The single life is not easy. It is fraught with false starts, disappointments, expectations, surprises (not always pleasant), and periods of…well, nothing. There are days when my social calendar resembles that of a TMZ celeb, and weeks where living a monastic life feels more apt.
Last year, I joined a number of popular online dating sites to jumpstart my social and romantic life. The first month brought a number of interesting men who seemed eager (sometimes a bit too eager) to date and get to know. The messages and texts between us flew swiftly, carried by Hermes, inspired by Eros. The banter was witty, erotic, seductive, and stimulating. Each time my cell phone pinged, I got an immediate dose of dopamine that made certain parts of my body tingle with pleasure. But the payoff, nor the person, ever materialized. A meeting never took place. And after about a week of chatter, the silence that settled was deafening and unexplained.
“You’ve been ghosted,” a friend said to me. That’s when someone you “meet” online, or have an intense online “relationship” with, suddenly disappears never to be heard from again. Their online “persona” remains, as well as their photos and profile, but your attempts at contacting and getting a reply go unanswered. Ghosting is the new version of blocking someone, except you still can see the person who now ignores you.
Ghosting is not exclusive to dating web sites; “hooking” social apps are swamps full of ghosts and transient digital men haunting Internet access.
LJ, as he goes by on Scruff, is handsome. I chatted with him for a couple of days thinking, “He’s not so bad.” LJ is funny and playful; he likes to flirt. During one of his trips to London on business, I was surprised to get a message from him. I did not make a lot of it. I replied to his greeting, keeping things light, but without any overt indication of interest on my part for us to meet when he returned to South Florida.
It’s not that I was not interested in meeting LJ; it’s just that at the time, if anyone was to ask me what it was I’m looking for, I’d say I was interested in meeting guys and making friends. Nothing more. LJ, from his texts, wanted more. And yet, every time I proposed or mentioned a meet-and-greet at a local coffee shop, the proposal went unanswered or was deferred to a later time after he returned from a trip.
After his return from London, Boston, New York, Jakku, and Zimbabwe, LJ “disappeared.” I texted him a few times to make sure he was well (alive?), but I received no word from him in return. No more text messages pinged my phone, and my dopamine levels dropped to critical. I’d been ghosted.
LJ’s profile remained online. There were times when he viewed mine — mostly when I updated my profile photo or my location suggested I was near his. But no more communication was forthcoming and eventually I decided to ghost him as well.
Until this weekend, that is.
Saturday morning, as I drank my coffee and browsed knitting patterns on Ravelry, my phone pinged with a text message from LJ. He was two miles away, he said, and wanted to know if I was interested in getting together for coffee. I frowned, mumbled a string of consonants and asterisks, and decided to ignore the message, until he sent a second with a photo.
I’m not one for closure, clarity, or closing loopholes. My social and romantic life have enough open ends to them to resemble a block of Swiss cheese. This time, however, for lack of something better to do I decided to say “Yes, I’ll meet you. Give me thirty minutes to throw something on, groom my 70s gay porn stache, and I’ll see you there.”
I drove to the coffeeshop feeling cranky. I was hungry and uncertain why I was doing this. There was no reason for me to be polite, as he was the one who dropped the communication. Then again, I do need some kind of closure. Lord knows I hate cliffhangers on Netflix series. But I think, most accurately, I wanted to let him have it. I wanted to let him know that what he’d done was wrong.
LJ sat at a table by himself when I arrived. He stood up when he saw me come in, shook my hand, and asked if I wanted anything from the bar. I got myself a coffee and a snack. Then, while stirring my three packs of sugar into the coffee, I asked him point blank, “So, why? What happened?”
LJ’s eyebrows shot up. He looked surprised at my opening. In no uncertain terms, he said, “I know. I’m sorry.”
That’s all I wanted to hear. I guess, that’s what I’d come for: an apology. An apology that came a year too late, but an apology nonetheless.
“Do you know what ghosting is?” I asked him.
He shook his head, and I explained. He apologized again. “I guess, I just want to know why? You seem like a nice guy. We were having a good banter.”
LJ had been dating someone. It wasn’t working out, so LJ decided to try the social apps to find someone he was compatible with. That’s where I came into the story. He texted me. I texted him back. Texting and sexting ensued. The banter was on. Until the person LJ was dating decided he wanted to date LJ. Thus, LJ disappeared without a word.
“That’s all you had to say,” I said. “”I’m seeing someone and I want to be honest about it.’ And I would have been okay. We could have been friends. We could have gone out and have a good friendship. But you disappeared without a word. And what was I supposed to think?”
LJ apologized again, and I accepted his apology. I mimed turning a page of a book and said, “Okay. Let’s start again.”
So we had a nice conversation. Turns out LJ is a nice guy after all. He’s smart. Funny. Good-looking. Fast-talking. A bit of a nerd in a cute way. He has a nice smile. And he’s not perfect! He’s blurry around the edges and could stand to lose a few pounds, like I do. We laughed at that. And it was a sincere laugh. Towards the end of our chat, I dared to think that maybe I could give him a second chance, get to know him, and now that he’s single, see where things go.
We walked outside when we finished our coffee, and he tried to shake hands again. I gave him a hug back and said, “You have my number, again. If you’d like, I’d enjoy getting together.”
It’s too early to tell whether LJ will call or ghost me this time. It’s been two days and nary a sign from him. But I’ve learned a few things about ghosts (and gay men) in the last year. Pay no attention to them, and ghosts disappear on their own.