Some call it "the fade away." Others speak of it in hushed tones as "the good ol' no reply." It's an isolating problem, often too embarrassing to share and one for which there are no support groups: the text gone unanswered.
A new Bravo show, The Singles Project, will ensure that a few lucky individuals won't have to go through the perils of dating alone: participants will get real-time dating advice from viewers, like choosing what (and if) to reply to a text. The rest of us, alas, are typically on our own — but not on my watch!
Texting consumed my life when, in October, I began electronically communicating with a man who lived in New York City. I had recently moved to Los Angeles and gone through a terrible break-up, so I was in the perfect place to entertain a primarily textual relationship. We talked every day for months, so text-enamored with each other that not hearing from him for a few hours would have been cause for alarm. We shared photos and secrets and made plans to hang out. Then, all of a sudden: radio silence.
OK, some context: We had an inside joke about being so over-caffeinated that coffee was seeping through our skin, hence the "lick myself" comment. The boy in the skull picture is himself. The last one was pretty tame, compared to his previous invitations to sext.
When a person fades away via a medium that's already so impersonal, it's hard to gain closure. In the past, phone calls could merely stop being returned, but a final text is an artifact to obsess over. You might even convene friends to analyze your last missive: after all, it's often the most innocuous or sweet message that scares the menfolk away forever. It haunts you. Why was this the last straw? Can emojis be misinterpreted? Are you not entertained?!
I'm not alone. My tweets and Tumblr posts about this situation got too many shares for this to be an isolated incident. Turns out, when I emailed more than 40 friends from all over the world about the disappearing dude act, the answers were all very similar. Enthusiastic texting, then a flat line. I've compiled some examples below — some give you a clear indication of why the boy ghosted, others are more perplexing. These are some of the final broadcasts from the depths of digital dating:
Andrea, 26, New York City
Context: "What I love about it is how many times I've looked back and re-read these texts like... should I have punctuated better?" — Andrea
Lucia, 16, Los Angeles
And he truly, truly was.
Will, 19, Chicago
Context: Maybe he died in his sleep?
Julie, 31, New York City
Guy 1: Hey Happy Thanksgiving!
Guy 2: Hey bud, when do we get to hang out again? I like you. :)
Guy 3: Hey sir, listen, I'm not sure where you've been, but I like you. If this isn't happening I'd be disappointed but I'd understand. Please just let me know if I should fuck off or not.
Guy 4: Hey bud, should we talk about last night?
Guy 5: I am not sending you a picture of my boobs. But do you want to get a drink when you're in town?
Guy 6: How do you feel about a country wedding? Lilacs, barbecue, bare feet? I'll start investigating venues.
Context: These are all exchanges with different guys of various relationship status. "I am a fairly pushy broad, so I tend to have little humility when it comes to getting a more definitive answer out of dumb dudes. Most bad dude relationships/hookups of mine usually end with them being forced to talk to me in person/over the phone." — Julie
Katie, 25, New York City
Hey, how was your show?
Context: "We were texting so much that he once sent me a text after 20 minutes saying 'Sorry I'm being slow at responding my boss keeps coming in.' I held out with the sex for about a month and a half. After we did the deed, I heard nothing the following day. I sent this text at 4 p.m., and nothing. He stopped texting me entirely, but continues to favorite my shit on Twitter."
Katerina, 23, Boston
"One night I was VERY drunk with a friend and apropos of nothing, I texted a guy I really liked 'bring me pollos hermanos!!' as in bring me food from the fictional fried chicken place from Breaking Bad. Nothing."
Anna, 33, Philadelphia
Him: Are you around this weekend?
Me: Totally! I'm free. Anything fun going on? Are you deejaying at the Barbary Saturday night? I'd be down to meet up for some drinks.
Then, just crickets and tumbleweeds.
Teresa, 28, London
Context: "A boyfriend, who will now haunt me forever via that little Read notification." — Teresa
Amy, 38, San Diego
"dr appt near your office + leftover cupcakes from my dad's birthday = I'm stopping by tomorrow. not stalking you. don't need to. ptttthhhhh."
Context: "And then nothing." - Amy
Bella, 34, Los Angeles
Context: "A hook-up with the potential to be more. Guess he didn't want to come see a show?" — Bella
Gabriella, 25, Los Angeles
Author's Note: This is an email, but it counts for being a super awful message to not respond to. Brutal.
Context: "This e-mail interaction was the first month we were dating. He asked me to move in with him the day before and then no reply to this. I was def. way too nice."
Which of these non-exchanges is most egregious? (I'd have to say this last one. Oof! She got you a present, dude. Come on!) Head to the comments to weigh in, and feel free to put people on blast if they haven't replied to you so we can decide if you said a crazy thing or if he just can't hang.
And for more commiserating on the state of dating, tune in to The Singles Project on August 12, Tuesday @10/9c on BRAVO.
Gaby Dunn is a TV writer, comedian, and journalist living in Los Angeles. She is the "wild child" half of the weekly terrible dating advice web series Just Between Us. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Playboy, and all over the Internet. She believes you should send that weird text.
Art by Heather Hynes.