In a matter of minutes I would map out a new life for myself, one that fit the mold of whatever man I was messaging. But I soon noticed that the flip side to the disappointment of each mismatch or aborted romance was a mounting sense of strength and self-sufficiency, a hardening of character, a greater understanding of the woman I am when I’m intact.
There’s little like ghosting to delineate where we as human beings begin and end; and little like ghosting, too, to lay bare our own infinite reserves.
Now, over three years and seven dating apps later, I’ve gone out with 86 men and counting; I know because I keep a list that reads like free verse (“David the orphan … Yes, online dating can be deeply demoralizing, a parade of indignities that throws into relief not just our self-absorption and banality, but our nihilism too.
And as for those ghosters, they have their purpose too.
For it wasn’t long after reading Cendrars in bed beside my sleeping spouse that I began to realize that I was slowly losing track of who I was and who I wasn’t, of what I believed and what I didn’t.
When I was in my early 30s, my husband of four years, partner of nine, left abruptly in the middle of the night.
In the surreal weeks and months that followed, I grew increasingly apprehensive about the idea of online dating.
That spectral ex-spouse of mine used to complain of what he called our “heteronormative” lifestyle, a term that made me roll my eyes though I knew just what he meant: Our lives had lost their capacity to surprise.
I remember lying in bed and reading the memoirs of the French writer Blaise Cendrars; I couldn’t stop marveling at the boundlessness of that man’s existence, one that made him a film director, a beekeeper, a watchmaker and connected him to gangsters and whores.
Later we decamped to his apartment, a flimsy, spartan place that nevertheless held the most exquisite furniture, tables he had inlaid with ash and birch and varnished till they gleamed.
The heat failed in the middle of the night, and we clung to each other for warmth as his dog, Bruce, a German Shepherd, curled and recurled at our feet.
For weeks I had been holed up in my family’s empty summerhouse, writing, and I worked all that day, caught up in a kind of luxuriant self-consciousness that has since become familiar — that acute sense of self and solitude that binding oneself to an outsider can at times unleash.