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“He’s just not that into you” emerged in the early aughts as tough-love dating advice for women — first appearing as a one-liner on Sex and the City, then expanded on in a self-help book, and later, acted out in a feature film. It was a catchphrase that encouraged women to tell the truth, be real, and stop lying to ourselves. It was the beginning of the end of false hope. It was maybe a little patronizing, assuming women were living in some kind of fantasia where things would “work out” the way we wanted them to if we could just rationalize men’s shitty behavior, but I was into it because it called out the “if he’s mean to you, he likes you” adage we’d been raised with and burned it to the ground. But that was 2003, and I need something a little stronger now.
We named it “ghosting,” to give it a shorter, cuter name that was easier to shrug your shoulders at, but it’s just rebranding. You’re not on a plant-based diet, Karen, you’re vegan. The way we’ve accepted ghosting as normal has led to a concerning, but very real outcome: the evaporation of optimism.
Read the sign, toots — we don’t serve relationships here. Here, we host awkward Tinder dates with two outcomes, and two outcomes only. One, you meet, have some drinks, then never speak to each other again because he wasn’t as funny as he seemed over text and you seemed like you might have a problem with his propensity to leave his underwear on the floor. Or, two: you meet, have some drinks, have B-grade sex at whoever’s residence is closer/cleaner, then never speak to each other again. Hashtag dating.
Don’t invest anything, that’s the dating mantra now. Not your feelings, not your hopes, not a bra from a nicer place than Target, nothing. If it costs more than a Lyft ride, don’t spend it on dating. The ROI in 2018 is really low.
I don’t even get nervous anymore. I still do my hair, my makeup, pick out a look, but the butterflies I used to get walking to the designated date venue suffocated in a mason jar long ago. Hope, disappointment, sadness. Hope, disappointment, anger. Hope, disappointment, give up. Try again, disappointment, sadness.
Do you see the pattern? Does it sound fun to you? Would you rather maybe approach dating with zero expectations and allow yourself to be, instead of inevitably disappointed, pleasantly surprised? Otherwise, the blind hope and optimism women have been taught to adhere to or nothing good will happen to us EVER, DIANE, will drive us mad. We have to guard our hearts, so we don’t lose our minds.
We may not like the way things are, but they’re still the way things are. Me calling them out isn’t creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, they were happening before I decided to acknowledge them, and they’ll happen again. If I had those kind of self-prophetic powers, I’d have conjured my blonde-with-glasses husband and erased my law school debt years ago. The truth is that he’s more likely to ghost than not. You’re more likely to never hear from him again than not. Waiting to see if something will “stick” is a real, embarrassing thing. They won’t stick, because in 2018, ghosting can happen after one date, or 20. It’s chaos out here.
And while I’m on the topic, before mid-40s to mid-50s white men comment below and tell me how worthless and undateable I am, women can do all these things to men, too — and we do. Much like Congress, there’s bullshit on both sides of the aisle, but one side has way more to answer for.
“Don’t get your hopes up” is how we manage expectations. It’s the constant reality check hiding behind every text that might be the last, every plan that might not firm up, every date that might result in a flake out, every sexual partner that might turn into a name you can’t remember and a face you avoid making eye contact with while walking up 7th Avenue.
“Don’t get your hopes up.”
I know you’re being open and optimistic right now but he’s just being kind of marginally nice via text and not at all witty and maybe you should have more stringent qualifications than this but you can’t because then you’ll be picky so you should just go on a first date with every guy you match with that doesn’t repulse you even though you’ll get there and know in two minutes that you’re not attracted to him and you’ll be pissed that you’re spending money and calories on two drinks before summoning an acceptable excuse to go home and wish you hadn’t wasted your time but you knew that was going to happen so you didn’t get your hopes up, right? Just like last time?
“Don’t get your hopes up.”
I know you went on a first date last night and you actually, really, honestly liked him and that was so shocking because you’ve been on nothing but bad dates for like, the last 11 months and wow, maybe finally you’ve met someone you could actually build a connection with and be in a couple and not be alone anymore and that would be so amazing to just have a little bit of that happiness but you know that you need to find your happiness in other things like travel and friends and work like a good single woman because he didn’t like you at all and you’ll never hear from him again so you didn’t look at your phone for a week hoping he’d text you because you knew he wouldn’t, right? Just like last time?
“Don’t get your hopes up.”
I know he texted again after three months and wants to “hang” but just remember that you were so disappointed last time when he flaked twice in a row after you guys had sex and then disappeared altogether and you deleted Bumble because you were so over it and there’s no reason to think that won’t happen again so just be careful and don’t think things will “work out” this time because you know this is just about sex and then ghosting, right? Just like last time?
I’ll get called a pessimist for this. I get called a pessimist all the time. But that’s the knee-jerk, jerk-jerk reaction to me. If you’re honest with yourself, I’m a realist. I saw a meme once that read: It used to be “how long do we date before we have sex, now it’s how long do we have sex before we date.” I’m ill at how accurate that is, and also ill that I might be alone forever because I won’t participate in it. Call me old fashioned, but right now I’d like to care about you a little before I see your dick.
I’d rather have low expectations than huge disappointments. And if that makes me salty, pessimistic, or jaded, that’s fine. Because I’d prefer being any of those things, all of those things, than let a process that should be fun — but has never been — drive me crazy.