“There is no pain,
you are receding.
A distant ship,
smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming
through in waves…
Your lips move, but I can’t
hear what you’re saying.
I have become
— Pink Floyd
You know, I’ve always believed that a well-executed seduction requires a certain amount of steady, but subtle escalation. No sudden moves or dropped cues; just an almost imperceptibly increasing intensity, until you reach the…climax. In fact, in my opinion, the best seductions are the ones in which the seducer is so effective that the seducee thinks it’s their idea.
Of course, there are generally several phases to a successful seduction, choreographed as seamlessly as any dance routine. Because ultimately, all the advancing, retreating and escalating is just a dance—a dance with an inevitable and anticipated finale, and only one question:
Will this be a tango or a mambo?
C’mon, you’ve done this dance before, haven’t you? Think about it: The banter like improvisational jazz; compliments popping like snares and cymbals, innuendos dropping like bass notes. Flirtation bubbling like the tinkling of the keys over it all as you circle one other slowly, each sizing up the other’s rhythm and finesse, wondering…
Who will lead?
And the groove is most definitely in the heart—until you realize that this rhythm ain’t got no soul. It’s all snare, and no substance. You’ve been lured onto the dance floor only to find that your partner has two left feet. You, my friend, have been dipped—and subsequently dropped.
And so it was that I found myself inexplicably alone on the proverbial dance floor when Mr. Gray Area suddenly went dark. That’s right: the oh-so enticing and engaging Mr. Gray Area faded to black—or so it seemed, as our frequent exchanges abruptly ceased, texts went unanswered, and that voice like melted butter had seemingly gone…cold.
Damn, damn, damn.
I hate it when the shine wears off of a brand new man before I’ve even gotten to take him out of the box and play with him…
By all appearances, it was a classic case of ghosting. And while this is neither a new nor original phenomenon (more on that later)—it’s one I’ve unfortunately become rather accustomed to, over these now many months of dating. Truth is, I’m usually not invested enough to give a sh*t.
But admittedly, the disappearance of Mr. Gray Area was a disappointment. In fact, it was the epitome of anticlimactic. *sigh*
And like a seduction, my disappointment came in phases—not altogether unlike the well-documented Five Stages of Grief. But while I’d certainly also done this dance before, there was something distinctly different this time around—a detachment, of sorts. Not to say that I felt nothing; simply that my usual neurotic and over-analytical tendencies—while still existent—didn’t entirely disturb my peace. For the first time in perhaps ever, I wouldn’t allow it. And, I was proud of that.
For context, let me explain what went through my mind in a week or so of silence:
Stage 1 – Confusion: What’s the deal? Just…nothing? Hmm. This is odd…and yet, conceivable. Damn, he’s not that dude, is he? Maybe he’s just busy. Or, maybe he’s busy…with someone else? *shrugs* I mean, whatever. I have no claim on the man.
But seriously: how long does it take to answer a damned text?
Stage 2 – Irritation: Okay, now this is just rude. What game is he playing at, here? I mean, what was the point of getting me open, if he had no intention of closing?
Stage 3 – Bewilderment: If he’s ghosting, why is he still engaging with me on social media? Why the hell do guys do that? Weirdos.
Stage 4 – Impatience: Okay, if you wanna go, get gone. Enough, already. Quit it with the “Likes” and comments. Move along. Nothing to see here, Dude.
Stage 5 – Bright-siding: Well, I didn’t think that was who he was, but if that’s who he is, I guess I can consider him a bullet dodged. Go, Me! *high fives self and skips off into the sunset*
Okay, so not entirely devoid of neuroses, but not exactly Grade-A angst, either. In fact, initially I applauded myself: I’d finally made it to Grown Woman Land!
This is 40, I thought. No time for bullsh*t, no need to take it personally, no tolerance for disrespect. Next!
And it’s true: not once did I wonder what I’d done wrong, or obsess over what might be wrong with me (as if). I simply observed, took note, and kept it moving. Crazies gonna cray, I figured. (And if I’ve never said it before, I think everyone is crazy; romantic partnership is mostly about finding the crazy that’s compatible with yours.)
But even as I patted myself on the back for becoming an older, wiser, far less insecure version of myself, I had a sneaking suspicion that I hadn’t exactly executed this one flawlessly. After all—gray area or not—mightn’t a grown woman just as easily feel compelled to get to the bottom of things, before skipping off into the sunset?
What if he’d been trapped under something heavy?
Matter of fact, why was I so eager to write him off? Perhaps, under my (mostly) serene surface, my stages of disappointment really looked more like this:
Stage 1 – Fear: Oh, great. Here we go. Another flake. Just what I need: to be wildly attracted to yet another wildly inconsiderate man. This is like “Groundhog Day.” How many times do I have to go through this?
Whatever. Time to shut it down.
Stage 2 – Anger: Who the hell does he think he is? And why do men think it’s okay to do this—to me??? Well, screw it. If he can’t be bothered to respond, I’m certainly not going to. I sent the last message, anyway.
Stage 3 – Paranoia: So, what now? Is he playing games with me, trolling me on social media? He can’t be bothered to speak to me, but he’s got time for this? WHY IS HE STILL WATCHING ME???
Stage 4 – Dismissal: I mean, what was I thinking, anyway? The man lives halfway across the country; we barely know each other…who gives a sh*t?
Stage 5 – Relief: He was bound to be trouble. Good thing I got the hint before I got my feelings hurt for real.
See? Not cute; and probably not so mature, after all. But it’s honest. Emotionally, it was easier to consider cutting the man off entirely than making the first move. Apparently, silence was preferable to hearing something I might not want to hear. And frankly, I’m not sure that’s so much a sign of personal growth as it is scar tissue—a thick layer of pride built out of previous pain.
This is something I want to continue to look at—and hopefully, let go of—especially if I hope to one day be in an actual relationship again (which, all shenanigans aside, I do). Granted, my relationship skills are a little rusty—I’ll likely have to start from scratch. But shutting down the moment you feel threatened? I’m pretty sure that isn’t high on the list of things to do.
And as for Mr. Gray Area? Well, he turned up about 10 days after the fact—in both my text and voicemail boxes—still sounding like melted butter, I might add. No, he hadn’t been trapped under anything heavy; but he was concerned that I hadn’t been responding to his texts (because when it comes to your love life, technology is basically like Rick James on Eddie Murphy’s white suede couch: zero f**ks given).
Yet another reason not to let the paranoia destroy ya, Kids.
So, was that the full story? Who knows? I can’t really say that I care, since ultimately, he made the gesture I’d been too proud to make. But however petty and unnecessary, that week of silence became a lesson I’m grateful for. Because while it’s far too soon to tell whether Mr. Gray Area will end up a friend, a fling or something more, I do know that I’ve embarked on this adventure not only to ultimately find my guy, but find myself, too—which may require me to get vulnerable, and over myself, when necessary.
At any rate, for now, the rhythm has been at least temporarily restored. Now, back to the dance…
Will this be a tango or a mambo?