As a child, trick or treating was one of my favourite Halloween traditions. Banging on stranger’s doors, forcing them to compliment my wardrobe choices, and demanding free sugary treats — what’s not to love? Unfortunately, as an adult, I can’t do this without the possibility of a punch being thrown in my direction.
Thankfully, I can still enjoy another Halloween tradition: swapping ghost stories.
Before you start getting flashbacks of Are You Afraid Of The Dark? reruns, I should clarify that the ghost stories I exchange with friends these days don’t involve any gore, creaking floorboards, or haunted mansions. Instead, they are about immature and pathetic love interests who vanish, never to be heard from again — often for reasons never made apparent.
Earlier this month, I was having a Wednesday wine get-together with my good friend, Alex when he asked if I had ever been “ghosted” by a guy. I reluctantly admitted that I had, despite wanting to repress the memory for my ego’s sake.
“Have you?” I asked, reaching for my glass of rosé.
“Well . . .” Alex let out.
Before I could take another sip, he began spilling details about an attractive Tinder match gone awry.
Alex had just moved to the big city for university and was finally in Toronto, the gay capital of Canada. While scrolling through Tinder, he matched with someone and they quickly began chatting. Plans were put in motion to meet that coming Sunday, but by Thursday evening, Alex’s Tinder date asked if they could meet that night instead.
“I agreed despite just having a big dinner and feeling pretty damn bloated,” Alex recalled, his dreams of bottoming that night dashed.
The pair wandered around the city, taking in the night sky mixed heavily with light pollution. A short while later, Alex’s Tinder date walked him home for an uneventful conclusion to the evening.
“After that night, I would still text him, but it slowly felt like he didn’t care as much as he used to,” Alex said. “He’d cancel our plans for work reasons and I felt he was ghosting me, but he was so hot so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.”
Finally reaching his wit’s end, Alex blatantly asked his Tinder match if he was actually busy or purposefully avoiding him.
“He responded, ‘it’s you! I tried to ghost you, but damn you are persistent!’ Later that day, I added persistent to my resumé and moved on.”
I knew Alex wasn’t alone in this common dating phenomenon, and wanted to see if there were any stories that could top his. A few days after that eventful wine night, I asked others on social media to share their own “ghost” stories with me. ’Tis the season, after all.
The responses I received varied, some more over-the-top than others. One acquaintance, Chris, shared how he was “ghosted” at 19 years old for making a careless joke.
“On our first date, I joked that we could be Bert and Ernie for a Halloween couples costume,” he said. “I was young, gay and clearly joking!” Chris never heard from his date again. Also, Sesame Street productions has asked that I remind you Bert and Ernie are “just friends.”
Teasing the idea of couple costumes isn’t as rough as social media user Bailey’s “ghost” story, which ultimately ended with law enforcement getting involved.
“I was dating this guy who basically lived at my house and even had a key. One day, I had to call the police and file a missing person report for him, as no one had seen him. As it turns out, he was “ghosting” me. The police had to get my key back for me.”
These are just a sampling of responses I received to my social media call out. I noticed the stories all had a similar ending, with people left wondering where exactly things fell apart. They questioned if it was their appearance, sense of humour, or even overly femme behaviour.
What pushes someone to “ghost?” Is it the lack of nerve and courage to face things head-on? Is it selfishness and the inability to be mature and take another’s feelings into consideration? Does the thought of having to reject someone create so much anxiety it’s easier to just run from them? Based on my own “ghost” story, I can only assume the answer to these questions is yes.
It’s 2015 and I’m on my second date with Damien. After a few years of casually running into one another in the Village bars, we found ourselves taking the steps to become more than acquaintances. Was it love at first sight? Not by a long shot — that’s an idea created by heterosexuals who work for Hallmark and the Lifetime Network. Nevertheless, I felt that there was something between us worth diving into besides the bread basket.
That night, we found ourselves seated in a dimly lit, bustling Yorkville Italian restaurant in Toronto next to a cobblestone path. We sat across from one another, cracking jokes and sharing laughs over several glasses of wine.
Set against his olive skin and dark features, his green eyes were piercing. His laugh was infectious and his smile made me melt like butter on popcorn that pimply teenagers at the movie theatre would charge me extra for.
After our meal, we stopped by my apartment to retrieve a few art supplies. He had to attend to his dog and felt his place would be ideal for our wine and painting date night. Slightly buzzed, we trekked to his place while discussing politics, my upcoming birthday plans and dating disaster stories. Little did I know he would be a dating tale all of his own.
Arriving at his apartment, I met his overzealous dog who tried to make friends with my right leg when its owner left for the kitchen. When he returned to the living room, he handed me a glass of wine with a kiss and proceeded to put the latest Metric album on his record player.
He’d freshly packed and slid a bong across his coffee table in my direction. I took a few hits. Feeling slightly high with the angelic sound of Emily Haines’ voice as our soundtrack, we each took half of a blank canvas and painted towards the centre where our artistic visions would meet. As the night progressed, our conversations turned to kissing, which ultimately led to him asking me to stay the night.
The next morning we nursed hangovers with black coffee, continuing to exchange more jokes and anecdotes. I had work in a few hours and he had a midterm to study for. We kissed a final time at the door and I said, “Let’s do this again soon.” He agreed.
Plot twist: he secretly didn’t.
The following week, I sent messages asking how his day had been and if he was free that weekend for the third date we had discussed. I didn’t receive a response. It was extremely odd, and I began replaying our date over in my head. I wondered what I could have done wrong to warrant this treatment.
Considering our ages, I found it hard to believe he could be that immature. Couldn’t he just say, “I’m not looking for anything serious,” or “I just don’t feel this can go anywhere?” I thought ghosting was what people did when they were 19 or in their early 20s. Apparently, it’s a common practice that doesn’t have an age limit.
When my birthday arrived a week and a half later, I wasn’t gifted a response to any of my previous messages. Instead, he wrote “Happy” on my regular Facebook account, and “Birthday” on my drag Facebook account. Although I was hurt and confused, I tried my best not to let it get to me down. What made matters even more difficult was he continued to follow me on social media. He would often interact to images or statuses I shared, but still couldn’t bring himself to respond to any of my messages. Apparently, this is referred to as “being haunted.”
As large as Toronto is as a city, the gay village of Church Street is a sliver in comparison. Being a regular performer in the Village, I knew I’d probably have to run into him one day. We all run that risk as victims of “ghostings.” After three years, I was faced with that reality several minutes before my August show at Woody’s.
Walking to the bar to retrieve a cocktail, I turned my head slightly and caught those same piercing green eyes looking at me. He shot me a “hey,” with a smile and slight wave.
Some bitter Bettys might have rolled their eyes and ignored the friendly greeting, but I see no point in acting that way. I can honestly say I don’t hate him despite how he once made me feel. Isn’t it better to forgive than hold resentment?
I thought about asking him why things happened the way they did, but felt it was neither the time or place to do so. I left the bar’s service area and approached him.