There didn’t used to be a catchy phrase assigned to it when I first entered the dating pool roughly 25 years ago. You think everything is going well and you’ve made a real connection with someone who seems just as enamored with you, and then suddenly they disappear. That’s all we could say – “disappeared” – and shrug our shoulders, and wonder what in the hell happened. Back when all we had were street addresses and land line phones to go off of with information, it was much easier to disappear, especially if the person disappearing didn’t travel in the same circles as you. There was no chance of someone coming back to you and saying, “Oh, I heard about Ben – turns out he ran off with a stripper, and I know where they’re living – wanna TP their single-wide trailer?”
Here is the Urban Dictionary definition of ghosting: “The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. Ghosting is not specific to a certain gender and is closely related to the subject’s maturity and communication skills. Many attempt to justify ghosting as a way to cease dating the ghostee without hurting their feelings, but it in fact proves the subject is thinking more of themselves, as ghosting often creates more confusion for the ghostee than if the subject kindly stated how he/she feels.”
Our current technology has made it nearly impossible to disappear like we used to. We can pay for electronic searches, we can search online public records, we can search for friends of friends on Facebook, we can…wait, I don’t want to give everything away. But it can be done. (Disclaimer: If I am looking for an ex, it is usually to find out if he is staying put while I move around so I feel a little more safe.)
I have become a lot more forward and plain-spoken than I was in my 20s, and so I’m much less likely to ghost someone. In other words, I’ve learned from being both the person on the receiving end of the ghosting as well as being the ghost, and I’ve evolved enough to know that it’s better to communicate than to leave the other person wondering what in the hell is going on. Do not mistake this for other situations where you have given the other person reasons ad nauseum as to why you’re not interested or you don’t want to be contacted again, because that is not the same as a ghosting.
The worst ghosting that was ever done to me was from a guy whom I dated for 6 months from 2004-2005. We met through an internet site – maybe Lavalife? – and bonded over our love of the arts and singing. He was going through his second divorce and at the time had a 3-year-old son. He worked for a credit union, but that only paid the bills; his real passion was doing voice-over work (he was hired for the animated show “The Critic” to perform 30+ voices shortly before it was cancelled), and he liked to write children’s sci-fi. He LOVED the movie “The Incredibles,” and in fact, one of the books he wrote (and copyrighted before the movie was created) was almost exactly like “The Incredibles,” so from this point forward I christen him Mr. Incredible.
Mr. Incredible and I talked on the phone every night – or rather, HE talked about himself for 2-4 hours every night. He moved out to Queen Creek because it was the only place in the Phoenix area where he could afford a house like many others being priced out of the market during the housing bubble, so that meant I had to drive an hour on back roads from my apartment in southeast Phoenix to get to his house even further southeast of town. It meant a lot of driving for me – and I can’t remember why I agreed to do most of the work on that. Also, shortly after we started dating, he acquired two cats for his son because he thought it was really important for him to have pets, never mind the fact that his son tried to kill a cat the year before by throwing it off of a second-floor balcony. (The kid was two. He didn’t know better and they didn’t bother teaching him.) I’m deathly allergic to all animals furred and feathered and it was hell to sleep over. I had also taken a huge pay cut when I relocated from Cincinnati to Phoenix so I didn’t always have cash to buy dinners or even groceries. More often than not, I found myself stopping at the grocery store buying food for Mr. Incredible that we would sometimes eat together, but sometimes it would just be for him and his son. Also, I let Mr. Incredible borrow furniture and blankets for his new house. I met his mom and brother, and he met my parents.
I remember that Mr. Incredible was sad the weekend he found out his divorce from his second marriage had been finalized. I understand that feeling even though I haven’t ever been married or divorced myself, because it makes the split so final. Or so I thought.
Some things changed our dynamic. One was that he accidentally saw me full-Mr. Clean in the bathroom because he walked in on me getting dressed after a shower. This was about four months into the relationship and I could tell it bothered him. Up to that point I had slept in full wigs to try to spare him – and got very little sleep because I would worry about moving around too much and ruining the hair fibers of the wigs, and these wigs in general are miserable to sleep in. The materials they are made of scratch up my tender skin and rub it raw. Around this same time, Mr. Incredible was letting his always-cheerful facade slip. I think he got it in his head that he was a dad and therefore had to be all little league instead of a little dirty, so every time he would suggest something slightly sexually deviant or tell me about his marathon coke-snorting sessions of the past, it was disturbing. That is not to say that I was demanding that he always be cheerful, but I felt as if he wasn’t being his true self.
Mr. Incredible lost his job at the credit union; he said it was a layoff and I have no idea if that was the truth. Our marathon phone sessions began to revolve around revamping his resume and searching for jobs. When we weren’t doing that, he pulled out his Incredibles-esque book for me to edit for both grammar and content. I remember we had another 2-hour phone session on a Saturday night and I knew he had his son that weekend, so I didn’t expect to talk to him until at least Monday. We also traded emails daily up to that point. I (thought I) knew what to anticipate.
I didn’t hear from Mr. Incredible Monday or Tuesday either by phone or email. I left him a message and also emailed him and got no reply. I tried the same again Thursday with the same results. For all of the time we were together, a single day didn’t pass without us communicating, so I knew something was happening. Email and phone weren’t getting the job done, so I decided to stop trying to ask what the fuck was going on.
I drove out to his place on a Saturday morning at around 7 am, when I knew he would still be in bed. I was sick to my stomach and shaking. I rang his doorbell, and I heard some rustling around, and Mr. Incredible came to the door, his hair sticking up all over as if he had just peeled himself off the wall like velcro. He had horrible circles around his eyes and what looked to be three cold sores around his mouth, and all I could think was, “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!” I said, “I don’t care what is going on. I came to get my stuff.” (Mind you, a lot of my belongings were forever donated to him and the house, but I definitely wanted to get back a quilt my mom had made.)
I waited outside while he gathered what he could. After I slammed the trunk shut and got into the driver’s seat, he hung off of the half-open window and said, “I know you were concerned about me finding a job, so I just wanted to let you know that I have some interviews coming up.” Nothing at all about why he had gone radio silent. I told him I didn’t give a shit and I tore away from the curb. I blocked his email and de-programmed my phone so that his number was no longer in my speed dial.
I really didn’t have any idea what happened until I went searching on MySpace a year later and discovered that while we were together, he was also messing around with his most recent ex-wife and got her pregnant.
In 2009, while I was living with Drummer #2, I got an email through YouTube. I didn’t even know that YouTube had an email system! There was a letter from a screen name I didn’t recognize, which started with Mr. Incredible saying that he was using YouTube because I had blocked him everywhere else. At the time he was writing the email he was in the process of divorcing wife #2 a second time (divorce #3, for the record), but the best thing that came out of their second marriage was their second child. It wasn’t an apology. Rather, it was a way for Mr. Incredible to talk about himself yet again. Drummer #2 was actually in the room with me when I got the email and told me I looked as if I had seen a ghost. All of the old emotions came right back up again, dominated by hurt and anger. I wrote back a scathing note basically telling him he was a piece of shit to treat me so poorly after all that I had helped him with, and why did he think it would benefit me in any way for him to tell me that he didn’t regret anything and that he got a daughter out of the deal to boot? Drummer #2, dick that he was, told me that I shouldn’t be upset because at least the guy tried to find me again. The reply I got from Mr. Incredible said that I was right and he was sorry, and he wouldn’t try to contact me again.
And he hasn’t. But every once in a while, I check his Facebook page, and I confirm he still sucks at dating.