In conversation recently I talked to a guy who shared his frustration about being “ghosted” by a woman with whom he felt he had a perfectly fine date. Theoretically I would have agreed with him that she could have just said at the end of it, when he asked to keep in touch, that she had a nice time but didn’t see it going anywhere. But I know that I have never been able to do this – and I have equally been almost totally unable to disappear from someone’s life completely without any kind of explanation whatsoever. Truth be told, I have mostly been scared of men my entire life – too afraid to disappear completely (what if they then find me and react badly?) but equally too afraid to wound a fragile ego. The point isn’t me, though.
No, it’s the idea that these people (usually men) who insist that they “just” want someone to be honest with them, that it would have been fine to say “thanks, but no thanks” are out of touch with reality. They often, as news stories everywhere all week long have pointed out, take a polite rejection as an invitation to keep trying, keep pestering, push harder, and sometimes, it escalates into outright threats and violence. This is nothing new to most women.
Sure, it might be civilized and polite to be able to say to someone, “Thanks for the drink, but I think we should go our separate ways”, but reality has taught us that we are rarely met with civilized responses.
“Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” -Anne Lamott
Feb 2017; Same old lessons, different day:
Be the adult: Don’t sit around and wait just to see what happens. Be the adult; be responsible and just hit the kill switch immediately. Do not give someone else the chance to jerk you around with their indecision and inability to find or voice their feelings. This is difficult if you have fallen in love or have more feelings than the other person. Someone jerks you around, runs hot and cold, shuts you out but gives you mixed signals and words, and behaves in an unhinged way; if they hem and haw, make premature declarations and backtrack or ‘aren’t sure’, you have your answer. Instinct and experience have handed you the hard-won answers: use them, heed them.
Acknowledge your own real feelings: Just walk the fuck away when you know logically and through evidence exactly where you stand and where this goes. Be connected enough with your own feelings to know when you’re trying to convince yourself of what does not exist and are faking it to justify satisfying morbid curiosity.
Scrap the three Cs & adopt three other Cs: Don’t stick around out of curiosity, courtesy or compassion… or some rancid mix of all three. Look at context and content to see if someone is being a cunt (or whether you need to be one) and go from there. (And ‘cunt’ here is the strictly English way of using it…)
Turn around and run from flashing lights and sirens: You see flashing lights and red flags ahead and choose to ignore. In fact, you run right into the fire. DON’T! You hear the alarms and sirens going off and think maybe it’s just your fear. No: don’t wait; don’t give the benefit of the doubt; don’t make excuses on anyone else’s behalf; don’t ‘be noble’. Just run – fast – in the other direction.
Turn off the projector: When you have a whole shitload in common with someone, don’t overlook all the things that don’t connect. Don’t project attributes or feelings you possess (and imagine you share) or wish the other person has onto him/her, hoping s/he will embody them just because everything else is shared in common. It doesn’t matter that you were led to believe these things were shared at some point: don’t assume that it is real or will stay that way.
Tune the fuck in: “Goddamn, girl, you don’t gotta be psychic to know the truth. That boy don’t love you. At all.”
Remember that silence speaks volumes: Silence might not be permanent; it might not signal that someone is pseudo-“ghosting”; however, someone who cares is going to talk to you – whatever is going on – even if s/he is not sure quite what is going on or how s/he feels.
Kill the curiosity before it kills you: It’s very tempting to watch the whole movie even when you know it’s not gonna be a happy ending. It’s an extension of acknowledging your own true feelings – sticking around because you’re curious is a waste of time. It’s not good enough – that is, you are not being good to yourself – to tell yourself you weren’t doing anything anyway, so it won’t hurt just to watch all of this unfold. It will hurt. And if you’re not careful it could lead to something worse – ending up in a situation you really don’t want. (You know what I’m talking about here: you cannot even figure out why you want to be wrong because if you were to get what you tried to convince yourself you wanted, you would be miserable.)
Keep your eyes (and ears) open: It IS clear what is happening – on every level. But you want to believe it is going to turn out differently no matter what harbingers of doom lurk around every corner. It’s clear. Embrace the truth your eyes show you and ears tell you, not the misleading song of the heart. But don’t be so open that you become a sponge absorbing all the misery and anxiety of someone else while getting/feeling/experiencing nothing in return.
Refer back: When in doubt, when bending to someone else’s will or charm or even carelessly letting them dictate all the terms and conditions, the way you relate to each other: refer back to this list. In fact, print it out. Laminate it. Carry it around with you everywhere.
Identify triggers and patterns: It’s not anyone’s fault: period. But it is also not anyone else’s fault. You have triggers and patterns. Certain kinds of people appeal to you; learn to recognize the ‘signs’ that you have met one of those types. Recognize and put a halt to your own ‘enabling’ and ‘deflecting’ behaviors (similar to ‘absorbing all the misery and anxiety and getting nothing in return’ listed above). You have to be open to taking it to receive it – all this kind of shit takes two to do.
Hold on hope: Okay, so you don’t hold onto hope about a hopeless situation. Face reality and embrace it for the often hopeless dead-end it is. Nothing is ever surprising in that way. But it doesn’t mean you should declare hope dead. There are fragments of it floating around everywhere.
“Every street is dark
And folding out mysteriously
Where lies the chance we take to be
Reaching out for a hand that we
Everybody’s got a hold on hope
It’s the last thing that’s holding me
Invitation to the last dance
Then it’s time to leave
But that’s the price we pay
when we deceive
One another/animal mother
She opens up for free
Everybody’s got a hold on hope
It’s the last thing that’s
Look at the talkbox in mute
At the station
There hides the cowboy
His campfire flickering
on the landscape
That nothing grows on
But time still goes on
And through each life of misery
Everybody’s got a hold on hope
It’s the last thing that’s holding me”
I am old enough to think the whole idea/concept of “ghosting” is a bad, socially unacceptable idea, but at the same time, I am too old, impatient and tired of nonsense to want to explain myself any more. Or to wait for or want weak explanations from others. My reasons for backing off, backing out, ‘giving as much space as needed’ should be plain and largely self-explanatory to anyone close enough to me that I would see fit to pull a disappearing act, as I don’t have the casual sort of millennial-style “hanging out” relationships to which the term ‘ghosting’ most frequently applies. Actual ‘ghosting’ is more literal. For me, it’s a conscious and deliberate decision to withdraw specific and individual care, put the walls back up, even if a person otherwise remains a part of the ‘coterie’.
This is particularly true when I am not the only one withdrawing, feeling all emotion ebb away. It may never have been an intentional “dual disappearing act”, a race to which one gets sick of this first or finds herself indifferent to it all or wherein he finds somewhere else to hang his hat. With neither one so crass as to stoop to actual ghosting – or aren’t we? – instead it quiets, slows and dwindles down to nothing. Heading it off at the pass, pre-empting any form of bastardized and… competitive ghosting, it is time I go back to being a stranger.
(I know that ‘announcing’ the intent negates the whole concept; it is not really disappearing without a trace, but I suppose I’ve got to preserve some decorum. I am, after all, old. And we will both, after all, be relieved.)