Ask Polly: I Finally Came Out and My First Lover Ghosted Me

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05 Dec 2003 --- Raccoon (Procyon lotor) baby peering out from hole in tree, North America. Photo: Konrad Wothe/Corbis

Dear Polly,

I’m a 28-year-old woman who has spent years getting to know (and LOVE!) the real, radishy me. I grew up as an only child in a house where my parents loved me but they are GOP conservatives and anything not heteronormative was considered totally wrong and disgusting in that setting. I’ve definitely been attracted to both men and women, but I’m certain my true path is to end up with a woman. My close friends have all been wonderfully supportive. My family still does not know. I was really hoping that I would have a significant other in my life to help me through that. I’ve decided to write them a letter in January after the holidays.

The problem is I’ve lost my en fuego. I signed up for online dating and generally I’m just flat-out not attracted to most women on there, but then I chatted with an amazing woman and I was smitten. She cautioned me that she’s not as attentive or considerate as other women (and called herself “bad news”), but I wasn’t concerned. She seemed perfectly attentive and considerate to me.

We met for a date and it went so well. We both opened up about our lives, we had a lot of laughs but we both shared vulnerable things. I told her that I’ve never dated a girl. This woman was witty, intelligent, driven, honest, and breathtakingly gorgeous. I kissed her after the date and I invited her for another drink at my place. I’ve never done this before. Ever. As in, no, seriously, at 28 I was a virgin with both men and women. You don’t lie about that.

I figured we would maybe make out and cuddle in my bed, but she initiated other things and we ended up having sex. She was very unselfish in bed. I was not drunk and I did pause and think about whether I wanted this to happen and I knew I did. We cuddled afterward and that moment was the happiest I’ve been in so long that I might as well say it was the happiest I’ve ever felt.

We texted a little that day, then I texted her two days later and no response. No response the next day. Suddenly my amazing experience was starting to look like a dirty one-night stand and I felt like absolute shit. She knew how big of a deal this was for me. I miserably saw that she was online on OKCupid a few days later, so I asked myself, “What would Adele do?” The answer is call out a ghoster.

I sent her a text saying, “I had hoped this could be more than one random hookup. But you don’t think I deserve anything more than being ghosted? I want you to be honest and just tell me that night was meaningless to you.”

She responded within the hour and said, “Whoa, I’ve been out of town until last night. I’m really bad with my phone. Not just with you but with friends and family. I am not ghosting and I have no issue acknowledging you or your feelings. Meaningless? No, I won’t say that. Something I want to pursue on a serious level right now? No.”

So I said, “I wouldn’t expect you to text me 24/7, but not hearing from you for a week and no acknowledgment of my messages was a vulnerable and shitty feeling." And no response from her. That was three days ago and it’s eating away at my brain. My friends convinced me to delete her texts and phone number, but I didn’t block her.

Polly, she was out of town but online on OKCupid? It seems like she just lost interest but didn’t want to admit that. Maybe everything was an elaborate plot device to get laid? We had been talking so frequently before the date that it seemed like ghosting, but did I overreact? Is she flinchy about genuine people who truly like her?

I can’t stop thinking about her. I can’t stop crying. I logically know how ridiculous this must sound to other people (“It’s a one-night stand, get over it!”), but this was a huge deal for me and I feel utterly destroyed by her sudden departure. Even if she had replied to my last message with “I think we’re looking for different things, but I wish you well,” at least I could close this book. But for her to just not reply? It’s killing me. I'd see her again in a heartbeat, which logically I know is unhealthy. Can I ask her for closure? That feels super-lame and creepy since I already tried with my “please don’t ghost me” text!

I’m very scared that this is a huge setback for me. I realize it was uncharacteristically rash of me to throw caution to the wind and sleep with her, but she genuinely seemed like a good person and all signs pointed to this having real potential. I feel like everything now is a step back into “this person would be okay, I guess …” But I’m also crushingly lonely, want love so badly, and can’t get over the fact this happened. Please help me regain my en fuego.

A Very Sad Radish

Dear Very Sad Radish,

I know it doesn't feel like it now, but this is a victory. You found a woman you were very attracted to and you had an amazing time with her. You weren't sure you could feel that way. But now you know! This is something to celebrate.

The way it unraveled isn't unusual, under the circumstances. You wanted more and she didn't. Did she make terrible choices? Honestly, I don't think she did. She was attracted to you and wanted to go for it. You did, too. She thought she might want to see you again, and then, when she got a little distance, she thought the whole thing seemed a little too heavy and serious for her taste. Maybe she's a player. Maybe she knows that you're likely to fall in love and get serious in three seconds, considering your obvious interest and lack of experience. Maybe she's afraid of people who genuinely like her. Maybe she likes you but can't imagine falling in love with someone with so much less experience than her. I'll bet it's a combination of all of the above.

No matter what you did or said, she was eventually going to feel too pressured and decide to cut ties with you. The one thing that's crystal clear about this woman is that she hates pressure. She walks around announcing that she's bad news, that she doesn't reply quickly to friends or family or anyone. Honestly, I just think she's not the most considerate human being in the world — like she herself said. She knows she pisses people off, but she doesn't care enough to change it. She's maybe a little full of herself and she lacks compassion to some extent. Lots of youngish people are like that. I was like that when I was in my 20s. It's a drag to deal with but it's not unusual and it doesn't make her a bad person, not necessarily.

Yes, she faded out. I don't think that's a huge crime, considering that you asked her to explain and she did. Real ghosting means total disappearance: She wasn't very careful with you, but she wasn't that ruthless either. She didn't leave any room for doubt with that last message. She's not interested in getting serious. That's about as much closure as you can ask for after one date, no matter how well it happens to go.

But that doesn't mean that what you had was a dirty one-night stand. You have to look at that experience as inspiration: That's how it feels to be fully into someone else. There's nothing embarrassing about that. Just because you didn't date or get married doesn't make it shameful.

I say this as someone who's been RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE NOW many, many times: Your feelings, your belief in the two of you, your desire, your longing, your certainty that you will never, ever find someone nearly as good — these things don't tell us anything about the object of your affection, any more than her lack of interest tells us something about you. You are simply overwhelmed by the possibility of being fully in love with someone. You have been given a taste of that sensation, and now you want to eat it until you die. Who wouldn't?

Everyone feels this way when they're incredibly attracted to someone. It feels like being flattened into the ground like a bug. All you want is to be loved. All you want is MORE. How many love songs have been written when someone was in the throes of this feeling? "Lionsong" by Björk, "Breathe Me" by Sia, "The Beautiful Ones" by Prince, with the end where he yells I WANT YOU over and over.

Yes, you probably will have trouble finding anyone else who seems nearly as good as her, for a while. Yes, this woman was your first and she broke your heart. Don't parse it beyond that, though! Don't build a shrine to her. Don't daydream about the two of you. Don't make her an enemy. Don't leave the door wide open for her to come back. Go out and date other women. Sure, if you want to use this as fodder or fuel for something else that feels productive, that feeds you, by all means do it. But stay open. Don't insist on only megahot women you consider your "type." Befriend all kinds of women. Talk to them and get to know them.

Just do me a favor and don't fixate on this woman. Don't keep waiting for her to come back. Be realistic. She will never like you enough. You want someone who loves you exactly the way you are. Your challenge now is to NOT turn away when someone incredible likes you, too. You will be surprised at how flinchy you can get when someone seems interested. That's why I'm asking you to forgive this woman for fading out. You'll feel just as commitment-phobic at some point, and you'll be more direct about it and more gentle about it, and the other person will STILL be angry at you. Mark my words!

The bottom line is that you are at the very beginning of this road. You are going to feel a lot, and you are going to get your heart broken again. Expect it. It's worth it. Be open to the crazy roller-coaster ride you're facing. Forgive yourself for making whatever choices you happen to make along the way. Accept that you won't meet perfect women every other day. It's okay. I would love to go back and tell my younger self to stop obsessing over a steady stream of guys, each of whom seemed to represent my last chance at true love. I wasted so many hours of my life worrying about guys I can barely remember now, guys who took on the glow and power of minor deities, thanks to the powers of my imagination. You can't just speed up the conveyor belt and get to the part where you're safe and loved and happy. You have to be strong. Let go of this big disappointment, pick yourself, and move on.

You'll find a great woman someday. I wouldn't announce that you're not looking for anything serious in the meantime. From everything you say, it sounds like you are looking for something serious. That's nice. There's nothing wrong with wanting a girlfriend. Own that, and you'll not only feel less conflicted, but you'll seem less conflicted AND you'll ward off women with very casual intentions.

That’s not to imply that this encounter was a mistake, though. I think it was a great thing for you, to feel so bowled over by desire. Isn't this why you came out in the first place? You ARE en fuego, and you will have more great experiences, because you're putting yourself out there and you're being honest and you're following your heart. There is no special message encoded in this rejection. The only message is: Don't waste any more time on this. Be grateful for what she made you feel, and charge forward in search of something better. And as you’re searching, feel proud of who you are, proud of how far you've come, and proud that you will never settle for a half-assed, wilted life. To get what you want, you have to say it out loud. So say it out loud, and don't stop saying it. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Polly

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