When the passion wanes and the texting peters off — where a natural end follows an unsuccessful middle. That seems comfortable to me. But for the first time ever this year, I experienced the full ghosting experience — of meeting someone I was crazy about, feeling an intense connection with them, being altogether sure that the feelings were mutual — that they were different than the other shady people I was used to dating — and then having them disappear into absolute thin air.
The disregard is insulting. The lack of closure is maddening. You move on, but not before your self-esteem takes a hit. Being ghosted was an unpleasant experience. But it was also one that forced me to reflect on my own past dating behaviours. I told myself that was just how we do things now. Flash forward a few months later: It turns out that I did mind being ghosted — in fact, I minded a lot. I had foolishly expected dating post-college to work the same way it always had — you were single for a while, you did your own thing, and then you met someone and started casually seeing each other.
If it went well, it became a relationship. If not, it ended amicably because you still had to see each other in econ class. But that was not how things happened anymore. Dating post-college was an entirely new ball game and I had to face the stark truth of what had happened to me: College was over and the real-life dating scene was an absolute rat race.
In the real world, there was no such thing as passively single. There was no such thing as slow, monogamous dating. In the real world, you had two clear choices: You were either in the game or you were out of it.
And so, I did what any other jaded twenty-something would have done: I brought myself up to speed. I forgot names on first dates. I made notes on my phone to keep track of who was who. After all, it was what everyone else was doing. And it seemed to be the only way to keep up without getting duped.
Everyone had, at some point or another, had the exact same experience with dating: You put all your eggs in one basket. So the next time, you make a point to distribute them evenly. You keep your options open because when one relationship crashes and burns, you need to have somewhere to run. No matter how happy we are with somebody and how invested it seems like they are, we never know when the other shoe might drop.
To always have one foot out the door. To never be totally invested or all the way in. And do we want all of these people in our lives?
The small talk, the drama, the hooking up and breaking up and falling half in love and then having it all fall to pieces. I, for one, consider myself to be an honest and straightforward person.
That we treat other people with respect. And yet, we all remain stuck in this vicious cycle of hurting and neglecting one another. At some point or another, most of us throw in the towel. We pack up our bags, delete our apps and temporarily bow out of the dating game. We wonder if there are any honest people left out there. We wonder if we could even count ourselves as such, if there were. The dating game is a vicious cycle that has taken any semblance of human emotion almost entirely out of the picture.
That every once in a while, we stop to question ourselves. That we want to believe each other. To trust each other. And so for now, we pick our phones up. We feel that age-old hunger for validation.