Ghosts

Dear CWS,

You were the most painful ghost, the one I kept coming back to over and over. Luckily the years of very good therapy have wiped away any desire to chase down people who aren’t interested. I feel none. I lack any curiosity about you at all. Interest in anything about you left when I accepted that you weren’t interested in me. I don’t do that anymore and I don’t miss it.

But there were many years when this wasn’t the case and I looked longingly back at our friendship and missed you so much. What had I done? I wondered. With you I was mostly confident that it was your own demons that led you to disappear as you did. Always afraid. Always unwilling to take risks.

Yet there was also some sudden self confidence at times seemingly out of nowhere. You bought those $450 boots when you came to visit me, certain your husband would not be happy with the purchase but doing it anyway. You wanted them, you were getting them. That’s all there was to it. It seemed strange to me, and mean to your husband. You lived in the smallest of small towns and rarely went anywhere. Why did you want them? You also were angry at him for some trivial thing. You stewed about it for months. I thought it was ridiculous, but didn’t tell you because I wanted to be supportive. You also followed trends much more than I would have thought had I not known you better. You could be so buttoned up, but you were a closet extrovert. You knew about famous people, their details. I didn’t really get it.

I speculated that you ghosted me because I felt a desire for a spiritual life. Not religion. Oh, no. Never. But you hated religious zealots and I could hear in your questions about my explorations your concern that any spirituality would lead to fundamentalism. As if. I also quit supporting Obama and the whole bullshit Democrat regime. Again, this meant in your mind I was heading to Republicanism. Again, are you fucking kidding me? You just seemed to have a complete inability to see that there might be more than two sides.

You disappeared. A year later somehow we communicated by facebook messenger. In that you said something about me, I can’t even remember what, but it was shitty. Something like “People who can’t seem to deal with their shit,” because while you were talking about me, you could never be direct, so it was this passive-aggressive third person attack. I remember thinking, well fuck you. I don’t need your wrong-headed, judgmental bullshit. I was glad you had ghosted me.

But when I would remember the moments of our friendship that brought me joy, I would feel nostalgic and sad, wondering again what I had done. Thankfully, through that very helpful therapy, I opened my eyes and realized you had always held me at arm’s length while I considered you one of my best friends. It says more about me that I believed this. You didn’t tell me for a week after your son was born. I was at home waiting for the call, wondering when it was going to happen. I had sent you many special baby things. I even sent you my pregnancy diary that the post office lost (I’m still heartbroken over this). I thought we were that close. Meanwhile you had your baby and were home and settled before you even bothered to tell me. This should have been clue one, but no. Privately it stung, but I ignored it, because that was my way.

At some point, the nostalgia disappeared. I opened my eyes and noticed all the stuff I had ignored. I also looked long and hard at the way things went down and realized they were nasty and passive aggressive. You didn’t have courage enough to be honest about what was bothering you so you disappeared. It took time, but I realized finally that I had lost interest, and I still don’t really care what you’re doing and rarely think of you.

Ghosted.

Dear DS,

You were not the first to disappear, but you are foremost in my mind because I heard through the grapevine you are retiring. I considered reaching out to congratulate you, but I am of two minds about this. One part of me thinks it is the polite thing to do. The other part recognizes that you ghosted me and there is a reason for that, so I should not offer anything. If you wanted to hear from me, you would not have disappeared.

I have long passed the place where I feel like anything I have done caused your behavior. This is the case with all of my ghosts. I have a feeling about why you did it, but it is pure speculation because you never explained. You just up and went away.

You called me once in the mid 2000s from a mountain in Utah while you were skiing. I had never pictured you enjoying life; I had always only seen you at work and in work attire. So smart. So thorough in your analyses. I never felt up to the task. I was so surprised and pleased to discover you recommended me for my first job, and were direct and shared with me that you didn’t want another student I had worked with to know that he was not recommended and never would be. For years I felt like you were a friend. Others even said, call your friend DS and ask him if we had a legal question. It was a known thing, us being friends.

That time you called me from Utah it felt like more than just a colleague call. I got the sense that you might have been interested in me beyond work, but you were so many years older. I just couldn’t imagine it. I still can’t. I didn’t give you hope that there would be a relationship beyond friendship.

Then in 2016 I decided to go get my master’s degree in teaching. You told me you would write a letter of recommendation. And that was it. I never heard from you again. Certainly no letter, and I had to get one from someone else. A couple of years later I saw you at a hearing. You acted like nothing was different. You said we should get lunch. I emailed and never heard back. Of course not.

My suspicions of why were either: one, that I did not want to be a lawyer anymore, or two, the feeling that you had a crush on me was real and you just didn’t want me around so you didn’t have to deal with that anymore. Other than those two possible reasons, I have no idea what it could have been. The fun part about ghosting is that the recipient usually doesn’t get the reason. It’s so disrespectful.

Ghosted.

Dear SN,

You had, and probably still have, mental illness. I knew when you ghosted me that there was no way you would have the ability to explain why. I know with almost no doubt that it’s something to do with you and nothing to do with me–this is how it always is with ghosting, but at least with you I never speculated about anything I had done. You were always strange. You always disappeared for mental health issues, even being locked in a mental hospital for a time. It wasn’t as much of a surprise, but it still bothered me some.

You told me several times that I didn’t have cellulite. I think about this sometimes. I couldn’t help it. It’s genetic, as I understand it. For some reason this stands out when I think of you. Our conversations would be really great, but there in the middle you would be lamenting my lack of cellulite. And you brought it up so often. You’ll be happy to know I have gotten quite a fat little belly from middle age. Still no cellulite though…

Ghosted.

Dear SE,

You basically told me without telling me so it wasn’t much of a surprise. We had coffee at Starbucks and you said something about not being able to give time to all friends so you had to choose which ones you would keep. A couple of years later, you made it clear I was not chosen for the inner circle by ghosting me.

I had long felt an inequity though. You made so much money and I experienced several situations during our friendship that were the result of having had a traumatic childhood and not having really dealt with it completely yet in therapy. I was in situations that happened because I didn’t recognize how my choices led to those situations. It felt like too much drama for you. I was embarrassed to share a lot of what went on with me. Your life wasn’t perfect, but you didn’t have drama like I did sometimes, mostly related to the men I chose because I hadn’t yet dealt with my wounds, so I couldn’t tell you everything.

It’s hard to be friends with someone when the relationship doesn’t feel balanced, and I never felt balanced with you. I always felt like your life was better, that you had things more together. In some ways, I feel like I was to you how SN felt with me. She seemed to always believe I had things together in a way she didn’t, and couldn’t be friends with me because of it.

I have looked you up at times. Every time I do I realize how little we really have in common, so even though you ghosted me, I don’t feel bad about it. It wasn’t really unexpected.

Ghosted.

Dear JBS,

You were the original ghost. I always knew, even when we were friends, that I was second best, or even third or fourth. You would play with me when S or W didn’t want to play with you (Although I was the first one you called after your dad shot himself. I think on some level we were kindred spirits in our fucked up families and you could trust that I would understand.).

When we were friends I was the needy one, the lonely girl who felt rotten about herself, buried in a life I had never imagined for myself before my mom met and married my stepfather only a few years before. I didn’t begrudge your making me the last option; it was par for the course for me.

Then we grew up and I went to law school and you had children. You seemed happy, but I was different and we didn’t have to stay friends. I don’t even think you really ghosted me. We just didn’t have anything in common anymore.

Just drifted away…

There are only two times when I remember actively breaking up with a friend. In both cases, I wrote letters explaining why. I didn’t ghost them. There are some cases where I think it would be appropriate to cut off all contact with someone, but I still imagine the situations where doing so without explanation are limited. Mostly I think people should speak up and admit themselves. But people don’t. Ghosting is common. That’s why it has a name.

I’ve experienced it a lot in dating. These days ghosting is ubiquitous in the online dating world. The reasons are endless, but I have a feeling the never-ending array of options make it very easy to ghost someone while chasing the new shiny thing. The programs themselves set it up that way. Think he looks good? Here are five more just like him! Yuck. Plus it is hard for people to admit they aren’t feeling it, and ghosting is so much easier. Every time I online date I quit after a couple of ghostings. I just hate it so much. I like my life enough as it is to put up with it.

For a time with most of my ghosts I would have fantasies of their running into me and discovering I’m doing just fine without them, and how satisfying that would feel. This fantasizing never happens anymore. I thank that therapy again. I’ve shifted so much in my thinking and feeling about so many things, I hardly recognize myself from even 7 or 8 years ago. It’s more peaceful this way. But hearing about DS got me thinking about all of these ghosts. I can honestly say good riddance to all of them now. I wish them well, including DS. Happy retirement. I’m not going to bother you, but I hope retirement is all you hope it will be.

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