Dating Advice: Don't Be the Disappearing Date

What's going on in the dating world that it's become acceptable to just disappear?
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Have you heard of the disappearing date? The one that's great for some dinners and after hours fun, and then -- poof! -- he's gone? My happy hours lately have been consumed with this same tale.

I don't know what happened, my friends tell me, one after the other, making my heart ache beside them, as hurt drips down their watery eyes. Why did he stop calling? What went wrong?

I'll tell you what went wrong: The guy's a jerk.

But more seriously, he's a bad communicator. And it's easier to avoid the awkward conversation than to face it, simpler to forget about it than discuss why it's over.

Frankly, I've seen a lot of my girlfriends play the same game. I once spent an hour on the phone with a friend trying to convince her to at least text the guy that you're not interested when she was ready to write some poor man off completely without any writing (or talking) at all.

What's going on in the dating world that it's become acceptable to just disappear? Why is it, in a time when it's easier than ever to get in touch with someone -- and do so with comfortable distance -- that people are opting out entirely?

It seems that in our age of informality -- one where we've transformed dating from ceremonious affairs with boys from school to relaxed hangouts with people we hardly know, we've lost all measure of common courtesy. The rigid lines drawn by old fashioned dating customs have been re-drawn, leaving closure somewhere sulking on the sidewalk.

I asked that same friend of mine why she was so willing to pretend that the dates never happened -- and that the guy never existed. She said quite simply that she didn't think she owed him anything. "You don't understand," she told me. "You've always been in relationships with people that you care about. Dating is different."

So my friend had a point, but missed the main one. True, my dating experience is a bit atypical -- I've been in an almost unbroken chain of serious relationships since I was 17 -- but whether you know the guy well or only met him once, the bottom line is that we're all just human beings with feelings, and we don't want those feelings hurt. And if our feelings will be hurt anyway, wouldn't we prefer to be let down directly rather than be abandoned to the no-man's-land of bewildering, unspoken rejection?

No one wants to desperately rewind and replay, in slow motion, each word and touch -- grasping for the moment that set this budding (or already blooming) relationship off course. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned "another" dinner? Perhaps he hated our kiss? Reels of tape whirl by, each framed by question marks.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not advocating brutal honesty here. Surely there are varying degrees of appropriate communication. Parting ways after an unremarkable dinner date warrants a plain expression of disinterest in any future and no more. But a date -- or many -- that involve emotional or physical intimacy require conversations of a different character.

I have trouble wrapping my head around the insensitivity necessary to shirk away from this polite goodbye. I can't imagine being too shy, lazy, or inconsiderate to leave someone hanging, creating an empty unknowable hole to be forever filled with confusion. Though I'm admittedly on the more the merrier end of the communication spectrum -- ask my husband, he'll tell you it's my favorite pastime -- I just can't seem to grasp even the possibility of vanishing.

So, whether you get into the why of the break up or not is your call (and certainly one to be exercised with caution and care), but my point is this: closure is important. At the very least, send a text, call or email to rescue your certain someone from the murky waters in which he would otherwise be left deserted. Communication is King -- and Queen. So treat it accordingly.

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