If you're still confused by ghosting, the term given to potential suitors who stop calling or texting after one or a couple of dates, let's be clear: it's not them, it's you. "For Millennials, 'and then I never heard from him again,' is one of the most common endings to great date stories. And we all deserve a happier, non-Sopranos-style ending," Sara Ashley O'Brien writes, explaining the trend of ghosting, for The Date Report.
Ghosting specifically refers to when someone you went on a date or three with, for whatever reason, stops responding to text messages. Instead of spelling out that they would not like to see you, you just keep sending your messages into the ether— a frustrating experience. "I blankly stared at my phone, awaiting his response, until eventually I blinked and realized what had happened: I had been ghosted," O'Brien wrote.
O'Brien isn't the first person to be haunted. This phenomenon isn't anything new. Back in the days before text messaging ghosts took different forms and stopped answering their e-mails, pages, phone calls, and doors. XOJane, purveyor of those wondrous "It Happened to Me" stories, wrote about ghosting back in September when it was known as the slow fade. "You can’t quite figure out what happened because… nothing happened. It’s almost like your paramour ceased to exist," Victoria Carter, crusader against the slow fade of ghosts, wrote.
The thing that undermines these diatribes against ghosting is that O'Brien, Carter, and the Ghostbuster in all of us know what happened with their ghost. It just didn't work out and sometimes we just can't accept it.
No person who has gone on dates in the last six years is genuinely confused about the message that ghosting sends. We live an age where we can listen to whatever songs we want at any moment, get in touch with anyone at any second, and order mozzarella sticks or a hookup with flick of an app. If someone you're interested in isn't answering your texts within five minutes, they are either dead, at a movie (and still have manners), or just don't want to date you.
"When it comes to modern digital relationships, the rhythm of the exchange tells us as much as its literal content, and it doesn’t take any specialized skill to read between the lines," Slate's Amanda Hess, a ghost whisperer, astutely pointed out.
If someone is not answering to your texts, that's as clear as a text message saying that they had a nice time but that you should be friends. (Which in and of itself is a lie anyway.) Deep down, like Nicole Kidman in The Others, O'Brien and Carter know this too. "In a way, I wanted him to know that, if he was ghosting me, I was onto his exit strategy," O'Brien wrote. Carter's response was a little more blunt: "It’s [the slow fade] also known as: “Bitch get a clue, it’s not happening."
At the heart of it, ghosting is as clear as any other form of rejection. The reason we complain about it is because we wanted a different outcome ... which is totally understandable. But if people hated ghosting as much as they say they do, then why do we never get columns about the ghosts we weren't interested in who never texted back? It's the same principle, only no one's complaining because the disappearing act benefits both parties. If we're going to be all Miss Manners about it, get ready for a lot of awkwardly formal powering down of relationships that neither party is interested in.
Though I am more ghost than ghostbuster, this doesn't mean I approve of leading someone on, or that I smile upon going AWOL after a long and committed courtship. That's just ranky behavior left for the bottom-dwellers of the spirit world. Ghosts should be clear they are ghosting, straight from the get go. That means no answering the "How's your day going?" texts. When you're a ghost, you're a ghost all the way.
This all isn't to say that the pain of getting ghosted is somehow invalid. It isn't. It stings. It sucks. But it isn't the ghosting we're hurt by.
Photo by: Annette Shaff via Shutterstock
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.