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People ask me all the time why I’ve decided to label myself as feral and completely leave the dating pool.  I admit my self-classification as “feral” is tongue-in-cheek.  It’s just my way of fully embracing my single identity.  A number of things have made me disillusioned about dating in the Big Apple.  The worst thing I’ve encountered more than once though is the dreaded ghost.  It’s not a wandering spirit or aberration who hasn’t made peace with the afterlife.  A ghost in terms of dating is a partner who’s decided to simply walk away with no contact or explanation after an intimate encounter.

The worst example ghosting happened to me years ago.  The man was someone I knew well, or at least I thought I did.  To protect his identity I won’t reveal anything about him – his age, occupation or any physical characteristics.  I’ll simply call him Kevin, although that’s not his real name.

Kevin worked with me in a situations where we were often stuck together for 12-14 hours at a stretch.  We weren’t close friends but we could talk easily and had decent chemistry.   He was always a bit flirtatious but things accelerated for some reason after we knew each other about three years.  I worked with Kevin in a freelance situation so I didn’t see him on a regular basis.  I was definitely attracted to him but I was extremely unsure about the situation since we sometimes worked together.  He was also  bit younger than me, but most single men I encounter are at least 8-10 years my junior if not more.  He made it clear that he just wanted to hookup.  I wasn’t sure about it but I hadn’t had sex in forever and the only offers I was getting at the time were for casual sex from total strangers.  At least I knew Kevin.  I remained hesitant and Kevin went so far as to call me on the phone and talk me into it at length.   I was impressed that he called me as it seemed no man in New York City knew that phones could actually be used to make phone calls.  Most men sent texts usually filled with smut and the occasional dick pic.  A phone call seemed old school and classy.

The plan was made.  He picked me up from a job I had we went back to his place.  He treated me politely and friendly as he always had in the past.  The sex was intense and over the top.  The build up of three years had sort of worked its magic.  As soon as things were done, he turned away from me as if I was toxic waste.  I was a bit shocked as I wasn’t expecting cuddling afterward but his body language was extreme.  Not one molecule of his body was touching mine.  It was as if I wasn’t there.  The first few moments were incredibly awkward.  I decided to break the tension by mentioning something personal about him.  I saw a sports jersey that was hanging in a prominent position in his bedroom and asked him.

“What’s that from?  Are you on a team or something?”

He responded.

Why are you asking that?  I’m not going to tell you that.

It was as if a switch had gone off in his brain and he was punishing me for having had sex with him.  I lied there wondering how I messed up this situation so badly.   I never did this.  I hated hookups. I had known this man for years.  When he was convincing me to do this with him he kept me on the phone for over an hour.  Now he was treating me as if I had crawled into his window uninvited.  A feeling of dread passed over my body.   I felt like I wasn’t even there anymore and that I was somehow floating above the bed.  What the hell just happened?

Some pleasantries were exchanged.  He apologized for not being able to give me a ride home.  I insisted on taking the subway anyway.   I walked myself to the subway stunned and sickened.  The whole experience was 100% consensual but he made me feel like I was a used Kleenex he tossed after masturbating.

I waited a few days and sent him a text about a gig I knew he had coming up.  I wished him well.  There were no heart emojis or anything romantic.  He was short and brusque back.  I thought maybe I was reading too much into it.  Maybe I was projecting things on him that weren’t there.  I waited a few days and sent a couple more texts only to get blanked over the next week or so.  I kind of snapped and started sending him pleading messages.  I just wanted a response, any response.   I wasn’t professing my love to him, I wasn’t expecting an instant boyfriend.  I had no expectation that we would start dating.  I was just reaching out.  I’d known him for three years.  I thought he was my friend.  The whole thing felt like some epic Madonna/Whore test that I had failed miserably.  I’m not sure if I was supposed to continually spurn his advances or go full Jezebel and ask him for a three-way with a woman I picked up on OKCupid.

He never responded again.  Since my divorce I haven’t exactly had the greatest track record dating but my experience with Kevin was by far the worst.  My head was filled with the same thoughts bouncing back and forth through my skull for days.

How could he do this to me?  He knows me.   I’m not some stranger off the street.  What the hell is going on?  Why is he treating me like garbage?  What’s wrong with me?

It wasn’t that Kevin was some great prize or that I wanted a relationship with him.  I was just shocked that he treated me so horribly.   Without hesitation that experience has been the worst consensual sexual experience of my life.  It wasn’t abuse just inconsiderate and callous.  I played the whole incident over and over again in my mind trying to figure out what I had done wrong to make him treat me this way.  I decided that it didn’t matter.

Of course I did run into him again a few months later in work-related scenario.  As soon as I saw him he looked right at me.  I diverted his gaze.  I decided in the moment to act  like I had no idea who he was.  If he was going to treat me with such disregard I’d do the same.  His response was not surprising as he kept staring at me from across the room.  I’m not sure how he was expecting me to react.  What was I supposed to do? Run up to him and embrace him?  Ask him what he was up to the past couple of months?  I just wanted him to disappear.  Finally near the end of the job I was being ushered by my supervisor right next to where he was standing.  I could feel his eyes burning into mine but I refused to make contact.  When things got to the point of absurdity I turned to him and said simply “Hey Kevin” and kept walking.  I didn’t even make eye contact.  If he had tried to talk to me I would have just nodded and walked away.

The hardest part of it was not blaming myself.  I dissected and analyzed everything I said and did in the time I spent with Kevin trying to figure out what caused him to be that way.  Ironically the whole experience would have been much easier to get over if Kevin was a total stranger.  In his mind I was just garbage and if I wanted to be treated better by men I would have to go back to my old standard.  A guy would have to ask me out on a proper date and put some effort forth.  If they wanted a no-strings attached sexual situation then they could ask someone else.  I don’t judge others who live that lifestyle it’s just a bad fit for me.

Things haven’t gotten much better.  I’ve been ghosted since my fling with Kevin.  I wish I could say there was some sort of magical set of clues that would indicate when a seemingly grounded man will emotional disappear but I’ve got none.  I’ve sadly learned to expect it.

I never saw Kevin again and I’m glad I haven’t.  If I did see him he’d simply be someone I have no recollection of meeting much less having sex with.  Feral life suits me better anyway – no attachments, no commitments and no expectations.  I’d rather have nothing than the dreaded ghost.

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2 comments on “Dating in NYC – The Dreaded Ghost

  1. David Paulson

    Hi Juliet. This is very sad to read. What is wrong with people? Must be a problem with how they were brought up.

  2. Louis

    I wish I could apologize for all men for the behavior of this man. In my opinion, a true apology needs to be accompanied by a commitment not to repeat the offending behavior. Obviously this is not a rare or isolated incident, and unlikely to change in the near future. I can and do apologize on behalf of all good men, which I aspire to be. I am dismayed at how few of them there apparently are.

    I have never understood men who treat women so badly. I have seen them throw themselves at women and once they have sex, then cool off or disappear entirely. What a gift physical intimacy is! When I finally am given such a wonderful gift, I want more and more of it. How can they walk away without a care after only one wonderful experience?

    I cannot fathom men who somehow find it so easy to have sex with women that they only want it once and then they’re done. In my case I’ve found that it often takes several times with a woman before we really click with each other. My impression is that it gets better each time. I believe if both people are open, giving, and willing to explore what makes the other person feel good, it can keep getting better indefinitely. Imagine having mind-blowing sex the hundredth time you’re together, or the thousandth!

    I think the source of the problem must be within the fragile psyches of such baby-men that they cannot handle the “intense, over-the-top” experience you had. I have to wonder what bizarre, tragic set of circumstances they must have experienced to make them that way. I tend to think it’s partly religious or “moral” absolutism that is counter to our natural instincts, but that would excuse the obvious deficit of personal ethics so clearly to blame in this situation.

    I personally have called out this behavior in male-bonding situations, but must admit only began doing so as I reached a more mature age. In my youth, I lacked the courage to challenge the “alpha” male behavior that even them mystified me. I was the guy always stuck in the “friend zone” wishing that the woman they had just ignored or abused would see me as a potential sex partner. I’m not sure if it would have helped in the days of shotgunning beers and upside down beer bongs. I have hope that the more enlightened generation of my children will achieve what mine so clearly failed to do.

    So, again, on behalf (of what may admittedly be a small group) of good men. I sincerely apologize for my gender. We must find a way to change. Being called out by all of us is clearly the first step. Thank you for taking it.

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