A few months ago, I had a revelation. I realized that I'm FINALLY fully, truly, 100 percent over my ex-boyfriend from college. This process took years of having to stop myself from stalking him on social media and fantasizing about all the what if's from our tumultuous, three-year, on-again-off-again relationship, so I'm damn proud of how far I've come.
And how, dare you ask, have I celebrated my triumphant achievement? By going on Tinder, of course.
I think Tinder gets a really bad rap. People are so quick to blame the actual app for all the sh*tty dates they've gone on, but it's probably just the pool of people they're dealing with who are sh*tty.
Because if you think of Tinder like a bar, it becomes a slightly more desirable place to meet people who you can form actual connections with. Some weekends, this particular bar might be filled with unappealing jerks who are just looking to get laid. Other weekends, it might be filled with some decent people who are looking to date. And one night, when you least expect it, you just might meet the love of your life.
Still, my expectations for Tinder were low. Because it's Tinder. To my surprise, however, my experience has actually been...quite rewarding.
I only swipe right on guys whose photos I'm physically attracted to, and I haven't entertained any of the weird, gross messages I've gotten. Lots of conversations that did start out promising ended up fizzling into nothing because, well, truthfully, it's easy to get bored of someone you haven't met in real life yet, especially if the conversation turns into a tedious series of interview questions like "where are you from" or "where do you work" and other monotonous sh*t like that.
But if a guy says something clever that isn't "sit on my face, and let me eat my way to your heart" (actual quote) and doesn't ultimately tire me with one word-answer questions, I'm interested. At which point I give him a 24- to- 48-hour window to ask me on a legitimate date, be it drinks or dinner or basically anything that starts before 9 PM and promises actual conversation. If he doesn't ask me out within that window, I just move on.
(By the way, I know you're wondering why I don't just ask him out myself because I'm a feminist and stuff. Well, I'm a pretty dominant person already, so it's more attractive to me if a guy can demonstrate his dominance by taking control of the situation and doing the asking first. But anyway.)
The guys who have bitten the bullet and asked me out have been awesome. I've met some great dudes of all ages and occupations (just kidding, I live in New York so most of them have worked in finance), and I've learned a hell of a lot more about myself in the past few months than I have in a really long time.
One of the biggest things I've learned is I am absolutely petrified of ghosting. Cripplingly, all-consumingly petrified of it.
If you're a 20-something with access to the Internet, you know what ghosting is. It's when you've been talking and hanging out with someone when all of a sudden, he disappears from your life without a trace. He just stops answering your texts and calls. It can happen after three dates or three months (yes, I've heard horror stories), but once it happens, that's it. You are dead to him. You are a literal ghost.
So far in my Tinder adventures, no guy has ghosted me. But the possibility of it happening to me has made me more cynical than any real life heartbreak ever has. I develop feelings for guys embarrassingly easily, sometimes even after one or two dates, so the thought of a dude simply dropping off the face of the planet after I open up to him is terrifying. It's one thing to confront me and actually break it off (I can respect that, for sure), but it's another thing entirely to leave whatever I thought we had in perpetual limbo.
The peril of being a professional writer is I picture everything in my life like a story, and no story is complete without a conclusion. I need a neat, shiny bow tacked onto everything I do, including and especially my romantic endeavors. So the lack of closure from being ghosted would drive me insane.
I never worried about being ghosted in college. Ghosting isn't really a thing on a college campus, which is where I was just several months ago, before this whole real-adult-living-in-NYC thing happened to me.
If a guy in college ghosted me, odds were I would have run into him, either because we had mutual friends or because there were so few people in such an enclosed space. I would have caught him walking across the quad or drunk at a house party, where I could have then called him out for being a total piece of sh*t assh*le and walked away feeling wonderfully satisfied.
In a huge city, though, there's nothing I can do if a guy ghosts me. I can't track him through mutual friends or casually run into him at a frat party. I just have to pretend he doesn't exist anymore. Like he is doing to me.
I'm a hopeless romantic by nature. And the more I use Tinder in this scary postgrad world, the more paranoid I feel about being ghosted and the more my hopeless romanticism decreases. It's devastating. I feel myself spiraling into hard, cold cynicism, and it's all because of a hypothetical situation that I haven't even experienced. Lord knows what would happen if someone actually ghosted me.
I'm so beyond petrified of being ghosted that I actually tried to ghost someone else before he (or any other guy, for that matter) could ghost me first. But after several of his attempts to contact me, I felt so guilty for ghosting him that I sent him this long ass text message in which I apologized for it AND gave him advice about why I didn't see us working out and what he should do with the next girl he dates. Am I the worst or am I the worst?
I blurred out the details of my advice to protect his identity (and integrity, probably), but I kept the lines in so you could see the length of this motherf*cking text message pity party I threw for myself.
Despite how petrified I am of being ghosted, I do see the appeal of it. If you choose to ghost someone, you know you're probably hurting that person, but the consequences of your actions don't fully register with you because you can't witness them unfolding in front of you. You don't see the tears in the person's eyes or hear the sadness in his or her voice. Ghosting is a nearly consequence-free way to avoid dealing with confrontation, which most people despise on a visceral level. I get it.
Still, if you've ever ghosted someone, f*ck you. Seriously! It's f*cked up, and I wish you hadn't done it! I don't care how convenient it is or how much it feels like your get out of jail (read: relationship) free card; you aren't allowed to experience the euphoria of love unless you experience the uncomfortable sadness of a breakup, which includes watching other people experience that uncomfortable sadness as a result of YOU breaking up with THEM.
I'm not saying every Tinder relationship warrants an hour-long break up over Starbucks or an obnoxiously long text message in which you give unsolicited advice about someone's love life (oops). But if you're going to end things with somebody, actually end things.
Ghosting has become this generation's way to detach real human identities from people we meet on dating apps. We think that if we choose to not acknowledge someone as a person, he or she can just become another disposable right swipe that we can easily replace with yet another disposable right swipe the following week. Is this really what dating has become? Is this what we want it to be?
If you choose to ghost someone, know that you probably won't be the first to do it to that person, so you'll just be part of a long line of people who are slowly but surely chipping away at someone's humanity and will to ever find love. Do you really want to contribute to an innocent human being's descent into sheer hopelessness just because you want the easy and more convenient way out? Can you be any more selfish?
There's nothing more literally dehumanizing than not acknowledging someone's existence. So for the sake of everyone's sanity, let's stop the cycle. No more ghosting. Please. We'll all be better people for it.