The first time I was ghosted, I didn’t understand what I had done wrong.
I met Chris in a little cocktail bar one rainy night in London not long after I had moved to the city (sidenote: my best friend has demanded that I never again date a guy called Chris… I’m cursed with guys called Chris). We had a fantastic date, one of my best ever, and it culminated with both a passionate kiss and an invitation to a second date. He texted me on the way home.
“I can’t stop smiling…,” he wrote, and oh my god, there is no better feeling than getting that text after making out with a ridiculously hot, ridiculously intelligent journalist named Chris, let me tell you. He was the inspiration for the second part of this post.
Over the next couple of days, we texted back and forth and made plans for our upcoming dinner date. And then, the day before, I texted him to confirm what time we were meeting. No response. That seemed a bit strange, but I tried not to let it bother me until the next day. By lunchtime – I would assume we were meeting only a few hours later – I texted again. Yes, oh yes, the dreaded double-text. But I was kind of worried, and very confused.
“Hey,” I texted. “Are we still on for tonight?”
And that, dear friends, is when I encountered my first ghost.
Before Chris, I don’t think I had heard the term “ghosting” before. It essentially means to just disappear on someone, leaving them hanging. This can occur in many ways – the good old-fashioned “he stood me up” bit – but nowadays tends to occur when someone simply cuts communication altogether. I’ve also heard this referred to as “blue-ticking” someone, meaning you can see that they read your message on WhatsApp (or whatever form of communication you use) but they didn’t reply.
I seem to recall a Sex and the City episode where Miranda gets stood up for a date, and her friends pipe in that he might have died. And – any SATC fans out there? – if memory serves me correctly, he really did die. OK. If someone ghosted on me and then literally turned out to be a real ghost i.e. he passed away… yes, I would take back any ill will I wished upon that person, obviously*. Ghosting is sort of a funny term to me, because ghosts haunt you, popping up when you least expect them. The people who “ghost”, however? Oh no. They disappear for good. And it happens a hell of a lot more frequently than I first realised.
Case in point? I realised how prevalent ghosting had become when I told my friend about a guy who dumped me over a drink last year, and her first words were, “Aw, he actually broke up with you in person? That’s so sweet!” True story.
The second time I was ghosted, I didn’t understand why the guy ended up being such an asshole.
I met Mark in a crowded bar over thumping dance music and too many pints. He tried to kiss me on the dance floor, I got weirded out, and he convinced me to give him my number so he could take me out and make it up to me. To my surprise, he actually texted the next day.
It turns out Mark and I were a great match, creepy drunken behaviour excepted. We met up once or twice a week for a couple of months, and it was a really fun start to a relationship. I thought things were going really well; he even called me out of the blue once when he was feeling stressed, asking to meet up “because I always made things better.” It felt like we were on track to something great.
We were supposed to meet up on a Sunday night at 8pm in my local pub. I had even run into him the day before – we live in the same neighbourhood – and he had introduced me to his friends and said he was excited to see me. I texted him on Sunday afternoon to confirm I’d be at the pub at 8, but he didn’t respond.
“Weird,” I thought, but I obviously went to the pub anyway.
And… you know what’s coming. He didn’t show up. I texted again (I know, I KNOW… the double-text) and said, “You coming? Everything ok?”
I never heard from him again. But hey, at least I got another story out of it, because he was the inspiration behind this post (FYI, you really should think twice before ghosting a blogger, especially one who writes a series called The Last Time I Saw You, heh).
I wish that I could say that I played it cool and just let it go, but he really pissed me off. Two months of dating? Meeting each other’s friends? C’mon dude. That’s just mean. A few days later I wrote him a text saying I had expected more of him, and that I wished he hadn’t been such a coward. I mean, at least have the guts to send a quick text saying it’s over… right?
And that’s what gets me the most about ghosting. When someone ghosts you, you’re left in a state of limbo – the rational side of you knows that the person is no longer interested, but you still hold out a bit of hope. There are those horrible few days when you check your phone a lot more than usual, thinking they might just have been really busy (although as my friend crudely but accurately says, “If you can shit, you can text”) or something happened to their phone (though with text, WhatsApp, Facebook, and email, just to name a few, that’s hardly an excuse anymore… not to mention you can easily see if someone has been active on social media). Ghosting is such a cowardly act, and not only that, it’s rude. If you spend quality time with someone, or make plans with someone, why not have the decency to text a few lines to say if it’s not working out?
Nearly every unattached friend I have – male or female – has told me that they’ve been ghosted at least once. And while it doesn’t get any easier to take, I have realised over the years that it can actually be a really good thing. To reiterate, the people who ghost are either cowardly or assholes (or at least exhibiting asshole behaviour), or sometimes a combination of the two. When someone ghosts you, they’re showing you exactly who they are. They’re showing you that they are capable of acting quite selfish and inconsiderate… and why would you want to be with a person like that? As one of my favourite people on the internet, Mark Manson, writes, if you’re in the grey zone, you’ve already lost. And if someone ghosts you, or frequently ignores your messages, you are definitely in the grey zone… in fact, there’s no doubt about it, you’re out of the game all together.
I have no idea what photo to post in an article about ghosting, so here are some horses in Bhutan
There really is no explanation why people ghost, although I think most people either a) don’t care very much b) have changed their mind and don’t want to/don’t know how to end it or c) find it the easy way out of something they’re not ready to define (although a friend of mine was ghosted after dating someone for a year. A YEAR). It comes from a place of fear, as in, they’re scared of having to share their feelings and *gasp* put themselves out there for a potentially awkward text conversation that really only has to take up five minutes of their life. They may not be an inherently bad person, but ghosting is definitely bad behaviour.
Is there ever an OK time to ghost someone? Perhaps – maybe if you only had a couple of dates and you didn’t make specific plans for another rendezvous – but for the most part, it is so much easier and so much more respectful to just send a polite goodbye text (unless you are being harassed or made to feel uncomfortable, in which case, ghost that motherfucker no matter how long you have been dating).
For example, I recently went out with a very sweet, very kind man. We went on two dates; the first one was fun, but by the time we met for the second date, something with the chemistry just seemed off (i.e. I didn’t want to kiss him, and the conversation felt stilted). We discussed a potential third date – bowling – but a few days later I knew I had to call it off.
“I’m sorry, Jonathan,” I wrote. “I don’t think I can meet you on Thursday. I really liked hanging out with you but I don’t see a future for us. I hope you understand.”
Listen – that is not a fun text to write nor a fun text to receive. But at least it’s honest, and he knew exactly where he stood. He wrote back almost immediately saying he did understand, and it was nice to meet me, and he wished me all the best. There! Done!! Neither of us had to harbour any ill will or frantically check our phone a hundred times a day.
The third time I was ghosted, the most recent time, I didn’t understand why I didn’t see it coming.
I don’t want to say too much about this situation, because it goes deeper than what I’m sharing here and it is quite recent, but let’s just say this one had an international twist. If you read my blog regularly and/or follow me on social media, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out which country I’m talking about.
I knew this person for three months; we talked nearly every day after first meeting (texting or Skyping), and, oh yeah, he flew me back to his country to see him. After that visit – which was incredibly fun – we discussed seeing each other again a couple of months later, and we continued to talk a lot. And then, a couple of weeks later… oh yes. He vanished. One day there, the next… just gone.
I never thought that this person was going to be a serious boyfriend, but I did care about him. I knew it had an expiration date, but I thought we’d end up as friends, or that it would at least end on a nice note. Of course, I was totally gracious about the situation, and backed quietly into the shadows so that he could continue to live out his life. Ha ha! Nope, of course I didn’t. After weeks of silence (except when he asked me for tips about Instagram… which I gave him) I wrote him a message saying that I was sad that we were no longer in each other’s lives but I wished him the best, to which – as if this shocks anyone – he never replied.
And that’s another thing about ghosting… do you write to the ghost? And if so, what do you say? Do you ask why they decided to stop seeing you? Do you reveal your anger or your sadness, either way exposing that you did indeed care for him or her?
If you think it will make you feel better, or if you like having closure, I say go for it, because at this point you have nothing to lose… but know that in all likelihood the person won’t reply. I mean, if they don’t have the balls to tell you they want to end things, they probably won’t have the balls to say they’re sorry. Take it from me, though: write your message, then delete half of it, then wait a day, then show it to your most hard-nosed friend, then wait another day, and then if you still want to send it, go ahead. Be the bigger person and write something short but cool-headed, something you won’t cringe over the following week. Try to keep it classy, collected, and brief.
Just don’t drive yourself crazy checking for those blue ticks.
And then just laugh about it… after a few Aperol Spritzes, maybe
So, in conclusion, ghosting sucks, and I still don’t understand why some people do it when it’s just so much easier and kinder to be honest. But for all the times it has happened to me, and for all the times it has happened to my friends, know this: it is most likely not your fault. Most likely, the person you’re dating wasn’t ready for something with you, be it serious or not; he may have realised he didn’t like you very much after all or, as much as it hurts, he may have started dating someone else. And yeah, that’s an awful feeling – that someone doesn’t even care about you enough to text you (or, shock of all horror, actually call you) in order to spare your feelings, let alone want to date you. But as I’ve written about on this blog before, if someone doesn’t want to be with you… why do you want to be with them?
I still get bummed out when I’m ghosted – it’s easy to let it initially knock your self-esteem down a few notches – but as mentioned above, I’m also thankful for it, because it shows me what kind of person I was dealing with. If he can’t even muster up the courage to write me two lines of text, what other emotional baggage am I going to have to deal with later on? Ghosting is a huge indicator of both immaturity and instability. And honestly, at this point in my life, anyone who has this lack of emotional depth and a lack of basic courtesy is just holding up the line. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: there are plenty more fish in the sea. It would be awesome to find a fun, adventurous partner, but I’m not going to sit around waiting for a phone call or text when there’s so much more of life to explore. One of the absolute best books I’ve read about dating in the modern age is Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari… I definitely recommend it. I nodded along the entire time.
So ladies (and the four gentlemen who read this blog), take heart: ghosting is real, yes, and it is shitty, but it doesn’t mean you should lose any self-respect, nor does it mean you should lose faith in dating. When someone ghosts, they’re making it very easy for you to see that they’re definitely not the person for you, and that you’re much better off without them. As soon as you realise this, you have room in your life for so many other fun things: new partners, sure, but also a new freedom to do whatever the hell you want to do… without having to worry that you’ll miss that text if you’re in the shower.
So hold your head high, realise being ghosted had nothing to do with you and everything to do with someone else’s inability to communicate, and repeat after me: I ain’t afraid of no ghost. I’m sorry. I had to.
Have you ever been ghosted? Or… have you ghosted someone before? Why did you do it?
*By the way, I totally e-stalked these guys to see if they really did die. Chris is still writing for a super fancy newspaper (not dead), Mark updated his cover photo on Facebook to show his latest antics at Burning Man (also not dead), and the international man of mystery regularly posts photos on Instagram using the tips I gave him (definitely not dead).