The single life is not easy. It is fraught with false starts, disappointments, expectations, surprises (not always pleasant), and periods of…well, nothing.
Last year, I joined a number of popular online dating sites to jumpstart my social and dating life. The first month brought a number in interesting men who seemed eager (sometimes a bit too, too eager) to date and get to know. The messages and texts between us flew swiftly, carried by Hermes, inspired by Eros. The banter was witty, erotic, seductive, and stimulating. Each time my cell phone pinged, I got an immediate dose of dopamine that made certain parts of my body twitch with pleasure — and gave me a certain anticipation. But the payoff never materialized. The meetings never took place. And after about a week of chatter, the silence that settled was deafing and unexplained.
“You’ve been ghosted,” a friend said to me. That’s when someone you “meet” online, or have an intense online “relationship” with, suddenly disappears never to be heard from again. Their online “persona” remains, as well as their photos and profile, but your attempts at contacting and getting a reply go unanswered. Ghosting is the new version of blocking someone, execept you still can see the person who now ignores you.
Ghosting is not exclusive to dating web sites; “hooking” social apps are swamps full of ghosts and transient digital men making the rounds as well.
LJ, as he goes by on Scruff, is handsome. I had been chatting with him for a couple of days thinking, “He’s not so bad.” LJ is funny and playful; he likes to flirt. During one of his trips to London on business, I was surprised to get a message from him. I did not make a lot of it. I replied to his greeting, keeping things light, but without any overt indication of interest on my part for us to meet when he returned to South Florida.
It’s not that I was not interested in meeting LJ; it’s just that at the time, if anyone was to ask me what it was I’m looking for, I’d say I was interested in meeting people and making friends. Nothing more. LJ, from his texts, wanted more. And yet, every time I proposed or mentioned a meet-and-greet at a local coffee shop, the proposal went unanswered or was deferred to a later time, after he returned from a business trip.
I wanted nothing more than a casual friendship, an acquaintance to test the dating waters and see how well I fared in the modern dating scene. At this point what I really wanted was a friend, or a couple of friends I could go out and enjoy myself with, I told LJ. Good friends are hard to come by, and most people I spoke to about this in South Florida agree with me. Even my best-friend warned me about Miami’s tough crowd when I moved back. “It’s not the same Miami you remember,” she warned. “People are ruder, louder, and harder to get to know. Everyone’s set the bar high for everyone else, but no one’s done anything about it for themselves.”
When I talk to acquaintances about dating, they all say the same thing: “If you’re not rich, driving the latest Lexus, or living in Brickell, you’re nobody. And if you don’t have the abs to show for it, then you might as well retire to Naples or Pensacola.”
The notion or possibility of dating anyone, let alone hook up for sex, while appealing at some level, left me feeling exhausted. I didn’t want to go through or put up with the effort of flirting and putting myself in a situation that returned little. Certainly, a sexual fling would be pleasurable. If I wanted that and only that, there are plenty of opportunities for it an hour’s drive away in Wilted Manners. But after last year’s dating debacle, even that seemed like a lot of work.
After a few more messages, the texts between LJ and I languished and ultimately disappeared. I’d been ghosted, or Scruffed (as I now like to call it). LJ’s profile remained online. There were times when he viewed mine — mostly when I updated my profile photo or my location suggested I was near his. But no more communication was forthcoming and eventually I decided to ghost him as well.
Now, I don’t see the point of going out of my way to meet someone who may or may not follow through on a bland statement made in a carefully worded and edited profile. Instead, I’d rather meet someone I have enough in common with to hope for a second meeting and possibly go out to dinner some time after that. A day at the beach would be nice. Then maybe a movie, a few weekends where we get to know and make each other laugh. Then after that…I can’t even think that far.
It would be nice if one day someone not hailing from the other side of the world, or visiting South Florida for the weekend, returned a Scruff message that led to a friendly “Hello” and becomes the start of a life-long friendship; but for now what I settle for is another night at home, hugging my body pillows, while I shop for shoes online.
Before the new year I did the ultimate ghosting-move: I removed my profile from Scruff and deleted the app from my phone. No more, I said to a friend of mine. From now on, I’m meeting gay men the old-fashion way. “In public bathrooms?” he said, cheekily. No! In a way that humanizes the meeting process, I replied. Face-to-face. Analog. Where verbal, visual, and physical cues tell me whether we are interested in an encore or not; or whether, if after a beer or two, there is the promise of a kiss, or two.
Eros must have been smiling. Cupid must have seemed glad to be remembered and put to task. Sometimes, tried and true ways work best — and for me, making connections with someone the old fashion way is the best way to move on.