Sex and the City may have been mostly about the life and loves of Carrie Bradshaw, but I’ll forever be a card-carrying Miranda Hobbes. Her B-stories just moved me more.
Like the one where a guy named Will stood her up. Sadly, for once, the poor sap had a tragically good excuse. When Miranda finally gave in to her sassiest impulses and decided to call him up to chew him out, she found out from his mother that he had died that day.
A similar thing happened to me once, only it was Antonio’s boyfriend who notified me of his passing – and it all went down via email. Awkward and devastating as that experience was, it’s part of the reason why, for me, no response is preferable to flat-out rejection.
Now wait a minute. I’m not saying that ignoring me should be a crime punishable by death, at least not in real life. But radio silence does open up myriad ways of soothing a bruised ego and disappointed soul.
Radio silence and “not interested” both have the same result – alone again, naturally – but at least when someone doesn’t return our text or email, there might be a very good reason...or we can make one up. We have the option of rationalizing the disappearing act as it suits our self-esteem. Maybe he never received the message. Perhaps the phone is acting up, and his response is still queued-up for delivery. Hmm... Could he be dead?
As the lives and loves of Miranda and me prove, all are plausible scenarios, and we can use them to keep our egos intact and our mating muscles ready to pounce again. We might not get the closure that continues to be so in vogue in certain psychobabbly circles, but closure won’t keep you warmer at night.
Ignorance is bliss – and sometimes, so is delusion. The other great thing about radio silence is that we can use it not only to protect our ego, but to preserve a beautiful experience as well.
Back when I was living in Buenos Aires, I met a German tourist named Mattheus one Friday night when I was out with friends. He practically chased me around the nightclub before I gave in and went mouth-to-mouth with him. After a few hours of dance-floor passion, Mattheus walked me home – with nothing more than a goodbye kiss as his reward for going so far out of his way.
The next day I sent him a text message:
“Hey. It’s Jeremy. How are you doing? I’m about to meet up with my friend who is visiting from New York. Just wanted to say hi and see how you are.”
His response: “Hi. It was nice to meet you last night, and I had a lot of fun, but I’m not looking to start anything as I am only in town for a few days. But you should definitely enjoy this great city.”
Eek. Mattheus’s stone-cold presumption surprised and disappointed me. Had I asked for his hand in marriage? In a few sentences, he had turned a lovely and refreshing experience into one that would forever be memorable mostly for his day-after assholery. Some might say it’s better to know what the person is really like, but I believe that only applies if there’s an actual chance that you might get involved with him.
As for more established connections, I’m not advocating radio silence from significant others who are looking for an out. That’s even worse than dumping by text, email and Post-it. Married mothers and fathers who exit stage left without so much as a word will always be the absolute worst.
But the rules for casual flings have changed in this modern texting and social-media era where human interactions are far less personal than in the days of phone calls and face-to-face conversations. With one-night stands and dating-app crushes, where we are owed nothing and our expectations should be as low as possible, an unanswered message is neither a mystery nor the end of the world.
Most people seem to disagree with me. On Grindr, you come across countless profiles in which guys demand to be blocked or rejected outright rather than ignored. Some will respond to no response with more messages, often nothing more than a question mark, because presumably, you’re still in play until you turn them down flat.
But I’m an expert at reading between the lines – or reading no lines at all. For me, no response is tantamount to “no.” I get the impression that for some of these unrelenting Grindr suitors, though, it’s not about pursuing closure (multiple unanswered messages are nothing if not closure – translation: “We’re done here,”) but rather about punishing the person giving them the silent treatment into an awkward situation.
Personally, I’m as unlikely to outright reject someone as I am to court outright rejection. In my love life, silence speaks volumes, so why twist the knife? Although, to be honest, when I don’t respond to guys I’m not interested in, it’s more to protect myself from that awkward moment than it is to protect their egos.
And let’s face it: Outright rejection can be merciless. When I was living in Cape Town, a friend of mine, a fellow black American, was shot down by a white South African on Grindr in the most spectacular way. When my friend sent him a standard “Hi, how’s it going?” message, the guy responded with this:
“I’m sorry, but I do not believe in the crossing of racial barriers.”
Well, that’s definitely closure, and it gave my friend a good story to tell and proof that racism and psychological apartheid continue to thrive in South Africa. But while a simple “not interested” will always suffice, in a 100 percent forthcoming world where rejection would never be silent, it wouldn’t always be diplomatic.
Dating is difficult enough without the constant threat of brutal honesty that will destroy your self-esteem. Silence can indeed be golden – both in life and in love. There is even a popular app whose very existence is based on silent rejection. I’ve never done Tinder, but whoever invented swiping left was definitely on to something.
It’s clean. It’s simple. It’s final. And whether we want to admit it or not, where virtual strangers are involved, swiping left, like radio silence, is the epitome of closure.
Message received, not so loud, but oh-so clear.