I'm sitting in a dark, dingy bar in Toronto's west end. The bartender knows I'm here for a glass of Merlot, even though this is a craft beer place. My friend June is on the Manhattans.
She's telling me about a 25-year-old man with whom she has been flirting. Lately, he's devolved into sending her cryptic emojis and unsolicited late-night dick pics. She has yet to see the dick in person—he seems terrified to pursue any real-life interaction. She asks him when they're finally going to hang out, and he can't provide a concrete answer. She spends a few days obsessing over it, and then decides he needs to be dismissed because it's clearly not going to go anywhere.
You may feel indignant at having to respond to someone who seems to have zero understanding of social cues. But you should. It'll be for your own good and for the small shred of sanity they may have left.
Being honest seems like a lot of work. But actually, it's a practical thing to do—and it's the easy way out. If you ignore them, you will need to continue wasting energy on ignoring their sad awkward texts. You are also bound to run into them again. At the very least, you may run into their friends, who might publicly accost you and call you names like the fuckboi or Trend Boy you are.
As relationship and sexuality expert Esther Perel points out, the proliferation of ghosting as an acceptable exit from someone's life is a "manifestation of the decline of empathy in our society—the promoting of one's selfishness, without regard for the consequences of others.
"In this relationship culture, expectations and trust are in constant question," she writes. "The state of stable ambiguity inevitably creates an atmosphere where at least one person feels lingering uncertainty, and neither person feels truly appreciated or nurtured. We do this at the expense of our emotional health, and the emotional health of others. It's time to bring back relationship accountability."
Ghosting leaves you in a place where you become unable to connect with people, and eventually, you can't connect with yourself. Everyone's self esteem winds up bruised as a result.
My friend Melissa teaches yoga, and we've been tinding together since the summer.
Before online dating, she says, people didn't have the opportunity to move on from fling to fling as quickly, and so instead, they had to digest each experience.
"Now," she says, "the moment people sense a relationship going south, they can line up the next one. It's unhealthy because people do it to avoid facing the unpleasantness of being rejected. Rejection sucks, but there's a lot to be learned from the demise of a relationship or connection, and people are no longer taking that opportunity."
Telling the truth is beneficial to the ghostee because it will help them find peace of mind. We've all ghosted or been ghosted upon, and being ditched leaves even the most self-assured people in a pit of self-doubt.
Almost 20 years ago, our foremother Carrie Bradshaw wrote, "In a world where leaving each other seems to be getting more and more frequent, what are the breakup rules?"
Increasingly, there aren't any, and we're left trying to decipher our ex-lovers' behavior: Why didn't they text me back? Their phone must have broken. This week was really busy for them at work! They haven't been feeling so well. They're really shy, maybe they're afraid things will move too fast…
Though it sounds cruel, you should (kindly) tell the person you're not into them. That lets them know they can move on with their lives and stop wondering if you've been flattened by a car/devoured by wild coyotes. It also brings the focus onto you: It's not their fault if they're not your type, and there's nothing they can do about it.
That said, ghosting is going to continue to happen either way, so I tried to compile a small list of coping mechanisms. I asked one of my man friends, Hot Julian, what he thought about ghosting. (It seems that doesn't happen to him very often). He mused:
"Is the world under-fucked? Maybe if people were getting fucked more, they wouldn't care as much."
That's one way of looking at it. There is something to be said for keeping multiple partners around so that the sting is less severe, but if we're not careful, this can just perpetuate the cycle of not bothering to care for others. As Hot Julian continues to ponder this, though, he comes up with something that rings true: It's easy to do this to one another because we're all sleeping with people we don't know. If we don't know someone, we don't really care about hurting them.
If we want to date, then, we have to, unfortunately, take the time to get to know people.
My friend and fellow journalist/radio producer Kasia Mychajlowycz came at me with a characteristically raw wakeup call as I was lowkey whining to her about the disappearance of a crush a few months ago (seriously, I assumed he had died). She elaborated on the sentiment offered up by H.J.:
"He didn't know you," she said. If people are cutting us out before they know us, there's no need to take it personally. Maybe he didn't like your tits, or maybe you didn't have enough in common, she says. Either way, not your problem.
This is a liberating stance to take, and repeating it to ourselves can alleviate the pain of rejection. We can't all be made for one another. And we can't all have the gonads/decency it takes to be honest when we're not feeling someone.
All of this being said, let's just hope the next person I ghost sucks at doing their googles and doesn't see this story.
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