The Internet was supposed to save dating. Instead, it's ruining it.
Photo illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

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.

Boo.

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.

What?

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.

Or me.

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.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Texas State Senate and The ACLU

There has been a tidal wave of anti-trans legislation proposed over the past few months in the U.S. At least 17 states are now considering restricting anyone under the age of 18 from transition-related care.

Texas is currently debating two anti-trans bills. Once would criminalize parents for allowing their children to receive gender-affirming treatments. Another would criminalize healthcare professionals who administer them.

For a state that prides itself on promoting personal freedom, these bills go out of their way to punish medical professionals and parents for making deeply personal choices. Shouldn't doctors and parents have the right to make medical decisions for children without the state's involvement?

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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