Saturday, August 6, 2016

Stay On the Line: Keeping Connections

"Stay on the line."

There's a new trend in dating and maybe even friendships too: dropping all communication hoping the other person would get the hint.

The innovation of text messages has allowed for years of constant and also inconsistent communication between family members, lovers, and first dates we don't want to turn into a second date. Text messages, like its longer-form older sister e-mail, allow for the writer to hide behind the technology. A smirk may not be picked up, a lack of interest may not be noticed, and even sadness, hurt, or joy could be completely missed.

Then there's ghosting. It's not entirely new, but it's far more prevalent. 

On Dating: Keeping (and Letting Go of) Connections
Think back to the courage it takes to make a phone call, to walk up to a person in person and strike up a conversation, to ask someone for their number and to, gasp, ask them on a date. I can still remember the beating of a heart, the excitement and curiosity of what's left to discover and hoping to get a phone call and then another and maybe another.

Now text messaging seems to have made it entirely too simple to ignore or to "forget" or to completely let the other person go until they get the hint. Ghosting is the act of blatantly not responding or doing so in such a distant way the other person gives up.

Ghosting may seem like an easy way out of communicating with someone, but it's cowardly, rude, and mean. I know I am guilty of this; I think we have all unplugged from someone once or twice before.
Yet, in writing a news story about ghosting my moral compass set in.  I get it if it's a first date and there is every reason why there should not be a second. Maybe the person across the table has a drug problem -- I understand the significant need to disconnect from that person. However, even if the person doesn't want children and you do, extend them some courtesy.

Let's give it a try, here's a scenario:

You're just about ready to order a second glass of wine at your dinner as you enjoy your first evening with a new woman or a new guy. You're thinking, 'maybe this time...' and then he or she says, "I'm not sure I really want children." I understand the desire to continue sitting at the table straight through dinner and until you get home to leave this really important issue under the tablecloth. The only problem with this is that the other person has no idea what you're thinking. He or she is going home hoping for a call and won't get one. They'll likely wonder what they did, what they said, and why there's no text or phone call. 

Here's what to do instead:

DATE: "I'm  not sure that I really want to have children."
YOU: "You know, I respect your standpoint on this, but it's really important to me to become a mother/father. I like you and have enjoyed our conversation, but it's not going to work between us."

Give the other person the benefit of knowing what you're about to do and why. It may make their next relationship better. Yes, I could have taken my own advice in the past.

On Friendship: Staying Connected

Many years ago, before text messages could result in being ghosted someone wrote me a letter saying they simply had to put me  - and us - on hold. It stung and probably messed me up and many relationships along the way. The brutal honesty that someone can just choose to let go, walk away, or give up was completely foreign to me until I turned 13.

In the years that follow, as we grow older, friendship takes a twist. We try hard to  keep the line open, but then we go to different colleges, move away, get married, have children and life changes. It's not the same, but there's a reason we all became friends in the first place.

Recently, many of these "latent" friendships have rekindled and reignited. Sometimes, and unfortunately, it takes something tragic to bring people back together. Gosh, how awful it is when we suddenly realize we may have taken for granted that someone may always be there. Then, the reality of the temporal nature of our lives sets in and we know someone may not always be there.

I'm grateful for today.

I'm learning to show my gratitude actively and often for those in my life, those I choose and those who chose me.