Maybe in Defense of Ghosting

I read this thing on Buzzfeed last week called “The 10 Worst Things To Say During A Breakup.” I found a lot of the commentary to be valid. Particularly, #3 (“I’m not looking for a relationship.”), #6 (“I’m just really busy right now.”), and #7 (“I’m just bad at this stuff.”) reminded me of past experiences I’d much rather forget. But #10 (“[Nothing]” / Ghosting) hit the closest to home because…that just happened to me.

The very specific details are irrelevant – or, rather, I don’t think this is the best place to share them – but I will tell you that I had gone on several dates with a guy over the course of many weeks. Like, I would describe what we were doing as “dating.” But then, he just disappeared. No communication whatsoever. And I really had no indication that he would stop talking to me altogether except for this feeling the whole time we were seeing each other that it would end like this. But I had chalked that up to early relationship anxiety. Nothing more.

In the first days when I began to suspect that I wouldn’t hear from him again, I drove myself crazy wondering if I should contact him. I decided to hold back, not because I didn’t want to, but because my therapist encouraged me to wait it out until he contacted me. I believe or see the value in most of what she says, but this advice – which she had given me many times before and which I’d never heeded – had always seemed crazy to me. I didn’t see the point in not trying to communicate with him. It seemed anti-feminist to me. Why did I have to sit back and wait? Why couldn’t I take matters into my own hands? And besides, maybe there had been some kind of misunderstanding. Maybe he was just so busy that he’d lost track of time. Maybe he had been trying to get in touch with me and his messages just got lost in the ether.

I thought wishfully for a time, during which I showed extreme will power in not even attempting to text or call him. But when it started to dawn on me that I wasn’t going to hear from him and this was the end, I started to see my therapist’s point in not making contact. It was hard not to try to find out why he had disappeared. (I want to know everything! Like, everything in the world. Especially things that have a direct effect on my life.) But I realized that I would never really know. Because what was he going to say to me when I did manage to track him down? That he’s afraid of intimacy? That he was too much of a coward to tell me that he wasn’t serious about me or that he wasn’t looking for anything more than casual dating? Not a chance. I imagine he would have, like so many others, said one of the “worst things.” Which I don’t really need to hear.

“Isn’t it better to know?” my friend asked me. “Don’t you want closure?” another said. No and yes. For me, it’s better to not know. It’s better to let go and not have a “reason” to fixate on, something that could heighten my insecurities and make me feel helpless. I don’t want to know anything that I could possibly turn against myself. And in terms of closure, I don’t think any of us experience that until we die.

I’ve had some shitty breakups and letdowns before. (Interestingly, the really shitty ones were when the dudes told me they were “seeing someone else,” which I don’t even think was true in a few cases.) This one…is not shitty. It’s disappointing. As a wise person once said to me, “If a dude wants to hang out with you, he’ll call you.” So, this dude didn’t call. He doesn’t want to hang out with me. And maybe this is weird but…I don’t want to spend time and brain space trying to figure out what’s going on with someone who so clearly doesn’t want to spend time with me.

I still think I deserved the courtesy of some form of goodbye. If that had happened in a timely manner, I could have also said goodbye and moved on. But, in general, people suck and we can’t expect anything from anyone and if someone can’t do something simple and decent, then paying any more thought or attention to them is worthless except to acknowledge and learn from the experience of them being terrible.


Journal Failures

The other day someone asked me if my blog is “about something or more like a journal.” I didn’t really know how to answer. Is it about something? Um, not really. It’s about…me, I guess. I suppose that would make this more of a journal. But I also don’t like thinking of it as “a journal” because of my long history of failing to keep journals.

When I was in second grade, I purchased a tiny diary with a lock at a book fair. The diary was pink with a ballet slipper on the front. The fact that I chose that particular style of diary confuses me now, as I don’t remember being much of a girly girl. But alas, maybe that was the aesthetic I was aiming for then. I wrote my deepest thoughts in that diary in pens of many different colors, as collecting a variety of pens with unnaturally hued inks was one of my main interests at the time.

At first, I vowed to write in my diary every night before I went to bed, which I did faithfully for a grand total of four days. After that, I found that I had a lot of trouble writing about the mundane. Over the next few years, I was compelled to write in the diary only when something big happened, like when my very first nemesis chased me around our playground – which was the parking lot for our school and church – and called me a “skinhead,” which led me to pretend that I was sick and spend the afternoon crying in our principal’s office. Or when I was angry at my family friend and had the sudden realization that she was “a BICH,” which I scrawled with gusto and then crossed out for fear that my mother, who I was convinced was reading my diary, would see that I had written a word that I wasn’t even supposed to know.

Eventually, I gave up writing in the ballet slipper diary. I found it years later, when I was fourteen and we were moving to a new house. I threw it out along with all the other notebooks that reminded me of my past selves.

The number of journals I started after that first one, I don’t think I could count. I followed the same pattern with all of them. I would write consistently for a few days, until the pressure to write every day became too much and I would set the journal aside entirely because I was so ashamed of my failure.

Then, in my junior year of high school, I discovered LiveJournal thanks to a group of my friends who published reliably “emo” laments and screeds on the platform. LiveJournal was the first place that I shared my thoughts and feelings for public consumption. I assumed that my friends were the only people who read my entries, which were appropriately dramatic for a seventeen-year old who spent a not insignificant amount of time driving around suburban New York alone, listening to Belle & Sebastian.

Many months into LiveJournaling, I found out that the college I’d applied to early decision had deferred my application. I was despondent. I was almost too embarrassed to write about what I deemed, at the time, to be my greatest failure. But I did it. I wrote a post about how I felt, in which I said that I deserved to get into this school just as much as anyone else.

It turned out that more people than my friends were interested in what I wrote. Days after I’d published that post, someone told me that they’d heard from another girl in our class that I had said that another girl who had also applied to the same school and was deferred didn’t deserve to get in. I was indignant. This wasn’t what I’d said at all. I was talking about myself. I tried to clarify this in another post, but that didn’t really matter. The damage had been done. I was irrevocably a bitch who talked shit about other people on her LiveJournal.

Though that was the only time I remember someone taking issue with words I’d posted on the internet, the same sort of “bitch” characterization occurred several times for me during that year. A few things I said in real life were either taken out of context or blown out of proportion. I accidentally made enemies just by being myself. I didn’t have “mean girl” status in high school. In fact, I didn’t think I had any status at all. I felt powerless when others called me names or said they hated me. I rarely defended myself, except to those who were on my side in the first place. When I wonder why it took me so long to develop my voice and to rid myself of any of the fear I’ve felt in exercising it, I have to think that this reinforcement of my self-consciousness had maybe a little bit to do with it.

After my LiveJournal incident, I posted less and less frequently, until I stopped posting altogether. I wouldn’t write anything personal to post on the internet again until I started this blog. (I’m not counting Facebook or Twitter because, well, I never really used those platforms to express sincere personal opinions or stories.) I did try keeping private journals again, with varying degrees of success.

I wrote in a journal when I studied abroad in Paris. At first, I recorded everything I did and felt, focusing mostly on my acute homesickness and broken-heartedness. Eventually, though, I became used to things in Paris. I was busy. I had made friends. I didn’t need the journal so much anymore. I wrote a few final entries during my last week, and when I got home to New York, one of the first things I did was stash it in the top drawer in my bedside table. When I opened it years later, I was too embarrassed by what I’d written to read it at all closely and threw it back in the drawer.

I procured another journal during my senior year of college, which I very faithfully wrote and drew in for months and months. When I stopped writing in it as much, I felt the same sort of anger at myself that I always did when I abandoned journals. But then, I just decided that I couldn’t put pressure on myself to write in it. I would use the journal when I needed it, when writing out my feelings made sense. This was extremely helpful during a period when I was trying to figure out “what I want to do with my life.”

I still have this journal, though I’ve mostly abandoned it like I have all of the others. It sits next to my bed, in a basket underneath my nightstand. I’ve crossed out the address in the front and written a new one three different times, not because I think I’m going to lose it, but to note the passage of time. I only open it these days when I feel that I need to write out how I’m feeling in a safe, private place. This has occurred only twice within the past year. Both of those entries were about men. I think the four previous entries were also about men. It’s effectively become a journal about my uneventful love life, which is something I don’t think I’ll write about in public until those non-events are well in the past.

When I first started writing here, I actually wondered how long it would take me to abandon Emphatic Hands. But I’ve been consistently posting for a year and a half now and am kind of shocked by my dedication. In a way, this blog has become my first successful journal. It’s also become my first successful blog. So…who really cares what it’s about? I’m just glad it’s still happening.

Things I’d Rather Be Doing Today

hello kitty december

1. Baking so many kinds of cookies, but especially:

– Sugar cookies (Christmas cutouts) with royal frosting
– Minty chocolate cookies dusted with powdered sugar
– Linzer cookies

2. Sitting in front of a cozy fire with a book, preferably a fantasy novel, though I’d be open to other genres

3. Studying all of the German past tenses

4. Walking on a treadmill while reading The New Yorker

5. Finalizing my list of favorite 2013 songs

6. Crafting stuff (stuff TBD)

7. Participating in a hot dog eating contest, which isn’t seasonally appropriate, but is something I’ve always wanted to do

8. Listening to a every single volume of A Very Special Christmas

9. Drinking unlimited beer, but only as long as I’m guaranteed to not be hungover tomorrow

10. Hiding in a Christmas stocking full of gifts and candy, which is what the Hello Kitty on my December calendar page is doing

11. Watching Lilyhammer Season 2, which isn’t even available until tomorrow and isn’t even really that good, though I’ll admit that I watched the first season kind of quickly

12. Buying Christmas gifts for myself

13. Doing all of the crossword puzzles I’ve saved during the past six months

14. Singing (karaoke)

15. Watching my mom’s Zumba class