Ghosting is so 2018.
Remember middle school? You’d start the year sitting with Jemima (or Betsy or whomever) at lunch, proudly declaring your friendship to the world with those glittery “best friend” heart necklaces from Claire’s.
You’d plan sleepovers so you could choreograph fake music videos to Spice Girls and No Doubt while pretending to impress her (idiot) hot older brother with your non-existent Mario Kart skills…
Then, inevitably, you’d have an “off” day, make a social fumble of some sort – a remark about Betsy’s weird hair / outfit / foot smell – and somehow it would get back to her (oh, the intricate grapevines of gossip), causing an intangible weirdness between you.
Or, sometimes it would be something much less obvious.
Betsy would be randomly paired with the more popular Natalie for a lighthearted game of P.E. kickball. The two would hit it off because of their mutual affection for Leo DiCaprio, and a slight rift would surface that too quickly grew into a giant chasm.
But I like Leo, too… you’d whine to yourself.
Pretty soon, you’d notice that Betsy was hanging out with Sally quite a bit, sitting with her in math class, neglecting to share her Little Debbie Star Crunch with you at lunch because “Sally really wanted it.”
One day, you’d notice that the heart necklace was suspiciously missing from around her neck.
And that would be it.
You’d be back at square one, having to start all over again scouting out best friend prospects, trying on new social groups and pretending to like all the same things so you could fit in.
It’s life’s earliest version of “fake it ’til you make it” – an art that 30-somethings struggle with endlessly, but that middle schoolers perfect every single day.
I read an article recently suggesting that making friends as an adult is hard.
C’mon, y’all. It was ALWAYS hard. Even back then. It’s just that now, as adults, we’re expected to play nice – to hide our distaste or outright disapproval of friends and acquaintances.
We’re supposed to be “mature.”
But you can’t possibly get along with everybody…
And look, I’m not saying that you should only hang out with people who think / act / look / feel just like you. Differences keep things interesting.
I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t strive to be kind to everyone, regardless of whether or not you enjoy their company.
I’m saying that we only have so much time these days, what with kids, work, partner relationships and whatnot.
It just doesn’t make sense to keep dragging on close friendships that aren’t edifying or meaningful, particularly when they revolve around gossip, snarky humor or negative remarks anytime you try to do something outside of the box (like wear culottes).
It shocked me when I became an adult and discovered how much we’re all still like kids.
The same fears, the same anxieties, the same burning desire to be liked which drives us to do ridiculous things sometimes.
When you get to be an adult, nothing changes, really. There’s no magical finish line to mark the occasion. There’s no manual handed to you with adult-like things you should be doing or saying.
We’re all (still) just winging it.
Which means a good number of us remain self-conscious, self-loathing haters who shit on everything because we’re just angry at life (and the fact that we’re now adults, yet nobody showed us HOW to be so).
And, as a result, we often feel the desire to move on from friendships and meet new people, so that we can become new people. Maybe move farther along on our journey toward becoming a grown-up.
There’s just no nice way of going about it.
And it creates a lot of tension and “ghosting,” as the kids say – disappearing from someone’s life entirely, without so much as a text.
A gal pal of mine shared with me an attempt to confront her ghost.
Over coffee one Sunday, she recounted to me an experience where she had been mysteriously ghosted by a friend – someone she’d spent time with on and off for over a year – and then ran into this person at the grocery store (or so she thought).
Anxious to remind this friend of her existence, she actually discontinued her own grocery shopping to get in line and orchestrate a “random run-in.” As it turns out, the person wasn’t her friend.
Just a very convincing doppelganger.
What struck me about this whole situation, though, was the outright bravery of her actions. Had it been me, running into someone who disappeared (probably intentionally) from my life, I would’ve hidden behind a display of Emergen-C until the coast was clear.
But none of these actions – brave or otherwise – would even be necessary if there were just some way to invite closure when these relationships end.
What if there were a healthier way to acknowledge that yes, you spent time with someone, but you’d prefer not to continue doing so…?
I’ve come up with a few ideas:
Plan A – The Numbers Game
Invite the offending friends to dinner and announce that you’ll be playing a game.
At the end of the evening (or, if you’re anxious to end things, at the beginning), bring out a few blank scraps of paper and ask all involved parties to write a number between 1 and 5 that denotes their level of commitment to the friendship.
Sort of like a real-life version of Tinder.
If all numbers are below a 3, congratulations: everybody’s ready to move on!
If not, it’s time for a brief explanation and grand exit (no soup for you).
Plan B – The “Dear Jemima” Letter
The idea here is to use this template, filling in the appropriate blanks or circling the correct answer before sending:
Dear ____________ ,
We’ve had some great times, haven’t we? There was that day at _____________ when we ____________ . And who can forget the time [ NAME ] did that crazy thing where he / she ________________ . That kept me laughing for days!
But now, I’m finding it difficult to stay connected, and I’d like to be up front and honest about it so that neither of waste any more time – which, let’s be honest, we only have so much of.
It seems to me that our (circle one) PERSONALITIES / KIDS / PARTNERS / INTERESTS simply don’t mesh well, and rather than spend more time trying to make it work, I think it’s best if we cut our losses and venture forth to find more meaningful relationships.
You’re a (circle one) LOVELY / OKAY / LIVING person, and I’m sure you’ll find friendships that offer you the (circle one) SUPPORT / BLACKOUT DRINKING SPREES / SLIGHTLY RACIST JOKES you need.
Wishing you the best,
Plan C – The Extended Trip
This one worked for us. As it turns out, an unintentional side effect of travelling for a year is (among other things), an opportunity to start fresh when you return.
You may wind up in the exact same place, with all the same ghosts from your past knocking on your door – but if you play you cards right and maintain a little tenacity and intention, you can fill your time (and spend your emotional energy) differently.
Or, we can all just keep ghosting each other.
I’m new at this adult thing, so don’t look to me for answers.
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