You feel The Slow Fade coming on, but you refuse to accept it. Everything with this guy had been going so well! But now his texts are less enthusiastic, if he writes you back at all. There are suddenly no plans in the works. All the hope and excitement you felt is floundering in the face of lost momentum. Maybe you can salvage it. Maybe it’s all in your head. Maybe you should text him just to see. Maybe you should like his Facebook status. But deep down inside you know the truth: no matter what you do, his next move will be to blow you off.
As a veteran of our crazy, confusing, post-dating world, I am all too familiar with this non-breakup. In general, I think it is best to let The Slow Fade run its course. Why insist on closure? Why risk looking crazy? If it’s going to be over, then let it be. Who cares?
Voila – the inescapable problem. Sometimes you really do care. You cared about him, and you sensed a future of romantic possibility. A night of bashing his disappearance over drinks with your girlfriends won’t make you feel better. The hurt cuts deep, because it felt like what you and this guy had was real.
Enter Steven. He and I had had an instant attraction when we met through friends, but it took over nine months for anything to happen between us. He was definitely in my dah, showing up unexpectedly to my birthday party and then inviting me to a happy hour at his house. But I kept him firmly in the territory of The Prospect You’re Not Sure Is A Prospect, because he was full of mixed signals. When I went to his happy hour, three other guys asked for my phone number, but Steven kept away, barely even speaking to me.
I decided not to take anything personally and to let our connection run its course. I had the rest of my dah to cultivate.
Then, one hot August night in New York City, we went out to dinner with friends. We were dressed up, we dined and drank, we ended up at my favorite bar. We danced, fervently. He kissed me outside the bar, and we fell into the dimly lit foyer of the building next door, our hands and lips all over each other. “No,” he said, gruffly stopping our entanglement. “I’m going to do this right.”
The next day he called and asked me on a date. Our phone call was awkward, but his proposal – an evening at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens – was lovely. I looked forward to it all week.
He picked me up and drove me to the gardens. We picnicked, strolled and lay among the flowers, and I thought, “Dating isn’t so bad!” But I still felt a distance between us. When he dropped me off and kissed me at my door (I did not invite him in), he gathered his breath into a deep sigh. He said he wanted to see me again, but I sensed the hesitation there. Still, I decided to ignore these tiny premonitions. Our date had gone so well!
Then, I saw lots of Steven. I saw him at group outings. We were hanging out almost every weekend, surrounded by our nearest and dearest friends, but talking mainly to each other and acting the part of a couple. After every evening, he would say that he would call me.
And he never did.
We were seeing so much of each other that it took me longer than usual to realize he was blowing me off. I kept waiting for his call and making up excuses for why it hadn’t come yet. He was busy! We were going to see each other this weekend anyway! Who makes actual phone calls these days?
The realization came suddenly and unprompted. The thought entered my mind and refused to go away, because it was a fact: Steven was never going to call me.
I was upset – no! – furious! I had NOT sought out his attention. I had been cool with our ambiguous flirtations and hadn’t pushed anything further. HE had kissed ME. HE had taken me out on a date. HE had said (over and over again) that he would call. I hadn’t asked, or desired, or put myself out on the line for anything. Still, I was the one left holding the crummy bag of broken-hearted feelings. How could this have happened?
I couldn’t let it go. I needed to hold him responsible for creating the romance between us, and then peacing out on it. So I emailed him:
I know I have been acting these past few weeks like everything is totally fine, but the truth is I was hurt and upset when you disappeared out of my life after having pushed things into the romantic realm.
I am not mad, and I am not now demanding explanations. Instead, in the spirit of friendship and – gasp – communication, I just feel this need to express myself.
I’ve never known exactly how to feel about you since we met last year, and I never intended to pursue you. I was truly surprised when you kissed me, and then didn’t treat me like some sex object, and then took the care and time to arrange that beautiful night at the Botanical Gardens, and told me on several evenings out that ‘we would talk soon.’
I believed you all that time, and I was really moved that you were being so good to me. The Slow Fade out was truly the last thing I expected. I spent quite a while in astonished shock and hurt as it registered what was going on and that I wasn’t actually, ever, going to hear from you again. Then I got mad – I just have to say – I didn’t ask for any of the above, or expect it. I wish you hadn’t done it. I wish I hadn’t had the reminder of what that kind of care and friendship and awkward, but exciting, romance is like, because it makes it harder to return to my otherwise-happy dah-fabulous existence.
Hence this email, which you DON’T have to respond to. And we don’t ever have to speak of. I just couldn’t continue thinking about seeing you again…and acting like everything was fine…without having said all this. But now I’ve said it, and everything IS fine.
Be good to yourself, I am doing the same
His reply was honest, emotional, and on point. He acknowledged that he had let things go on too long; he should have talked to me. He described the complex of feelings he had about me, and about us, and confessed that he was in a time of life where he needed to indulge and revel in his freedom.
I could respect him after this exchange, and I felt relieved that he had aired his true feelings, albeit under duress. Maybe everything had worked out in the best possible way?
Still, I felt resentful that I had had to call him out on his Slow Fade. I was dismayed that he couldn’t, on his own, confront his feelings and be straight with me. I was angry that he (and guys everywhere?) thought that they could keep girls on the hook and not have to face the discomfort of real communication. I still feel frustrated! And a little furious. I know that women are finding themselves in this predicament every day.
And so I ask you – women, guys, the peanut gallery. Is the breakup always best? Or, is there a benefit to the Slow Fade? Should I not have demanded explanations? Would there still be some tiny hope or possibility between me and Steven if I hadn’t shut it down with the email exchange?
What do men owe women? What do women owe men? What do we owe ourselves? I find myself unsure.
Rebecca Coale - aka Becky - is a writer, musician and producer. She and childhood best friend Jessica Donalds created Dating & Hookup and founded J&R Creative Media. Becky blogs about love poetry and modern life & womanhood. She lives with her husband, Howard Coale, and their family in Manhattan and Philadelphia.
datingandhookup.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click to submit your work to us. We love you.
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