dating

"Last night I told my friends what I do instead of ghosting. They looked at me in horror."

Last week I went on a first date with a man I met on Tinder. Let’s call him… Alex.

In his profile pics, Alex looked cute. He’d written a witty bio (something a surprising number of men don’t even bother with) and we had a couple of shared interests (wine and the gym – nothing like a bit of balance, right?)

After exchanging messages for a few days, Alex asked to meet and I agreed. There was just one problem. When I arrived at the bar we’d chosen (a mutual favourite) I couldn’t see him. It took me a good minute to realise that the man waving to me from a corner table was in fact Alex.

This Alex was years older than his photos had led me to believe.

My enthusiasm deflated like a pricked balloon – a sensation undoubtedly familiar to anyone has ever used dating apps. I was pretty hacked off that he’d misrepresented himself to such a degree.

That said, a while ago I decided to date like I’m looking for a friend, not shopping for the best deal out there.

So I joined Alex at the table and we ordered some drinks.

We chatted, we laughed. Sadly, the physical attraction didn’t grow on my part but we had a pleasant enough evening and got on well. When we left the bar Alex offered to order me an Uber and wait with me until it arrived, but, spotting a vacant black cab trundling down the road, I gave him a quick hug goodbye and jumped inside. I thought taking charge of how I was getting home and not sticking around for a lingering goodbye would make my message clear: I’m just not that into you.

But the next day I received a text message.

“Hey Polly, had such a great night with you. I was thinking for our second date, we could go…”

He then mentioned a wine tasting event we had talked about.

Oh.

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I had thought it was clear to both of us that there would be no second date, that our evening had been pleasant but certainly not worthy of a repeat performance.

“Seems I was wrong,” I told my friends a couple of nights later over drinks as I recounted the date and the follow up message.

“Awkward,” one friend said. “So what are you going to do, just ignore it?”

“Or say you’re really busy at work?” suggested another. “Orrrrr do that thing where you take ages to reply to each message so they eventually get the hint?”

I frowned.

“I’ve already texted back,” I said.

They stared at me, wide-eyed and curious.

I showed them the message… and my friends looked at me in absolute horror.

“You didn’t send that?” my friend said. “OMG I would die.”

“Poor guy…” the other one muttered, shaking their head.

My friends all agreed, to my genuine surprise, they would rather be ghosted or “phased out” than receive this:

The offending text message.

Now, I'm not saying it wouldn't sting to receive a message like this from someone I was interested in, especially after what I had perceived to be a successful date. But surely we don't live in a world where ghosting - literally disappearing on someone without a word - is preferable to good old-fashioned honesty?

Ghosting is the worst. It is rude, cowardly and disrespectful. And in the right (or should I say wrong?) circumstances, it hurts like a motherf*cker.

Ghosting is ambiguous. It raises dozens of questions to which you will never receive any answers. It gives you no cue to react, because what are you even reacting to? What has even happened?

Maybe that sounds dramatic? But to me, it's passive-aggressive, immature and in some cases, tantamount to emotional cruelty.

But, hey, you saved yourself a moment of discomfort and an awkward conversation, good for you I guess.

In case it's not obvious, I have been ghosted and no, I don't want to also be a part of this toxic dating culture that downloadable apps have created.

So yes, I could have ignored Alex's message. I could have told him I was going to be really busy at work for the next few weeks. I could have said yes to the date, then backed out a few days later, citing a "headache" or a "family commitment." I could have "slow-ghosted", disappearing gradually rather than in a puff of smoke. Because that's just so much kinder, right?

But instead I chose to treat him like an adult. And in a moment of (possibly brutal) honesty, maybe I saved him from a whole heap of entirely unnecessary hurt, humiliation and confusion.

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