Walking into an old favorite restaurant on Saturday afternoon with a monstrous hangover, I suddenly stopped in my tracks. The color, I’m told, drained from my face, and my immediate nausea, panic, and desire to leave were allegedly palpable.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” remarked one friend.
Pushing through the sunny midday crowd to grab a table, I locked eyes with a man on the other side of the courtyard who similarly stopped in his tracks, the color similarly draining from his face. You might say, it looked like he had seen a ghost.
My friends and I sat down, piling around menus and searching for a cure to our Halloween weekend ailments. Eventually, the man approached, and thus began the unpleasant pleasantries of actually encountering a real life ghost. On his part.
For in this scenario, it would seem I am the monster. I was the ghost.
After a little back and forth about the weather and whatnot, I remarked that I had been “crazy busy” lately, even going so far as to say I had been “working like a dog” which, in my defense, is almost true.
“So crazy,” I continued, “I can’t even describe. Just. Crazy…” I trailed off.
“So busy you couldn’t call me back, right?” He laughed, jokingly, but definitely 100 percent seriously.
It was the perfect move. I had no way out. I could either start flapping and lying and ferociously trying to cover my ghoulish, ghastly tracks, or just confess, admit defeat and succumb to the fact that I had been a total monster.
Thinking back on the series of messages he had sent that I had not only ignored, but entirely deleted from my phone, I felt a pang of something nasty. Not guilt, because this is New York and you can pretty much expect the least from people at all times and be completely accurate in the behavior you receive. Perhaps something a little closer to shame.
“Yes,” I replied, then quickly followed up with “too busy to call anyone back, to be honest. Even my own mother.”
Which is the honest truth, and seemed to somewhat diffuse the situation and return the conversation to safer, more level playing fields of ex-pat life and traveling home for Christmas.
Ghosting is probably not an entirely new phenomenon -- humans have presumably been intermittently ignoring each other since the dawn of time. We all have spells of being unbearably irritating and warranting a level of abandonment. That’s how babies are trained to sleep through the night. Tough love. Being cruel to be kind.
However, the term “ghosting” has become a recent addition to millennial vocabulary due to the key perpetuance of our petty crimes: social media and online dating. To “ghost” someone is to vanish, to disappear, to ignore and no longer respond to any form of communication from that person.
To “ghost” someone is to effectively die, or become dead to them on a social media or online dating platform. To transition into the afterlife where you are presumably happily indulging in a litany of equally interesting and superior beings.
It is arguably the most rude and also, the most common form of communicating to another member of the human race that you are not interested in forming a romantic relationship or temporary romantic bond with them -- at all. Ever.
As a relatively morally sound and passably decent member of aforementioned human race, I have tried to abstain from such callous conduct, going so far as to announce in groups that I would never dream of doing such a thing and condemning my fellow female friends for doing so.
In my mind, it was always a very male thing to do, to so easily discard someone who showed signs of possibly being invested in you. A very male thing to treat another person like a disposable piece of garbage.
However, I have realized of late, that perhaps this is exactly why women should “ghost” just as much and just as hard as men do. Haven’t we spent too long pandering to their supposed, secret sensitivities while they squander and abuse our conveniently outward ones?
By being the more easily honest and open of the sexes, have we inadvertently exposed ourselves to more commonplace mistreatment because it’s more obvious that it will hurt? By being the more difficult to read and self-preserving of the sexes, have men inadvertently lent themselves to kinder treatment because we’re afraid of what they might be feeling?
Well damn the lot of it, I say. Sweeping generalizations need to be put aside, and ghosting can become a global equality phenomenon where men and women are equally ignorant to each other!
I swore I would never do it, and yet, I have done so with swift ease, safe in the knowledge that they have done it to others, and so the epidemic spreads. Ghosts will take over the millennial code of conduct and human decency like a zombie apocalypse. Let us all be morally bankrupt and merry!
The worst part about ghosting is the initial sense of guilt or shame, depending on your individual inclination, but it’s easily overcome as you go deeper into the rabbit hole of the modern day world of singledom.
Once you swallow your pride and accept that this is merely another symptom or characteristic of the generation of instant gratification, you can accept that bowing out of a conversation mid-conversation doesn’t merit apology or explanation. You are a free thing, you can do as you please and do not have to answer to people who are, for all intents and purposes, strangers.
The best thing about ghosting stems from that -- the convenience. You suddenly don’t have to check in with your humanity so relentlessly and can move happily forward to the utopian future of emotionless automatons that technology is gently pushing us towards.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and this heartless method of finding love is a movement that it seems we can have no say in, but must simply join and endure until death do us part.