When my kids were growing, there was a tradition in our town around Halloween to leave small bags of candy and little toys on the steps at their friend’s front door, ring the doorbell, and run away. The friend would open the door and find the bag, inside of which was also a note proclaiming they had been ghosted and now had the duty to ghost others in return. It was mischievous and mysterious, because the person who had been ghosted had no idea who had done the ghosting.
Twenty years ago, I used to love helping my kids ghost their friends. Ghosting has taken on a new meaning for me these days: the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc. (Merriam-Webster). Now, I admit I haven’t handled all of my romantic entanglements perfectly these past couple of years, actually my entire life, and furthermore I believe karma likes to kick my butt now and again. I like to think i’m reasonable in defeat and even able to learn the lesson given. Politeness is a victim to the disconnection of cyber relationships. We feel we don’t owe a reason or an excuse. Honestly, I’m guilty too. In this case, there’s a living, breathing human being on the other side of your texts and even though your contact has been brief and virtual, feelings can still be hurt. And mine were. I’ve been ghosted before, but usually the ghosters hadn’t been texting me. I’d be dm’ing a woman on the dating app, thinking we were doing well, and suddenly she’d be gone, profile and all, leaving me wondering what had gone wrong. Tasha was different though. Her profile and messages on the dating app remained and I had her phone number. I could damn well cyberstalk her, if I wanted.
I didn’t realize Tasha had ghosted me right away (look here for the full story: pt1, pt2, pt3 and pt4). At first, she said her stomach issues lingered. Every stomach flu I ever had lasted about 24 hours. If someone tells me they’re still sick after three days (and don’t have a medical condition), I start to get a bit incredulous. I messaged her for several days with no reply before it dawned on me, she had no intention of answering. I had been ghosted. Then a thought occurred to me, what if I hadn’t been ghosted, but instead had been catfished? Was Tasha a woman who had set up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes (Merriam-Webster again)? After all, I had never actually talked to her, never mind met her. Things all seemed to fall apart when I asked her for her address so I could pick her up for our first scheduled date. There are several leaps of faith we all must make while online dating, such as giving our last names, phone numbers, and addresses. Or not. As for myself, I prefer to chat on the app for a few days before giving my phone number. Some women are quick to exchange numbers, because it’s a proof of realness and intentions. Tasha had shared her number, but had balked at providing her address and last name. For all I knew, Tasha may have been Donald Trump’s 400 pound hacker lying in his bed breaking into the Democratic National Committees’s emails, but also catfishing me for entertainment purposes. So I convinced myself a little investigation was warranted. Did a woman named Tasha even exist? Was any of this real?
Being an amateur sleuth, I went about it ass backwards. I mean, thinking back, I could have just reversed traced her phone number. It was the beauty queen aspect though which bothered me the most. Certainly I thought records must exist about beauty queens, particularly ones who made it to the national level. I had her first name and I had her hometown out west from her profile. I had a time frame when this supposed pageant took place. Seemingly, I thought, that should be more than enough information to get to where I wanted to go. Funny thing though, I had a hard time finding pictures of the pageant. It’s hard to remember a time when every moment of everyday wasn’t photographed, explained, and stored in some online file cabinet. I was reaching back before the time of Facebook and even Myspace. Folks were just getting their AOL cd’s so they could get dial-up internet service. I didn’t even have my first computer until the year 2000. Can you still hear the electric whir and beeping of the connection and the adrenaline rush of being told, You’ve got mail? People had home computers, but the social network was practically non-existent.
This wasn’t the Miss America pageant remember. It was Mrs. America, a much less renowned and publicized event. It took some searching, but I did manage to find a list and pictures of the past winners from the 1990’s Mrs. ******* pageants. I went down that list of names and couldn’t find a Tasha on first glance. I went down a second time and finally saw a Natasha with an obviously Scottish last name, starting with ubiquitous Mac. And the picture of the young woman looked very much like the Tasha I knew. Having a last name, it was fairly easy to trace Tasha to her home a few towns over from mine, even though her last name had changed with marriage. I could put her address in Zillow and tell you how much her house is worth. I didn’t do that, but I could. I thought back to our conversations, the little details she had ready immediately to impart. Who would think to shorten the first name to Tasha? Or know several good restaurants nearby? And she was just so feminine. Certainly 400 pound male hackers didn’t know how to be playful and enticing in a feminine way? Maybe Tasha was some diabolical catfisher, but I doubted it with all my heart. I also chose to leave her alone, as we all get to change our minds. I would have much preferred she had talked to me and explained, but as I already said, I have not been perfect in my dating style and karma is a bitch. And so goodbye to the beauty queen.
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