Ghost whisperer

By now, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of (and maybe even read) the article published by Psychology Today that’s gone viral. It’s about the rise of lonely, single men. It’s started quite the conversation – on Tik Tok and social media in general, but in real life too.

I’m here to tell you that this is a very important article because it’s the truth. Over the last several years, when it comes to dating, I’ve shifted into a mental space where I’m all about matching energy. I’m not waiting by my phone and constantly checking for messages. If the conversation was left in your court, I’m not reaching out. If I’m getting a “meh” energy, a “no communication for a few days, not gonna reach out, just drive her a little crazy trying to figure out why I’m suddenly MIA when I’ve previously been super interested, initiating conversation, making plans to see her and definitely making it known that I’m interested in getting to know her” kind of energy, that’s what I give back.

Gone are the days of giving the benefit of the doubt – oh, he’s busy, I’m sure he has a lot going on, he must be working late. There are no benefits of any doubts anymore. Gone are the days of believing him when he tells me that he’s afraid to get into something ‘serious’ and therefore isn’t ‘ready’ to introduce me to his friends and family yet. Gone are the days of trying to convince someone to like me after we’ve already clearly established that they do. I shouldn’t have to do that. I know that at the root of dating and this whole dance of trying to figure out if there’s something there, what it comes down to is this: if he’s interested, he’s reaching out, he’s planning the date(s), he’s making time for you, he’s putting you at the top of his priority list. And vice-versa! There is no such thing as ‘being too busy.’ There is no such thing as ‘I’ve just got a lot going on right now.’ When you like someone, it doesn’t matter how busy you are, you make time. You (metaphorically) move mountains to spend time with that person. Full stop. That’s it, no excuses, no extenuating circumstances.

“…single, hetero, cis men are lonelier now because of the rise in relationship standards. And I couldn’t agree more.”

Nope. I’ve had enough. It’s partly a me thing – the amount and intensity of therapy I’ve had over the last few years has helped me accept and understand things about myself and the end result is…I’m too awesome to deal with your bullshit.

The part of the article that is going viral and is the centre of most conversations, is the part that says that single, hetero, cis men are lonelier now because of the rise in relationship standards. And I couldn’t agree more.

One of the most important things I want to know about a man I’m about to date is how he talks about his exes. I ask questions like ‘so what do you think ultimately went wrong with you and your ex?’ or if, through conversation, they talk about their ‘psycho ex-girlfriend’ and all the reasons she was so ‘crazy’ and drove him away, I challenge them and try to find out if they understand that there is no such thing as a ‘crazy ex,’ and that they hold equal accountability for the demise of the relationship. Pro tip: if a man truly doesn’t think he did anything wrong (in every relationship he’s had, romantic or otherwise), that’s a big huge red flag – you might as well wear it like a cape. That’s a classic narcissist narrative, so steer clear my friend, run away as fast as you can.

Another question I like to ask is “what’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your relationships?” If the answer isn’t self-reflective in any way, that’s also a big ‘ol red flag.

Listen, I know men have it hard. They are just as much a victim of patriarchy as women. They (at least the men who are age-appropriate for me) don’t know how to express emotions, they haven’t been taught that self-awareness is healthy and a great tool with which to move through life. They don’t have a measured sense of what ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ are, while also not really understanding that masculinity and femininity’s very existence are a social construct that only end up hurting people and we need to get rid of them.

If you think about it, most men don’t really even like women. Why would they? They (at least in my generation, and I would argue, generations before me) have been taught that anything deemed ‘feminine’ is exactly what they should avoid and strive NOT to be – crying is for girls, don’t run like a girl, ‘man up,’ grow some balls, a ‘real’ man doesn’t have long hair or wear earrings or leave the house wearing pink, don’t be so emotional – it shows weakness. Don’t be sensitive to others’ feelings, don’t ever let anyone convince you a girl could perform better than you in school, sports, music, or driving, don’t talk too much, that’s girly, don’t express your love for your family in a physical way like women do – men don’t hug each other! Men don’t kiss other men out of love and affection! Men don’t cry, men don’t back down, men don’t take no for an answer….

And we all know how that ends. All too well.

And please, before you even hover your fingers over the keyboard to ALL CAPS prove me wrong, of course I’m not talking about all men. You know this. And if anything I’ve written here has made you feel defensive, angry or feel the need to yell at me “BUT IT’S NOT ALL MEN, I’M A GOOD GUY”, then you, my friend are part of the problem. If you feel you must announce/remind/state that you’re a good guy, you are most certainly not one.

I was sexually assaulted by a (male) cab driver. I’ve had more creepy encounters with male Uber and Lyft drivers than I care to recount, during which they ask very personal questions, tell me how beautiful I am, want to know my status, if I live alone, if I’m married, if I have a boyfriend, if they can have my number, or more recently, try to manipulate their way into my apartment. And you know what? Because I’ve been conditioned to be polite, I engage in the conversation, trying to answer the questions without giving him the information he’s looking for – if I’m a ‘good’ target, if I’m the wounded gazelle.

“If you think about it, most men don’t really even like women. Why would they? They (at least in my generation, and I would argue, generations before me) have been taught that anything deemed ‘feminine’ is exactly what they should avoid and strive NOT to be.”

I generally don’t walk alone at night. If I’m out with my headphones in, listening to music, I always take one earphone out so I can hear things around me. If I am walking alone and I see a man coming towards me, I cross the street. I would never, in a million years, rent a ground-floor apartment, or leave my door unlocked, even when I’m going in and out to do laundry which is in the building. I’m careful about who I share my personal information with, I don’t let people follow me into my building unless I know them or I can clearly see they have keys. I don’t give my number out lightly, I tell a girlfriend when I have a date and where I’ll be and I never go into a parking garage after dark. If I get catcalled, I typically don’t say what I want to say (which is to confront them and make them feel super uncomfortable and dumb for what they think they’re accomplishing), because I run the risk of making said catcaller mad, putting me in potential danger. So, I just ignore them, which often encourages them to say even more disgusting things to me. There’s a reason women have such a hard time telling a dude that she’s just not feeling it. If he doesn’t take it well, we could get murdered. That is not an exaggeration.

These are just some of the safety precautions I take so I don’t get raped, assaulted or murdered. There is no way to know, just by looking at a man, that he’s not a threat. So, until proven otherwise, it is all men. Get it? Our lives literally depend on it. Women can’t afford to let their guards down on the chance that you’re a “good guy.” It’s simply a matter of survival.

Anyway, I got a little off track there. What I really want to say links back to that article in Psychology Today. Yes, men are finding themselves lonely and failing in the dating scene because, to put it simply, women aren’t willing to accept the bullshit, sub-par, bare minimum anymore. Let’s face it, women are at a point now where we don’t need men. We no longer need to rely on men for financial, familial, or social security. We have our own careers, we can pay our own bills, we have rich, fulfilling friendships, and lots of interests and people who keep our lives interesting every day. We don’t even need a man to have babies. We no longer feel we need a man to complete us. FYI, I’ve never felt that way – I’ve always said that I don’t need a man to complete me, I’m a whole, fulfilled person, I’m complete all on my own. But I’d love a man in my life to complement me. I have a lot of love to give, and I’d love to be loved. I think I’m lovable, despite what my dating history would suggest.

Indeed, for us heterosexual women (for the most part – I would never speak for all women), we still want men – but we want them to add to our lives, to bring us joy and excitement, love and affection, true partnership, and companionship. I don’t need a man to be successful. I don’t need a man to ‘complete’ me. But would I like the love of a man in my life? Abso-fucking-lutely.

The problem seems to be that there are few men who are on the same page, few who have been paying attention to how the world has been changing over the last decade or two. And it’s a shame because a lot of it has been out of their control. It’s a damaging narrative that’s been handed down, breaking the souls of men. It’s left them with little guidance and poor examples of what it means to be a whole, actualized person outside of a very narrowly constructed idea of gender and specifically, of ‘manhood.’ My head hurts and my heart breaks at the Andrew Tate of it all. And if I read one more profile asserting that he’s an alpha male, I may be forced to poke my eyeballs out with a pencil. Stop it, guys. Just stop.

But that doesn’t mean that men are off the hook. There are plenty of men who have been paying attention and they’re doing the work to unravel all that toxic masculinity. It’s those men I want to meet.

Which brings me back to my original point about ghosting.

For the uninitiated, ghosting is a popular phenomenon in modern dating whereby a person who has engaged in a certain level of contact/communication/dating, suddenly, without warning, simply vanishes – like a ghost.

It’s very common in the dating scene. It’s obnoxious and frankly, still startling and kind of unbelievable to this old lady, even though I’ve experienced it more than I care to admit.

It’s one thing if you’ve been chatting with a person for a while, and it just sort of…fades away, gets boring, gets weird, or too intense and someone ghosts – not the politest of exits, but overall, I don’t think there’s any real harm done. Especially if you’ve not met in person yet.

But it’s the people who ghost after almost three months of proper dating, after having the conversation about you both being ‘all in,’ about you being on the same page in terms of intentionally moving forward together to see what happens and hopefully building something serious, that I have some issues with. It’s the people who ghost after driving you to your hometown (even though he can’t stay – he just wants to help you out and spend some extra time with you) and meets your mom, I have some questions for.

This happened to me recently. I have no idea what changed, and I won’t ever know. I’ve accepted it and moved on (more easily than I thought I would, to be honest). But it still boggles the mind. How does a fully grown adult man go from telling a woman how much he likes her, how much he wants to spend time with her, telling her how beautiful and smart and amazing she is, to days later (I mean, four actual days later), losing interest? And why does that man think it’s perfectly acceptable to simply disappear, slink away into nothingness instead of talking to said woman about whatever changed his mind or what was bothering him or whatever. You know, like adults do.

I will never understand.

But what I do know is that this is the reason single men, especially those in my age bracket, are lonelier than ever. Emotionally stunted, sexist and misogynistic (unknowingly sometimes), trying to hang with a woman like me – a strong, independent, self-aware, constantly working on her “stuff”, a big fan of and long-time participant in therapy, intelligent, savvy, ambitious, probably (definitely) smarter and more socially aware than you, knows who she is, knows how to be alone, enjoys her own company, has deep and meaningful friendships and who is replete with self-respect – no wonder they get spooked and slink away like a ghost in the night. They don’t measure up, they don’t understand the assignment.

All I can say to these ghosts is good luck! I wish you success but I know that you will never actually be happy and will perpetually disappoint every woman you attempt to be with until and unless you (say it with me now) do the work! For the love of all that’s holy, get yourself into THERAPY! Right now – do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Take a hard look at yourself and your past (and current) relationships and start to understand what you actually bring to the table. I promise, you’re more damaged than you know and you need more help than you think. Just fucking try to better yourself, be a better human. That’s all we’re asking of you.

It’s not completely your fault that you’re hitting this wall in trying to date and have meaningful romantic relationships – society has told you since you were a little boy that you can (and should expect to) get away with giving less than the bare minimum and still get what you want.

But it is your responsibility to recognize how ridiculously low that bar is and to work harder to be worthy of a woman’s time, energy, love and affection – certainly, to be worthy of mine.

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