For Glamour, by Suzannah Weiss.
I will admit right off the bat that ghosting on a date is not the most mature way to let someone down gently. But let me also say that I’m among the 80 percent of millennials who have been ghosted — that is, someone was contacting me totally normally one minute and then, with no explanation, never reached out to me again. They just fell off the face of the earth as far as I’m concerned. Not only that, I’ve been ghosted by friends, I’ve been ghosted by colleagues, and I’ve been ghosted by people I was newly dating. (I have not been ghosted by a long-term partner, and I won’t be talking about that situation, which I find pretty much inexcusable.)
But in casual-dating scenarios, I’ve ghosted and been ghosted more often than not. And honestly? I don’t feel the need to beat myself up about either scenario.
During my OkCupid days, I didn’t get responses to most of my messages. I never worried: Statistically, it’s to be expected. But when that scenario was reversed, some of the guys who I declined to message had different feelings about it. One sent me a follow-up message after mere hours of my silence, telling me I was obviously superficial for not considering him. One who I did end up responding to — and even meeting IRL — told me he considered it “unjust” for women to ignore the messages he put so much effort into crafting. Yeah, that relationship didn’t last very long.
Attacking people for simply ignoring a message on a dating app that traffics in them is a tad extreme, but I’ve seen people — mostly straight men, in my experience — express the same feelings of unfairness when women ghost them after dates. “She led me on.” “She owes me a response.” To many women, being ghosted is a natural part of modern dating. When men don’t see it the same way, it feels like male privilege to me. Since when do I owe near-strangers such emotionally draining conversations?
Besides, when I have told people I’m not interested, they’ve shot back with awkward follow-up questions. “Was it anything in particular?” is one of the best-case scenarios. “But I’m one of the nice guys!” is the worst. And many women have experienced much harsher retaliation for overtly rejecting men, like being fed the classic, “You’re ugly anyway.” Sorry, is that supposed to convince us to change our minds?
These reactions fall into the same category as men chastising women for putting them in the “friend zone.” Nothing — not friendship, not a date, not a Tinder message — entitles you to someone’s romantic or sexual attention, and acting like it does is yet another way to deny women control over their lives. Besides, I never assumed my dates were waiting by the phone for me to get back to their “nice to meet you” texts. It felt presumptuous to believe I’d need to let them down easy when they may not have been interested in me either.
Real talk: I actually prefer to be ghosted. I’d rather tell myself someone’s probably just busy or not over their ex or in some other situation unrelated to me and forget about them than be explicitly told I don’t appeal to them.
Sure, once you’ve known someone for a while and developed a consistent rapport, ghosting becomes rude. But when you go on a first, second, or even third date, there aren’t that many expectations anyway. And if you’re not expecting it to go anywhere, you shouldn’t require an explanation when it doesn’t.
If you don’t hear back from someone after the first try, I’d argue that the polite thing to do is take the hint that they’re not feeling it and move on. That’ll spare them the burden of explaining their decision and maybe spare you some awkwardness. If they don’t see how amazing you are, they’re not the person for you anyway.
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