Before ‘distracted boyfriend’, was there ‘distracted girlfriend’?

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An image that looks strikingly similar to the infamous distracted boyfriend meme. An old photo in sepia colours from the 1950s. On the right, a male Navy cadet walks with his arm around a woman also dressed in Navy attire. She has her head turned and is reaching out to an impeccably-dressed man in Marine Corps dress blues. The man looks outrageously confident.Image source, Leatherneck
Image caption,
The picture appears in a military magazine from 1950

You're not alone if this image looks familiar to you.

Though you've probably never seen a photo of Staff Sergeant Louis Cappazzoli or US Navy recruits Nancy Kelley and Joe Ewing, there is probably something in this picture that you do recognise.

That is, of course, the striking resemblance it bears to the "Distracted Boyfriend" meme which has been ubiquitous in social media in the past couple of years.

It became so popular that even country music legend Dolly Parton tweeted a meme last year, with a play on one of her most iconic songs.

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Meme origins

"Distracted Boyfriend" is the name given to a widely-shared stock image of a man looking at another woman while out with his partner.

The image is usually used to represent the feeling of coveting something you want while ignoring what you already have.

Last year, the internet was abuzz with the suggestion that Charlie Chaplin was "the original distracted boyfriend" after a still from his 1922 film Pay Day was widely shared.

But it later turned out that the image was doctored, meaning that the silent film great cannot lay claim to the title.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

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'Look of confidence'

The photo originates from the October 1950 issue of Leatherneck, a magazine published for US Marines.

Although we do not know the photographer's name, it is possible that they too were in the marines, as at the time the magazine was staffed by the marines in active service.

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The photo has been shared widely online, amassing more than 130,000 upvotes on Reddit, and it is the photo's links to the military that have been at the centre of conversation.

For those with US military knowledge the photo almost has an in-joke - the woman is turning away from a sailor in naval garb and looking towards a sergeant in smart attire.

Several people have imagined that the distracted naval recruit had high standards and preferred a man with military stripes on his uniform.

One person focused on the staff sergeant's "undeniable look of confidence".

Others simply could not help but talk about the uniform, calling it "the best dress blues of any branch", with another joking that they were "the main reason" he enlisted.

Meanwhile, it was not long before one Reddit user turned the picture into a meme itself, showing how people online tend to be more interested in older memes.

Image source, u/thoughtbludgeon/Reddit