
But it didn’t take too long for her to regret her decision.
The woman continued:
“As time passed, I genuinely hoped I would run into him and definitely regretted that numbers were never exchanged. However, I eventually met the man who would become my husband and I figured that it was obviously not meant to be. I forgot about him.”
For most, this would be the end of the story.
One of those “two ships passing in the night” sort of stories. But for this woman, after an unusual coincidence, she may be buying into the whole “serendipity” spiel again.
The woman wrote:
“[I forgot about him] until this August, when the new school year started. It turns out that man is now the new assistant principal at my children’s school.”
“The first time I saw him I couldn’t place him, but later that week it all came back to me. When we finally were face to face, there was a look of recognition, but I’m not sure he could place me either.”
“I’m a happily married woman with children, and I assume he is too. However, the ‘if it’s meant to be, we’ll meet again’ thing is really wearing on me.”
“Do I just let this go? Do I ask him if he remembers me?”
While anyone would probably agree that this could qualify as a “blast from the past” moment, there are certainly a wide variety of opinions about what to “do” in a situation like this one. Especially when there are sixteen years, a marriage and children involved.
Dear Prudence responded:
“As a fellow early-2000s Serendipity obsessive, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to not blow up your happy marriage. The next time you see him, say, ‘David? I thought that was you!’ Start a pleasant conversation, and do not start texting or having solo meals.”
The advice is clear enough: saying hello and even having a friendly conversation is acceptable enough. Anything beyond that, however, could blur boundaries and lead to other, more difficult decisions.
Whether the woman actually wanted to try to rekindle the one-night flame or simply connect with this man is somewhat unclear.
However, most onlookers read it as if she were considering leaving her marriage in favor of this one-night chance.
They haven’t exactly been shy about pointing out how un-serendipitous life typically is.
I do think you can be legitimately happily married and still, like, have passing thoughts about other people and paths not taken, but you cannot THROW YOURSELF INTO THE ELEVATOR OF ADULTERY.— Nicole Cliffe (@Nicole_Cliffe) November 26, 2019
Erm... the guy 100% took that as a brush off and has never thought about her again. What does she think is going to happen here? 🤔— contemptress (@theJessness) November 26, 2019
What happily married person even remotely considers this?!— idiot_girl (@idiot_girl) November 26, 2019
i had dumb overly whimsical ones-that-got-away at, like, 20 or whatever but in the half dozen or so instances where i even remember their names... i actually can't imagine thinking "what i was attracted to at 20 is a good thing that i should seek repeating", married or not— Julian K. Jarboe (@JulianKJarboe) November 26, 2019
I'm still reading but the first couple questions here have strong "YOU DO NOT ACTUALLY HAVE A PROBLEM" energy and I always enjoy that.— Felicity Disco (@FelicityDisco) November 26, 2019
I love your commitment to telling people not to do the very specific things that lead to cheating.— 30-50 Hogs, 40 Pizzas in 30 days (@expelliarmoire) November 26, 2019
Also, does she think this guy is going to want to throw a wrench into his career to date a student’s parent who was too flaky to exchange numbers a million years ago?— Dennis DiClaudio (@dennisdiclaudio) November 26, 2019
“Haha wow do you remember blah blah blah” and then move on to be with your HUSBAND YOU PRESUMABLY LOVE— Higgs Monaghan Onlyfans Subscriber (@antitractionist) November 26, 2019
A lot of folks on Twitter are also taking this as an opportunity to point out their particular distaste for the movie, Serendipity, and how it’s a particularly poor choice to base such a huge decision on.
What girl wasn't obsessed with Serendipity?!— Lacey, Usurper of Men (@LipstickLacey) November 27, 2019
Me & every woman I knew. I did have a guy friend who was capital letter OBSESSED with it. This is the kind of bullshit I can picture him doing maybe ten years ago. 🤦🏻♀️
Yeah, I always found the premise of that film super annoying and anyone who bases their actual life choices on its very flawed plot needs to be slapped— pre-Christmas ghost dog (@JeetoCheesus) November 26, 2019
The movie is good, but the only legitimate reason to be obsessed with Serendipity is because Kate Beckinsale is incredibly witty and hot in it.— KevDog (@kevdog) November 26, 2019
oh my god Serendipity stressed me out more than any horror movie I have ever seen. the whole time I watched it I was screaming "WHY WOULD YOU PUT YOURSELF THROUGH THIS MUCH COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE BURDEN???!!!" [i am very fun]— Kelsey Widman (@kelswid) November 26, 2019
My dad will never recover from his hatred of that movie and will still, when a rom-com seems to be relying too much on chance, will say with disgust “UGH is this one of those SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS?”— It’s pie time, buckos (@jadoogan) November 26, 2019
Our fingers are crossed that the woman was simply surprised to run into an old flame after so long. But just as Dear Prudence pointed out, saying hello may be safe enough, but otherwise drawing clear boundaries is a must.
Basing her decisions in this situation on a film clearly isn’t the way to go, either.