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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, afterthey match, look at her pictures. If they like her, maybethen 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.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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