Lately I have felt gaslighted by the online dating scene. There have been, over the course, of several months, people that I have gone out with, and was under the impression that there was a mutual attraction. All is going smoothly, and then they disappear. There are a number of things going on here (ghosting, mooning, and benching), but all of it is making me start to question my own behavior and what I’m doing wrong.
The worst was Smitty*. I saw his picture flash through my option on Plenty of Fish, but saw he was pretty far away and moved on. Shortly afterwards, he messaged me. I remember it being fairly flirty and charming, so I agreed to go out to dinner with him very quickly.
We met, awkwardly side-hugged, and immediately hit it off (in my opinion). We had common connections, having both worked in journalism, as well as shared nerdy interests. He made me laugh, and after dinner we headed for coffee.
There never appeared to be a lull in the conversation. He joked that we needed to wrap this up because we were supposed to be making out by 8:15 and then 9:15. And honestly, I was up for it. He made me laugh, and I honestly felt like this might go somewhere.
We jumped in the back of his car and smooching commenced. Then he got handsy. I told him nothing below the waist, but it was like he wasn’t even listening. I kept removing his hands, but in the end I gave in because I liked him and I wanted him to like me, and, to an extent, I was enjoying myself.
He wanted me to come spend the next weekend with him**. I thought about it, but I just couldn’t. I don’t move that fast. I told him I wanted to slow down, and he said okay.
Then I didn’t hear from him. He didn’t respond to my texts, and I wrote him off.
Then he appeared again three to five days later. He hadn’t heard from me, he said. I said I didn’t think he wanted to as I had written to him a couple of times with no response. He said he’d written to me as well with no response. I sent him a screen shot of my phone, and then he told me he had restarted his phone at some point.
My guess is he’d “mooned” me. That’s when you set your phone to do not disturb on a certain person. You can ignore messages until you want to talk to that person again, and the messages don’t show as read or delivered.
I also may have been benched, meaning he found someone he’d rather date, but kept my number just in case. Like a backup plan.
Despite all this, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I agreed to go out with him again. I invited him to come to a play I was in. He declined. I asked him about the following week, and he seemed less enthusiastic.
He then got sick, but then wanted me to come cuddle with him. I reminded him of wanting to slow down. He emphasized that it would be cuddling and not sex***.
Then he cut me off again. This time it hurt. I’d told him I was in to him, but I needed to move slower. He seemed okay with it. He didn’t seem to mind the distance, which also seemed like a legit issue. Then he just ghosted me. After a couple of weeks of nothing, I deleted his number.
Then like a punch to the stomach, he showed back up online. The rational part of my brand says ignore it and move on, but POF keeps throwing his profile up in my face. I decided to write to him, just to tell him ghosting wasn’t cool and best of luck to him.
Since then I’ve been struggling with a number issues. First, hurt and confusion about the way I was treated. Second, since it’s not the first time I’ve been “mooned” or “benched” or “ghosted”, is there something in my behavior that I need to rethink. And third, the toughest of all, is coming to terms with the idea of consent, boundaries, feeling comfortable saying no, and knowing when to throat punch and run.
I’m not sure what happened with Smitty was assault. I didn’t consent to all of it, but I had a hard time saying no and sticking to it because of how charismatic he was. I enjoyed most of it, but I did draw boundaries that were not respected. It’s probably for the best that he really wasn’t interested, because he might have been someone who continued to not respect my boundaries. I might have wound up with more than just a bruised ego.
I don’t know if all of these behaviors are just indicative of the dating culture we’re entering. Regardless, they make me start to doubt myself in a way I haven’t in a while. I feel a little better writing about what happened, but I think I’m still left with a ton of questions.
What are your thoughts? How would you react?
*While that’s not his name, it might as well be. He has one of those weird old-fashioned names like Barnaby or Ethel.
**He lives about an hour away from my city.
***As a wise woman once said, “spooning leads to forking”.