Ghostbusting: Considering The Disappearing Boo

Dating these days is like something out of a made-for-TV Halloween special. When we’re coupled off, we have our “boo.” And when we want to extricate ourselves from something perhaps in need of an exorcist, we ghost.

casper
As a tween, I had a crush on Casper (well, on Devon Sawa.) But as a grown-up, being Caspered isn’t so friendly.

Over the summer and again in November, the New York Times committed a good amount of print space to the act of ghosting, or the childish act adopted by grown-ups of giving someone the silent treatment… permanently. But as any Millennial and older knows, if by the time you’re 30 you haven’t been ghosted by someone you’re dating and/or ghosted someone you’re dating, then you haven’t really dated.

The November New York Times Modern Love piece on ghosting followed the progressing mental stages of a woman who had just been ghosted by a guy she had been seeing for two weeks. I couldn’t entirely tell to what degree the piece was satirical (two weeks? And she’s flipping out? I don’t even add a guy into my contacts until week four, let alone make an emotional investment at two… especially in this age of the disappearing boo…. jeeeez). But her piece made the point that the silence forced on us by the ghoster is a trigger. We look in the mirror and ask, “What’s wrong with me?” And then we find 1,005 answers (some valid, some hogwash) to that question.

When I was a tween, I had a crush on Casper the Friendly Ghost (well, I had a crush on Devon Sawa, to be clear.) But as an “adult,” being Caspered isn’t so friendly. Being ghosted is just like any other kind of break-up — it can lead us to believe we are unloveable.

Being ghosted by someone we’ve just started dating is highly insulting and yet, when there’s no relationship to break-up from, sometimes it really is the most humane way to end it. Like ripping off the band aid, or a single shot to the head.

When he or she just isn’t that into you, sometimes silence is the clearest and kindest message. Sometimes there just isn’t much to explain — this thing just doesn’t feel right.

“Thanks for your voice message,” Chris said to me in a text. “Most people don’t show that kind of courtesy. Maybe we can be friends?”

Chris is a guy I had a handful of working day midday dates with. I was just out of a long term relationship. He worked in a building a 5 minute jaunt from my office and lived in a rented house 15 minutes from where I lived. He liked outdoor things and to read books, real books as opposed to a Kindle. Sometimes, we ran into each other in the Wednesday Farmers Market. When we sat down to lunch or a coffee break, it was a pleasant hour or so. But when we parted ways, I just didn’t feel it. He sent me a text to plan a second “real” date. I called him to say, thanks, but I wasn’t ready to start dating again. A partial lie — had he been a little different, had things felt a little different, I would have been ready to date again.

“Yes. You can never have a shortage of good friends!”

“Great. How about friends who make-out. You have gorgeous lips.”

“Don’t push your luck, buddy.”

Chris and I never hung out again. But not because someone pulled a disappearing act. We wanted different things and paid each other the courtesy of sharing that fact.

But had I ghosted him, would he have been surprised or hurt? Probably not. It wasn’t a relationship. It was a few public sightings, exchanges, and some dates.

Now, Ghosting a longer-term partner? That’s just cowardly.

Ghosting a friend? That should be a one-way ticket straight to hell.

Because here’s the thing: Once you have a measurable past with someone, they deserve to know that you don’t want to have a present or future with them. 

You can leave out The Why, because The Why is only important if you want to try to fix things. But tell them good-bye. Friends and girlfriends/boyfriends have earned certain rights, and one of them is the courtesy of a break-up.

Even a post-it note break-up is better than a ghosting.

post it break up

 

 

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Out or In? Acknowledging What We Really Want

As he placed the bowl of strawberries and a plate of fresh mozzarella in front of me, I thought: we’re a total cliche.

The plan had been to meet at his place for a rooftop drink, then grab dinner and the new Woody Allen flick. 45 minutes to get all dressed up, and we didn’t even make it to the club… Instead of dinner and a movie, we were sitting in his kitchen snacking on bits of things he’d picked up earlier that day at the family-owned Italian market around the corner from his one bedroom flat on the top floor of a Brooklyn brownstone. I was in a gray undershirt he’d pulled from a pile of recently washed leisure cloths. He sported a pair of boxer briefs. It was the summer after all, and central air is a luxury not found in pre-war residences.

“You should come back next weekend,” he said. “During the daytime. We’ll shop the corridor of old family businesses my grandmother used to frequent, and then we’ll cook dinner.”

Nothing says happy couple like a date-night in, cooking together...
Nothing says happy couple like a date-night in, cooking together…

A week later, we did just that. Standing in his small kitchen, chopping tomatoes and swapping family sauce secrets, and pausing from the chore of cooking every so often to dance to the silence between tracks on the playlist, we were completely apart from the world. We were neatly  and romantically tucked away into a bubble of domestic bliss. As he cracked open a mediocre bottle of wine (a gift from his landlord) and as we shared the most tasteless bowl of rigatoni I’d ever concocted, I thought: we may not cook well together, but this feels good. This is what I want.

It turned out it was what he wanted too. As we put away the dishes, he told me he couldn’t see an ending for us. Perhaps, we’d found the one?

(Spoiler alert: we broke up 6 months later.)

These are the kind of tender moments from relationships past that I bury in the recesses of my memory as I move further away from them, both chronologically and emotionally.

Two years later, and a few hours after diner at a friend’s flat, these vignettes, and ones like them, resurfaced. Over a home-cooked meal of a different nature we had talked about what constituted a “grown-up” relationship, and what he wanted/was ready for now — he painted a rather domestic scene of shared nights in, conversation exchanged over a bottle of wine, etc.

This didn’t surprise me. In my experience, most of the men I dated moved from going out to staying in as soon as I gave his apartment a passing mark. For me, this turn inward was often a point of contention.

cold weather coupleI am almost stubbornly independent. Personal space and alone time are precious, not commodities, but necessities for me. In a similar vein, while I fully embody the home-maker sign of the zodiac, my romantic search has been motivated by finding an activity partner. I’m an adventurer, and when asked when I’m looking for, I usually choose “someone to go out with” rather than “someone to come home to.” Spending our nights together on the couch didn’t seem domestic, it seemed lazy. Expecting I would spend my weekends at his place, on his couch, didn’t seem domestic, it seemed invasive and possessive.

Opening up my mind’s vault to those scenes was revealing. That my most treasured memories from broken romances revolved around a pseudo home life was at first disturbing. I was forced to admit to myself that my favorite stage in a relationship is the part when we’re okay with looking inward, when we’re okay being more home-centric than out and about. I haven’t decided if I have any profound take away from this realization yet — perhaps I have a more focused idea of what I want for myself? Maybe. I know I want to strike a balance between being a nesting pair and a social duo. And what I also know is that I haven’t made finding Mr. Right any easier through this confession — it’s far easier to find someone you can run with than to find someone you want to sit still beside.

 

Considering “Speed” Dating

As a rule, I generally mistrust people who just meet me and decide they like me. You say you want to get drinks sometime? That we should go here or visit there? Why? What do you think I can do for you?

This is, of course, an unhealthy reaction, but it’s also the by-product of being in a position in life where people generally DO want something from you — like my economics problem set or a solo exhibition or access to myroladex or a no-pants dance party.

So, not surprisingly, when a date expresses interest to see me again tomorrow, or perhaps the day after, I balk. But unlike professional relationships, there’s more to it than a skepticism in the sincerity or intentions behind his enthusiasm.

Cut to scene:

I’m sitting on a corner stool at the counter at Diner, a vintage diner done slightly upscale in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, munching on northern-style southern-style fried green tomatoes, recovering from 3 hours of over exposure to glaring sun, swapping life and dating updates with JC, the requisite “big brother” figure every girl needs to have in her Little Black Book.

(Aside — if you’re a single female in Williamsburg, you have exactly 4 dating options: Mr. Tattooed sleeves, Mr. Bearded, Mr. Tattooed Sleeves and Bearded, or stay single. Apparently, diversity is not counter-culture’s strong point.)

His flame of less than a month was proving a challenge for a number of reasons.

“We’re seeing each other once a week, at best.” He started. “She’s going away. I’m going away. She wants to spend the long weekend with her mother. We live 4 miles apart but that 4 miles is an hour and a half commute.We’re dancing around the issue that we’re just not hanging out. I’m sorry, but I want that big, all-in romance. Where you see each other 2, 3 times a week.”

I wasn’t sure if the scowl I felt forming on my face was visible yet, but I’m pretty sure my “that’s just silly!” made my point.

By “that” I mean the sentiment that it’s perfectly reasonable to expect someone you’ve just started seeing to give you three days in the same week.

In past generations, “walking out” with someone was a weekly occurrence, not a 3x a week event.

When our parents generation was dating, couples saw each other once a week, on weekends. That was sufficient. We seem to need someone’s constant availability to feel like we’re in a new relationship.

To me, that’s jumping the gun.

We live in an age of over sharing and hyper exposure. We move fast. We sign one year leases. We put in 18 months at one firm before we start searching for an opportunity at the next firm. Problems are solved with the swipe of our index finger and the aid of a logarithm. We live in a city that never sleeps and offers endless opportunities for the next best thing. We strive for bigger paychecks. We clamor to build ever-expanding networks. We believe relationships of all forms can be forged on social media or at a cocktail party, and forget that real meaning builds over time.

As someone who has dated guys who have absolutely no out-of-work interests, I wonder about a person whose calendar is so void of commitments — work, family, social, community service, whatever — that they can just squeeze me, a relative stranger, in at beep of a text message. I have things to do, why don’t you?

More over, I’m skeptical about someone who is so fickle that they can make me the single most important thing in his life and toss out everything to make time for me. I haven’t earned a listing on your “favorites,” so why are you bumping drinks with someone else to meet me for dinner? What does this mean for an “us” in the long run? When will I get bumped for a better offer?

It seems to me, we date like we’re hyped up on amphetamines –we date on Speed. It’s all hot and passionate for a brief while and then it fades. We’re on to the next, and it’s the same. There’s no building smolder. It’s just on, at full intensity. And then it’s off.

While I’m flattered by your enthusiasm, and yes, I want to see you 10 minutes after we say good-night too, I just can’t believe this is a healthy way to get to know someone.

When I look at the most successful couples I know, they began slow and steady. Their approach to dating was “old school.” Some didn’t even like one another when they first met. It took the prodding of mutual friends and gradually spending time one on one to make the relationship blossom. In one case, it was a long distance affair for months, and when the two were finally sharing the same zip code, it was months before they started seeing each other 2 or more times in the same week.

I’ve survived both the slow build and the intense fire. While so far neither approach has got me to a happily ever after, it was the relationships that developed over time that were more satisfying while I was in them, and more painful to lose.

To wrap it all up, I think you need to earn your place in someone’s life. Yes, there comes a time when it’s reasonable to expect spending a whole weekend together, or several nights a week, but not at the start.

We expect Platinum privileges when we haven’t even earned Gold Status.

Take it slow is old advice, but perhaps there are reasons why it’s endured so many generations. Balance and restraint are surprisingly sexy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Truths About Online Dating

Every guy with an online dating profile thinks he's this guy.
Every guy with an online dating profile thinks he’s this guy.

The men with the best profiles are 5’8 or shorter.

It’s not okay to give that guy you lived with in college or the guy you kinda had a crush on in high school 4 stars or to “like” him. Just pretend you never saw him. You’re not doing yourself any favours. If you want to see him, send him an email.

Every guy is a laid back kind of guy who likes to cook and travel and wants a true partner in crime.

If he says he’s 5’9, he’s really 5’7. If he says he’s 6’2, he’s really 6’4.

The last time anyone read “The Great Gatsby” was when they were 14. It is also everyone’s favorite book. Listing it as a favorite is a waste of characters.

Every guy has been either Indiana Jones or Maverick at least once for (and possibly every) Halloween.

Your match percentage is entirely based on sex-play preferences and religious views. You are as likely to be incompatible socially with someone who is a 90% match as someone who is a 90% enemy.

Online dating and bar pick-ups -- equal probability of meeting a serial killer.
Online dating and bar pick-ups — equal probability of meeting a serial killer.

No one is really comfortable with being on a dating site. A ridiculous truth because no one should be comfortable meeting drunk strangers at a bar. Your odds of meeting a serial killer or an organ harvester at either venue is entirely equal.

It’s a bad idea to lead with a selfie.

Speaking of profile photos… The ideal photo selection includes: one full body, one smiling, one of you doing an activity you really enjoy. Limit yourself. No one needs to see your instagram feed.

Brevity is the source of wit. Long-winded folks that feel the need to list every book they’ve ever read, or every movie they really, really love have more than a few reasons why they’re single.

There are some great people out there and online. If online dating hasn’t worked out yet, that’s okay. It may not. But if you’re not having fun while you’re doing it, then you’ve only got you to blame.

 

 

Playing by the Rules

The French, apparently, go from kiss to couple faster than a La Mans race car.
The French, apparently, go from kiss to couple faster than a La Mans race car.

“You Americans and your rules of dating!” He said teasingly, before kissing me.

Our conversation of cultural comparisons had revealed that the French don’t date and they don’t play games.  They go from zero to first kiss to bonafide couple in 60 seconds flat. Perhaps this is not surprising for a nation home to La Mans and “la langue de l’amour.”

“As far as rules go when it comes to love, I only have one…” I replied.

I’ll come back to that later.

A few days earlier, I dropped into my favorite department store to cash-in on (or drop cash on?) its annual spring make-up event. Double points. Free gift tote with samples. What do you mean I don’t need another red lipstick? Of course I do! Natasha, the facial-care brand representative who had introduced me to the benefits of toner and weekly exfoliation, was more keen to catch-up on life than sell me eye cream. I was happy for the free make-up application and girl chat.

Under the influence of pink ginger ale, I divulged that I had stumbled out of a relationship and immediately into a new fling with a foreign suitor. Her eyes opened wide and she put down her lipstick pencil.

“Just remember, you have a lot of things going for you. Above all you have the advantage of youth — after you turn 30, men will lose interest.”

Pause.

Context: Natasha is hot and exotic. She has a boyfriend who treats her like a queen. She refuses to get married. She is in her 50s and looks 25. Seriously. She is the best advertisement for $500 face cream in the world.

Resume.

The only games I'm interested in playing are ones like Monopoly
The only games I’m interested in playing are ones like Monopoly

“There are lots of rules out there to playing the game, but there are only a few that matter. Here they are:

1. Make him wait a month before you sleep with him. That’s just long enough to become friends so the sex is better. Any longer and he’ll go looking for it elsewhere.

2. Never let a man walk all over you. Be confident in who you are. A man should enhance your life. Not make it.

and 3. Don’t settle for anyone that doesn’t spoil you rotten. You’re wonderful. You’re a princess and deserve to be treated that way. A man that doesn’t pay at dinner will cheat you in other ways. And watch out for French men. They’re fantastic in bed, but they usually have a mistress. I work for the French. I’ve seen it all.”

Natasha’s words of wisdom blew my mind. And not because she had basically told me my prime only lasted two years. No, mostly because other than #1, her rules sounded less like rules and rather mottoes to date by.

We all acknowledge that dating is a game — this is an unfortunate reality that bothers the hell out of me. The only games I like are Monopoly and Scrabble (which I’m terrible at, but play with competitive enthusiasm/optimism). But I think we misuse the word ‘rules’ when we talk about dating. I prefer to think of these things — things like deciding when a couple takes certain steps — as guidelines, suggestions, a roadmap in finding what will make us happiest in the long run. It’s easy to find someone to go to bed with. Less easy to find someone that will make our whole lives better.

My one rule in dating is simple: Follow my instincts. Not just when it feels right, but also when it feels wrong.

Before I sign off, Natasha gave me one more morsel of wisdom and it’s the insight I might just love the most:

“A good relationship is like a good pair of shoes. A good pair of shoes don’t need breaking in. They fit you right and feel comfortable from the first step. That’s what you’re looking for. You don’t need life blisters.”

A good relationship shouldn't remind you of this Marilyn Minter painting... #artnerd
A good relationship shouldn’t remind you of this Marilyn Minter painting… #artnerd

When You’re Having a Bad Dating Week Just Don’t Read “He’s Just Not that into You”

Jack Berger was my favorite S&TC boyfriend... even if he was insecure and emotionally handicapped

I’ll never forget the first time I saw that episode of Sex & the City where Jack Berger (incidentally, my favorite of Carrie’s emotionally inadequate boyfriends) bursts Miranda’s bubble with the simple phrase “He’s just not that into you.” The scene struck a chord as I had recently tired to tell a good girlfriend exactly the same thing:

“Listen, Jess, he took the evil red-headed stick figure actress to his office party. And the book signing. And dinner. He’s not dating you. He just d0esn’t, ya know, like you.”

Albeit, my phrasing was perhaps a big meaner. But frankly, we had consumed so many bottles of sake that she didn’t pay much attention to my solo shake-up in a chorus of “He’s totally waiting for the right moment to tell you he loves you.”

Gag me with a spoon.

Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy claims: A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.” I’ve never been one of those girls. But that doesn’t mean that once in a rare, rare while, I haven’t found myself face-to-face with a man who ignites daydreams of the possible. Once in a rare, rare while, this pragmatic romantic loses the pragmatic and becomes a full-fledged romantic.

I think the post-it notes say it all...

And it was one of these rare, rare moments that sent me running to the book that came out of that Sex & the City episode, that book “He’s Just Not That Into You.” I had bought it to give to my aforementioned friend. I kept it instead. She clearly had no intentions to read it anyway.

The writers confirmed my intuitions — his lack of follow-up to our enjoyable early dates were sign that he wasn’t interested enough. The reasons were irrelevant, all that mattered was he didn’t like me as much as I had liked him. Ouch.

The book may have been right on some points, but it was wrong to tell me not to chase a little. Years later, when he was on to someone else, he confessed:

“I didn’t think you were that interested. If you had called, I absolutely would have seen you again.”

Some women are barracudas -- flashy fighters worthy of a trophy mount

New York is a man’s world when it comes to dating — this was a conclusion a male friend and I came to not so long ago over coffee. In NYC, an accomplished man with taste and half-way decent looks is the fisherman that doesn’t have to drop a line into the water to catch a fish. The fish just jump into the boat.

In a sea full of well-educated, well-dressed, good-looking fish, a man has options. Some of those women are barracuda — flashy fighters worthy of a wall mount. Which means sometimes, if you don’t want to lose out on a happily ever after, you have to get in the game and hop into that boat.