Is Ghosting The New Normal?
It was our second "first date."
Two and a half years ago, Steve hit me up on OK Cupid. Not my usual type––he had very long wavy hair, close-shaved beard and mustache, and tats, seemingly everywhere.
Substantially younger than me, he looked older, almost Willie Nelson-ish. Rock girl though I may be in moniker, and in sensibility, that look has nary been my leaning. But, there was something in his eyes, a softness, which softened me. Loving pictures with his young children added to his charm.
They also threw up a big red flag.
My youngest had just left home for college weeks before, and my oldest, although still living with me, was of age, and independent––and, any man who posts pictures with his kids on his dating profile, admirable in so many ways, doesn't exactly scream ready for romance.
I answered him anyway.
Coming off yet another long dry spell, figuratively and literally, there'd been a succession of matches which led to either no communication, conversations which evaporated into cyber air, or, men who did––even after a fun first date.
There was an intense brief romance with a sexy Parisian who said we were soul-connected until he very swiftly disconnected.
He kind of said goodbye before he checked out, which is more thanI can say for Don. His last text invited me to talk. That was three springs ago. He's yet to return the call.
Paul sent me a lovely message saying he wanted me to know he was interested in me but he was leaving the country and that's why he'd be temporarily MIA. Define temporarily.
Post my separation 8 years ago, after a 20-year marriage, I had no clue what dating was about. I'd never done it.
Back in the day, before the internet, and cell phone apps, we met in person. Eyeball to eyeball. Or, at least, eyeball to cute ass. Almost without exception, it was all in for both of us, from the get-go.
My business requires me to leave the sanctity of my kitchen and computer to attend social events; I'm sober, and attend meetings to remain so; I'm blessed to have some wonderful friends who invite me to do stuff with them. I enjoy being out in the world, in spite of my inclination to lazy out and isolate. So, I go.
And, yet, I was meeting no one. It seemed everyone who piqued my interest was either taken or too cool for the room. Or, at least, my room.
After four years of too many nights, weeks, months, alone, with a few dalliances sprinkled in between, my therapist encouraged––badgered me, to get on the dating sites.
I must have had beginners luck because pretty much everyone I matched with reached out and wanted to meet. I had no idea at the time what an anomaly that was. I consumed enough Starbuck's to drown a rhinoceros. Of all the men I connected with, I discovered without exception, all of them had lied about at least one thing in their profile. And none yielded or warranted a second date.
Seeking substance, Tinder led to OKCupid, where profiles were more in-depth and there were questions to match compatibility. But, unlike Tinder, OKCupid, not linked to Facebook, or corroborated by anything, quickly proved to be filled with men who either stole their pictures from others, or, were involved with others, and were just looking for some online intrigue––like maybe some naked pictures, or, a playmate to sext with.
After innumerable connections with men who upon being asked the most basic question, like, "What's your name?" disappeared into the night, I decided to focus elsewhere. Not before being blindsided by a seemingly real, genuine good guy who romanced the shit out of me before pulling a Houdini whenI asked to switch to text.
Doing a reverse Google Image search (I amassed a few tricks after being repeatedly burned) I learned that he was a Mormon, dating a gorgeous 19-year-old who clearly assumed she had his undivided attention. When I messaged him on Twitter, he panicked, claimed someone stole his pics, and within a week, proposed to said girl.
OKCupid, I decided, was stupid.
Back to Tinder, which at least connects to one's Facebook, and eliminated the total imposters. Except Ryan, who was actually Patrick, discovered accidentally when he said he was in one state but the app disagreed and placed him in another. He was gone faster than a box of Krispie Kremes at an AA meeting.
Photo by Jewel Samad/Getty Images.
This time around, matches either never begat a word, ceased after a hello or so, or, they'd provide an unsolicited dick pic within moments.
I was schooled by my male friends that "What are you looking for?" is code for hookup. When I wasn't game for that, they were gone into the ether.
Granted, I lean young, but even when I made a conscious effort to make more appropriate choices the results remained pretty much the same.
It's me. Right?
Speaking to just about every single and seeking person I know––not so much.
When Steve, the single dad appeared, in spite of his hair and tattoos, he was a successful creative businessman and he seemed relatively normal.
After a few days of intense text exchanges, I pushed away a few warnings of deviancy, encouraged by his seemingly sane life, and his dogged appreciation and pursuit of me.
We met at a park on a cloudy afternoon. From the first moment, any reservations I'd had were gone––a bolt of connection and attraction struck hard and fast. We talked for hours, without breaking eye contact.
When he had to leave to pick up his kids, he kissed me, gently, briefly, yet it was sparky and memorable. He said he'd like to take me on a proper date––at night. I was thrilled and yet, without thinking or taking a pause, I asked how this could work with his full-time responsibility to being a dad and my newfound freedom. He assured me that he could work it out, that's what babysitters were for.
I left him, hopeful and high-flying, my gut nagging, "Why did I pose that question when things felt so damn good?" Fear? Self-sabotage? Nah! The way he looked at me. It was ok. As if to confirm that, a lovely text exchange followed.
When days later, the texts we're becoming frequently less inspired, and less, period, I was still shocked when without notice, they ceased completely, except mine to him which went unanswered.
I blamed myself.
I obsessively checked his Instagram seeking an answer, garnering none. Eventually, I stopped looking. When I'd scroll past his posts in my feed I'd get a pang of WTF and move on––until this one night two and half years later. An artful, ridiculously sexy image of a man and woman kissing appeared. Without intending to, my mouse lingered a bit too long over the photo and somehow Liked it without my knowledge or consent. Mortified, I instantly reversed it.
Too late. A moment later he private messaged me as if a few days had passed since our last date.
Still, somehow, liking the guy, wanting answers, and not wanting to kibosh it again (because of course, it was my fault last go ‘round), I made no reference to the passage of time or his vanishing act. We went out again, this time on that proper date for dinner; making out like teenagers on the sidewalk afterward, maybe not so proper. So, we took a drive. If we had heat the first time, this time we had fire. When we said goodnight, we talked about picking it back up soon, not before I again brought up his kids. Oh yes, I did.
For the next couple of days, there were a few lame texts, initiated by yours truly. Then silence. When a few days later he reached out, I was ecstatic, this time was different.
That was the last I heard from him.
Three weeks ago, Jon asked me out the very day we matched.
I was freshly smarting from a painfully abrupt break up with a guy I'd actually been seeing for a few months. I was determined to get back on the dating horse and not suffer. This was quick, but Jon was intelligent, funny, accomplished, and like-minded. Why not?
Over dinner, we talked about online dating, and ghosting. He admitted I was his first physical date after months on the app. He said he'd ghosted more than a few women after messaging them.
When pressed, he explained his reluctance to start anything––it seemed more effort than it was worth––or he was willing to take after a messy divorce. He said I was different. Walking me to my car he asked permission to kiss me. That's kind of weird, and not very sexy, but he said he’d been thinking about it throughout dinner and wanted me to know this wasn't a friend thing. He added, "No ghosting, ok?" He wasn’t kidding, there’s no friend thing, there’s no no-thing.
It's been radio silence ever since.
I've spent the last couple of weeks talking to everyone I can think of who online dates in an attempt to understand what the hell is going on.
Is ghosting the new normal?
It appears to be sadly more true than not. I'm not the only one having these kinds of experiences. And yet, there seem to be plenty of stories of people who meet online and not only date but mate––some even partnering for the long haul.
Is it a numbers game and I picked a really high one?
It seems in part to be a Mars/Venus thing. Some men swipe every single woman, and then, after they match, look at her pictures. If they like her, maybe then they read her profile. I don't know these men personally, or at least none of the ones I do will cop to that behavior. But I do know quite a few who've said that matching alone is the conquest, and once that's done they lose interest and it's on to the next.
Or, they're so interested that fear takes over and worry about money, their car, career, their sex, and whether they'll measure up, drives them to give up before they start. And yet, one friend admitted that if he connected with a woman who really rang his bell he'd push through.
So it's true, he's just not that into you.
I know women have ghosted in kind. Myself, included. But I can explain mine. Can too. If a guy's creepy or inappropriate, I feel justified in not responding. And, a few times I realized I’d made mistake and it was easier to just drift away. Shoot me. From the left. It’s my good side.
So where does that leave us?
It leaves me ghosting my machines. I’m done. Finished. I can’t take it anymore.
I’ve said that at least 37 times.
Then I get stuck in traffic, or in line at Ralph’s, and while the cashier swipes my groceries, I’m back swiping my next future ghost.
Could he at least look like Patrick Swayze? Please.