I started this online dating journey a year ago. I’ve taken note of all the guys I’ve encountered on this path. Some I’ve only messaged on the site; some I’ve known through phone conversations and texting; others, I’ve met in person for coffee, hikes, dinner or drinks. So much about this new way of dating is very different from how we baby boomers did it back in the day– and that includes how you ended the relationship– no matter how long and to what degree you’d known each other.
Back when I was dating in the seventies, most of the guys you knew in person. Occasionally, a friend or cousin may set you up with a ‘blind date’ or someone they knew and you didn’t. That may be the closest thing to the feeling you get about these guys you meet through virtual dating– having to trust the information provided– site or individual unseen. The uneasy stepping-in-the-dark feeling of meeting the guy for the first time in person was unnerving with blind dates as it is with the guys from the dating sites.
Overall, I’ve had favorable experiences– in that the guys were not scary or totally different from how they described themselves. Most of the meet ups/dates were pleasant enough but just lacked any interest to move forward. Many of the guys have followed through with phone calls, messaging, or texts as they’d indicated. But some have disappeared out of the blue without any indication of why they were doing that. It leaves you with a feeling of things being incomplete, of confusion about what happened, and a feeling of “Why did I waste my time?”
According to the Internet, this response has been labeled as ghosting and has been described with online and other dating as well as with areas including employment since the 2000s. Wikipedia defines it this way:
Ghosting describes the practice of ending all communication and contact with another person without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communication made by said person.
One of the guys who disappeared without warning was Don.
When I first read his profile, I didn’t like him; he seemed arrogant. He described himself as a former CPA with a Fortune 500 company, a California native who was into extreme sports, and his pictures included a high-end car. He described nothing of his character and focused on the activities he loved and wanted to pursue with his future partner. He was nice looking, athletic, and slim. On that dating site, they included the person’s zodiac sign and he was an Aries–same as me, both with birthdays falling between March 21 and April 19.
I passed on him, but he “Liked” me and sent me a message. We messaged back and forth during the Thanksgiving holiday and eventually I agreed to a phone conversation.
His voice sounded as cocky as his profile. He described his love of motor cycles, fast cars, sky diving, and rock climbing. When I described my love of dancing balanced by the quiet of writing, he was less than impressed. He asked about my career in nursing, but then cut me off when I gave him more detail than he wanted. He had a bit of a mocking tone, or that was just my perception, when I spoke of my Southern roots which lacked his West Coast sophistication. I’d given him the chance he’d asked for but then told him I wished him well but didn’t see any way we would be compatible.
For me, that was the end of that.
But later, when talking with a friend, I questioned my decision to cut him off.
“You know, Connie, you have a lot of energy in your voice when you talk about him,” she said. “Maybe he’s just different from you and more of a challenge.”
I’d heard someone say if the guy’s too comfortable, too familiar, you should RUN! It means he’ll have the same traits as the ex who didn’t work out.
I kept what my friend said in mind and then in a vulnerable moment, on Christmas night, I sent him a “Merry Christmas” message and started things up again.
He wanted to talk on the phone immediately. We did and I found that we quickly went from talking about our holiday to bantering the superiority of extreme sports versus dancing and writing– which couldn’t provide the same adrenaline rush in his mind. I pulled out my quick retorts about how we were wired differently, that he was a product of his neurobiology–bringing in my science/nursing background just as he’d brought up his expertise in finance.
Later he noted we were both born under the sign of Aries and he asked when was my birthday; it was five days before his.
“Well, that explains everything,” he said. “Now I understand your drive, your fight.”
While I don’t follow astrological signs closely, don’t read my horoscope before getting out of bed, I’d looked at the characteristics of each sign. I’d read that Aries is the first of the Fire Signs and therefore filled with energy, passion, and optimism. The symbol for Aries is a ram–and Don and I had clearly butted heads!
He talked about wanting to meet me in person and we decided to go for a walk. I offered to drive the twenty-three miles to Cary to a neighborhood park where he walked his dog. I was familiar with that area and wanted to get that initial in-person meeting over with; that was the only way to know if there was any potential for a relationship. The phone call dropped, and when I called him back, I asked him for his last name, he hesitated then muttered, “Ziggy” which was his profile moniker. The reception kept cutting out and the call ended abruptly.
There’s something not quite right about that, I thought. I did a Google search of his phone number and his first name came up, validating that it was Don and also his address in the neighborhood he’d described. The park where we planned to meet was in fact close to his house that came up in a street view– a brick two-story with wood trim in one of the nice Cary neighborhoods. Guess he could afford it as a CPA with a Fortune 500 company.
That day was the coldest morning we’d had, twenty-six degrees when I drove into the park at 11:00 o’clock. It was smaller, more private and wooded than I’d imagined. Few cars were in the lot on that Saturday morning. I texted my friend and my sister to tell them where I was– like we’d agreed when I started the online dating.
A gray-haired man in a tan coat walked next to the parking lot, slightly bent, and smoking a cigarette. I headed to the baseball field that was next to a playground where a man and woman watched over two children climbing the jungle gym.
Even in my layers, my insulated coat with my hood pulled over my head, the chill was gripping. I walked to the center of the baseball diamond where the sun was shining down and gave some relief from the cold. I scanned the perimeter of the baseball field for Don and his dog that had been in one of his pictures on the dating site.
“Where is he?” I said to myself, and started walking around the diamond where the bags were still attached from the fall league that had enjoyed warmer weather. “He sure isn’t punctual.”
I’ll at least get my morning walk in, I reasoned, as I walked the course and felt some warmth from the sun. Round and round the bases I went plodding and considering the speed the young baseball players would have gone, touching the bags, sliding in at home. One day my grandsons would be doing the same thing and I would be sitting on the aluminum bleachers, cheering–probably too loudly.
Eventually, the man, woman, and children left the playground. The old man in the tan coat crushed out his cigarette with his foot, got in his car, and drove away.
As I walked the diamond and time moved toward noon, a sinking feeling came over me.
“He’s not going to show.” I said to myself,
I kept walking, determined to not let him keep me from enjoying the morning sunlight. I was alone, in the park, in twenty-six degrees the day after Christmas. Finally, I admitted to myself that the uneasy feeling had been for good reason.
I drove home, listening to my soundtrack for online dating, “I’ll Take My Chances” by Mary Chapin Carpenter. I pushed back feeling like a fool; Don, or whoever he was, had been the one to deceive. What kind of person does that?
My disappointment, then my shame, turned into my anger; nothing got to me like dishonesty–being deceived.
Driving back to Durham on I-40, I saw the images of the house that was supposed to be Don’s. I had a strong impulse to go and egg that house. I’d never done that but when I was in high school I’d heard kids talk about getting back at people that way. Throwing those eggs, hearing them crack against the brick, watching that yolk oozing down the wood until it froze in place, would make me feel better.
But wait! How did I know that was really Don’s house? He’d not shown up for me to validate that he was real— so what was real about him?
Once I was home, I got out my laptop and logged in to the dating site. Don, or whoever he was, had taken down his profile and all of our messaging had been removed. There was no proof that he’d even existed–virtually.
I had been Ghosted.
Why does someone do that? Who was behind that deception? Was the man in the parking lot, who looked to be about 5′ 7″ –Don’s height on his profile, the man who’d talked with me on the phone? Had he lured me to the park and observed me who had taken his bait? Was the athletic, extreme-sport-enthusiast an alter ego for an old man behind the curtain?
The thought of being lured to the park gave me a creepy feeling, exposing my vulnerability. He could have been someone dangerous instead of a bent man walking slowly around a parking lot. I hadn’t checked out that park enough to know that it wasn’t very public. It hadn’t occurred to me that few people would be at a park on a very cold Saturday morning; I was too focused on getting that first meeting behind me.
In talking with others who are doing online dating, I realize that both women and men are ghosted. Whatever the reason the person does that, it leaves the recipient feeling deceived, used, vulnerable, angry and unsure of whom to trust. I found my first response was to blame myself–feeling naive, but in reading the words of a professional, I let go of some of that responsibility.
According to Natalie Jones, Psy D someone’s reason for ghosting you likely has little do with you at all. Instead, she explains that it’s often a sign of their own emotional immaturity, attachment issues, and more. Eight issues are described in the article at the link below.
Now, looking back on my experience last December, I see it as just one of the many encounters on my dating path that has informed me. I will trust my gut feelings and be more careful about my safety. There are guys who are different, less familiar that can be the challenge I should accept. I learned from talking with Don, or whoever he was, that I don’t have to shy away from confrontative encounters because I can hold my own; I’m not sure I knew that.
My hope for you, is that whether you’re traveling this path of online dating, or your journey is on a very different one, you pay attention to your gut feelings, you protect your safety, and you know that you’re up for the challenges that come your way. People may ghost you and you’ll feel deceived and wonder who to trust–but ultimately you’ll trust yourself and your ability to butt heads with that which you were afraid of. Blessings on you!