Love and Relationships: Perspectives on Ghosting, in Response to an Interesting Essay
There is a kind of emptiness that comes with being ignored. This, of course, is to state the obvious. Recently, I was chatting with a friend about what I considered to be someone ghosting me, after the said someone did not respond to an email with the immediacy I would have preferred. I rattled to my friend via WhatsApp about people who give the excuse of being busy. I refused my mind to accommodate, even by a fraction, the idea that a delayed response, or an averted gaze, was anything but outright dismissal.
It occurred to me, at the end of the day, beneath the layers of my anger and sarcasm and feigned non-interest, that there is a singular, recurring definition for what I thought had happened: Rejection. My friend, whom I had been venting to, made a sort of improvised defense of the other fellow, by saying that people get busy. My mind re-imagined his words in a way that suggested that life could become so wild and so full and so loud that it becomes blinding. And then, in that moment of perceived illumination, another thought entered. My friend was right. I quarreled with the thought initially as it snuck into my head, a sudden and unwelcome exposition into the life of the other person— arrived at, not by fact or evidence, but for the plain reason, that sometimes, people are simply busy.
Of course, this is an easy, text-book way to brush aside the idea of ghosting, until the human heart gets involved. Emotion always has a way of complicating things, because at the core of every lust-fuelled hunger or every fevered desire is a simple request: To have and to hold. So the idea of ghosting, within a romantic context, is always more implicative, louder in its language of defeat, an eternal echo rippling through the distance of past and future with only one phrase: You are not wanted, you are not wanted.
I compute these thoughts together after I have read a searing essay on Brittle Paper on Ghosting. It was written by Keside Anosike. I followed his dance with language, pausing briefly at the tensions arising from certain claims, and then, finally let myself stop at the point he shares an interesting anecdote. It was about his friend in a relationship who got into the tangles of an undefined online-type affection, only to be subsequently ignored— circumvented maybe—by a person whom it seems had simply lost interest. I imagine that at the heart of this kind of dismissal is the desire to account for such absences. “Were there holes I did not fill up? Gaps in our conversations? Things I did not do, could have done better, a list I should have ticked off?” These types of questions are demanding and urgent because from the beginning of time, man has always needed to be redeemed. And explanations are a soft kind of redemption.
Sometime last year, I decided I would stop dating. The dating process seemed like a tedious and unnecessary kind of screening. Things like conversations, ideologies, and the way the other person laughs were always weighted by questions like: does this person match me? Can this person be mine? And because life, in its vast spinning plurality, is inexhaustive in its unique models of human beings, we can be sure that there will always be a point of divergence, where human difference will always be scrutinized and inevitably accepted or rejected. Are we then not in a way, putting the world on a queue, privately staging our own auditions, deciding who we choose and who we refuse?
When I think about it this way, it no longer feels personal— the idea of ghosting that is, especially when you consider how impractical it would be to be completely in-sync and ready to journey through life with seven billion people. It’s simply too much work. Look at it another way. I have a friend whom I love dearly. He is a young, boisterous and perceptible fellow, if only a little eccentric. Recently, I stopped taking his calls. My thoughts towards him remained tender. My memories of him are fond. Yet, I entered a mental space for a season in the year where I was incapable of certain kinds of prolonged, offline engagements. In this case, I was the one ghosting. For as many times, and with as many people as I imagine may be ignoring me, I try to tell myself this: it is part of the circle of being alive. Maybe people need time or space, or silence to do their work.
Or, maybe it is love lost, interest broken, a romantic audition for which we have failed. Maybe we are still gripped with hunger, and wonder what could have been, and maybe we even still scroll through social media, like Keside’s friend, trying to bridge the missing pieces. But one thing we can hold on to, I think, is that not everything lost deserves to be mourned. And not everything beautiful demands to be had. On the stage of life, we are both the auditioned and the auditioners. So maybe, in a way, we can stay fingers crossed, prayers to God, and hope that at some point, the universe aligns, and the people we choose, will get to choose us back.