Have you, or a loved one been ghosted? 3 out of 4 people will be ghosted in their lifetime (source: unknown or possibly made up) and 85% of all people everywhere believe in this specifc kind of ghost (again, rough estimate.) Some say it is the spookiest ghost of them all. I'm talking about the social phenomenon in dating known as: ghosting. Ghosting has been around for quite some time but in the era of read receipts and typey bubbles, it is more prominent and more terrifying than ever. The technical definition of ghosting is: a person who disappears from a romantic exchange. This is done either without warning, or slowly over time. The latter of which one can attribute the haunting effect to, as this method involves the person returning after a long period of dormancy. Imagine Jack Nicholson's classic The Shining scene saying, "I'm Baaack!" with his face wedged between the door, but, via text. Spooky, right?
In the spirit of Halloween, we asked some LA women to share their best ghosting stories, so gather round, dim the lights and grab your fun-sized snickers. You're in for a treat.
I was with Ryan* (*his real name) for 2 and a half years before I got into a Master's program in London and moved there. We broke up before I moved, with the understanding that in a year, when I returned, we'd feel things out and maybe get back together. It was really hard separating from each other, and we emailed and Skyped frequently. When I came home for Christmas, he took me out to dinner first thing and laid it all out: he wanted to marry me, he wanted to have kids by the time he was 30 (he was 28 at the time, I was 24, and nowhere near ready to have kids). I admitted to him with sadness that we just wanted very different things, and that it just wasn't right between us.
I went back to London, broken-hearted but knowing I did the right thing. I was thinking of staying in London and moving there permanently after my program was over, and I didn't want to keep him waiting for me. I never heard from him. About a week later, his roommate, whom I had never met, found my email online and wrote to me and asked if I knew where he was, because he and the dog had been missing for days but his stuff was all still there. Apparently, he had completely disappeared. Months later, I found out that he picked up and moved across the country without telling his roommate (ghosting him also), took OUR shared dog, and didn't leave word with anyone. I reached out to his friends, who also didn't write me back.
One day, a month or two later, I went to use my debit card to buy groceries and my card was denied due to lack of funds. I called the bank immediately, as I knew I had around $700 in my account. "Sorry," they said. "Your name is on a shared account with Ryan and he's been overdrafted for months and months and so our policy is to take the money to cover the overdraft from the account of whomever else shares the overdrafted account." I protested that I only opened that account with him, never once used it or even had a card for it, but it didn't matter. I emailed Ryan immediately - I was stranded with no money in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world, my rent almost due, my parents financially spent on helping me out across the world, and my part-time job's payment still weeks away. I had also lent him $2,000 to move before I left for London, which he promised to pay me back. Now, there he owed me $700 more. And...nothing. Radio silence. I tried calling him, he never picked up. Emails, texts went unanswered.
Months later, I received a terse email in which he wrote, "I wish i had a good answer for you about this whole thing. I know it's fucked that I didn't pay you back but I hope in time that can be rectified... I like to think of you out there in London sometimes. My girlfriend wants me to throw our pictures away, but I can't bring myself to [ED. NOTE: Cool girlfriend]).
Needless to say, it's 7 years later and I've never been repaid, and I've never heard from him, despite repeated attempts to reach out and get some G A D D A N G C L O S U R E.
Maybe: A Ghost Story
There she was. I tried my best not to see her as some sort of human-shaped gift from the gods but maybe it was a sigh, no, I thought. Don't be stupid. Don't get your hopes u- "It's a sign!" Steph said, interrupting the internal exorcism in progress. "Hah..." was all I could utter, as we walked closer to her. Confused, Steph tried to reiterate "But you were just talking about h-...Hey!" I said, trying to mask all remnants of the previous conversation. I said it so loudly, though, I made myself blush. She looked over at me and mockingly shouted "What's going on?!" An amused smile on her face.
As friends came and went, we stayed sedentary; joking about singledom and the difficulties of even finding "like," on dating apps. A few drinks later, with arms around my waist and a hint of desperation in her eyes, she asked me if I was like the others; if I would say things I didn't mean. "I've been stupid and gotten my hopes up for nothing in the past," she said. I felt my stomach drop. For once, maybe it was real.
I haven't heard from her since.
While it's a righteous indictment women, feminists, and otherwise make against those who ghost, I am here to tell you that I am among the guilty: I am the one who ghosts. I haunt or rather, fail to haunt, the smartphones of men who turned me off too soon or freaked me out, or hinted at any type of early onset commitment. I'm a happy failure of online dating: having made plans that never happened, conducted email conversations that drifted into radio silence.
IRL I am notorious for my French exits, horrendous with making plans, and easily smothered. In short, I am a pain to date. I attribute much of this to my father (who was as a great a dad any gal could ask for), but who also suffered a horrendous helicopter accident over the Pacific Ocean in his twenties, and because of this raised me to favor sitting in the back row in the aisle seat closest to the exit in all theaters and churches and airplanes, to keep my hand on the emergency brake in the car, to buy in bulk, and to keep enough money to get myself out of town as fast as possible if the need struck. As a result, more than half the relationships I've been in have been because I grew tired of my partner's relentless and excessive display of intention and interest, without me every truly considering how much I liked them or not.
In high school, I broke up with a boyfriend over email while he was studying abroad in London; another I hung up on after a bad fight and never called him again (never!); a third I left overnight, packing my things and moving out while he was out of town. I can't tell if I'm lazy, prudish, mean, or just practical; My tinder profile includes a list of things I need help with in my apartment and I've made plans with exactly three men and showed up to exactly zero dates after sending the text message equivalent of backing away slowly towards the door. I haven't always been this way, I commit as I see fit, been in love, obsessed, etc. but to keep moving feels much better. Love of the chase roots out the weak ones, the ones who aren't to determined to know you, the ones who aren't spirited enough to keep up. In the meanwhile, I'll keep running.
I moved to Portland, Oregon for a guy. If you've ever done this, admit it. Don't say you moved because of the fresh air or because you always wanted to Oregon Trail IRL or because you hate Vitamin D and happiness. Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo! (But, do you know what is a tattoo? Our matching ones.)
Everyone hated him, and so did I. This guy was a nightmare, truly, the teeth-falling-out of boyfriends. But again, I didn't move to Oregon to build banjos, I moved for him and I was not a quitter! His roommate and I rolled our eyes in unison when he walked in the room, forming a secret, taboo alliance against the collective bane of our existence. He broke up with me on Christmas Day.
In what felt like twelve seconds later, the roommate swooped in. He was ready to be next and I was ready to be into it! He was nice, funny, and we were both lanky enough that when we hugged, I could confidently imagine that we were giraffes. We went on one nice date, and it was clear that he was READY. FOR. A. RELATIONSHIP. I, having just unwrapped the Great Gift Of Christmas Sadness, wanted to take things slow. I agreed to another date, a play!
STEPHANIE: (waiting for act one to begin, she exhales her perpetual existential crisis) I wonder what I'll look like when I'm old.
ROOMMATE: (sweet, as if choking on honey) Hopefully, I won't have to wonder!
EXIT stage left forever.
We proceeded to sit through an hour and a half of a play about marriage and I never spoke to him again. Boo! I'm the ghost!
Illustrations by: Abbey Lossing