Here’s what happens when you’re willing to compromise your dignity to keep from being ghosted.
I was young and angry once and, during those five or six years, I dated a slew of good-looking guys who were wrong for me, knew it, and, like me, didn’t care. One of them was a surfer named *Shane, whose name has been changed, despite the fact that I’ve only dated one surfer in my life so he needn’t be a sleuth to figure out he’s the star of this post.
Shane and I dated for about six months. During that time, he met my family, whose impression of him was that he appeared slightly comatose at all times, but was nice enough. I accidentally met his when his mom walked in on us hanging out at his house. I believe Shane muttered my name and whisked me off to another corner of his apartment before his mom could ask how I was doing that day. We hung out together at least three nights a week — mostly at my house — but, being young and broke, rarely ventured out on a “proper” young people date that involves throwing money at an establishment in exchange for a plate of cheese fries.
I think he paid for a few alcoholic beverages once in a blue moon, but for the most part, preferred that we spend most of our time together, alone (hello, clue #1 smacking me hard in the face), where he’d bare his soul to me and confess his desire to move away from his small town and not end up like the folks he grew up around. One night on the beach he whispered something that, in my constant state of delusion during that time, indicated he was falling in love with me — but was too frightened to admit it (poor broken him, I thought with delight).
And then, just like that, one day we were over. Mind you, I didn’t know we were over. The phone just stopped ringing and when I called his house, he was never home.
Gee, that’s odd, I thought at first, but was far too arrogant and into hood-winking myself to think anything more about it. I’m sure he’s just busy. He’ll call.
But he didn’t. And, one week later, he still hadn’t.
There wasn’t yet a word for “ghosting,” which was precisely what was happening to me. Someone who I felt had invested time and energy in me and even in my family had suddenly decided it wasn’t working for him, but didn’t have the courage or consideration to at least provide an explanation.
Well, that just wasn’t good enough, I decided by day six. How dare he! I’m not going to make this easy on him — I’m going to make it as awkward as humanly possible.
Shane’s poor younger sister, bless her heart, tried to provide a line of defense between her brother and me, but 21-year-old me wasn’t taking any shit — nor had I developed the confidence and maturity to not take it personally and just move on, something relationship experts now say is the best course of action after you’ve been ghosted.
After two or three days of consistent phone harassment on my part, the kind that would result in a restraining order these days, Shane finally relented.
By this point, I had my monologue down pat — this young man was about to receive the verbal lashing of a lifetime. And yes, confronting him was less about receiving closure than it was about stroking my battered ego and making it known that I would not be ghosted (or, as we called it in those prehistoric days, be made to look like an asshole).
Listen, I don’t really care if you never want to see me again (lies, lies!). But you could at least have the courtesy of calling me because that’s the right thing to do (truth bomb). And you should know that because you aren’t going to get anywhere in life if you do things like this (hello, I’ve just transformed into your wise 65-year-old grandma who only has your best interests at heart. Really, this isn’t about me at all).
He stammered. He sounded remorseful. He said, “I’m sorry.” At the end of the day, Shane was a very nice guy who was more interested in escaping and surfing than me, something that isn’t a crime against humanity.
But an apology was all I was going to get from him. It wasn’t closure and didn’t make me feel less jilted, but asserting myself did make me feel like less of a victim. None of it ultimately mattered because I walked away from the phone that day feeling like something was wrong with me because a guy who had been super into me was willing to pretend I had never existed.
And that’s where I was wrong. Shane just wasn’t that into me. Had he been, I would have known his family members and hung out with his friends. There were other clues I chose to ignore — mannerisms and words that made it clear this was nothing more than a fun few months for him. I’m not justifying his attempts at ghosting because it’s always a disrespectful thing to do, especially if you’ve been on more than a few dates. But we have to keep our eyes open wide when we date and not create fantasies about the relationship we wish we were having. We can’t abandon our sense of truth and leave it to our partner to decide the course of the relationship.
If I ever see Shane again, assuming he doesn’t bolt out the door in terror, I’d say hello and laugh about it all. I’d be happy to see him and I hope he’s happy with however his life turned out. I hope he escaped.
At the end of the day, you can’t control how others treat you, but you can choose not to lower yourself, demand that your ego be stroked or delude yourself into thinking everyone should feel about you the way you feel about them. I don’t believe you have to confront your ghosts to move on with your life — sometimes it’s better to understand why they vanished so as not to take up space that will be occupied by someone who should be there.