The Ghosting of Christmas Past
To ghost, verb.
The practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.
The eight-year-old I am babysitting blinks at me. I have scooped up her foggy memory of Christmas carols and tarmacked over the lyrics, brutally. Don’t you get a partridge on the first day of Christmas? She finally asks. What even is “a good old fashioned ghosting”?
It is the 12th of December. Twelve days of radio silence and my phone’s sole use has become that of a speaker system for music that doesn’t make you many friends aged 23.
It’s a case of viewing Bangerz contextually, as a rebellion against her roots and, more holistically I suppose, against Disney itself, as the commercial machine in which she was only ever a dispensable cog, I explain numbly, playing Miley Cyrus on repeat. It appears I have just been ghosted.
The seamless extrication of this man from my life is, frankly, outstanding. I’m torn between carrying out an anonymous drive-by egging of his flat and recommending his skillset to MI5. The ability of this little mole to disappear so quickly deserves at the very least, I begrudgingly accept, a career in Russian espionage and not Bumble dating.
December morphs from emotional turmoil into one happy revelation that chart music can heal. As spiritual meaning gut-punches me from the bridge of every Dua Lipa song, it doesn’t matter that I’m losing friends and Spotify followers alike: I have unapologetic New Rules.
I move on. In a sea of polo necks and angled berets at the British Library, for half an hour I laugh and flick an artfully-styled plait over my shoulder, flirting with a boy until 28 minutes in he nonchalantly mentions a girlfriend. I don’t even know the guy’s name but he already has an owner. Like a baby denied a spade in the sandpit, I am instantly distraught. Then sick on his chest.
But with the passing of each day, as my unrequited texts grow staler, I too harden. I beat on against the rapids, emboldened. A poor little dinghy enslaved to the currents of Bastille, Shawn Mendes and worse. The angels of Little Mix appear at my shoulders, nudging me to ask: When did I last wear my heart on my sleeve? When did I last truly put myself out there?
Probably on UCAS, to be honest. And in that instance, the other party was, contractually, obliged to respond.
Not a bad system for the springboard of a relationship, if you think about it. University and teen levelled in courtship by concise targets and measured rejection letters. No margin for speculation either: cards were dealt swiftly and aggressively. I didn’t snivel my way through December 2013 by sloping off to the toilet every 5 minutes to check if Cambridge University were online on Whatsapp. It was an outright yes or no (it was a no), and then you could move on, convincing the world I’m fine (I’m still not), and no, obviously I didn’t want anything with them anyway (I LOVED BRISTOL, OK?)
The glimmering hope that your firm choice would turn around after three months offline, fumbling apologetically over some excuse and suggesting a drink, just did not exist. A drink you don’t quite want and an excuse you don’t quite believe. Just things you ingest hungrily anyway, happy that someone, anyone, spineless or otherwise, is texting you back.
So, as my feminist shoulder pads hiss with deflation under the weight of this has-been, I offer up signs that you too are being ghosted by a twat called Tom from Bumble. Here are the 12 Days of Ghosting.
Day 1: Denial. Of course we haven’t messaged after last night. That would be weird. And it’s not like I’m in love with him. So, the joke’s on him if he texts first, because like I said… I do not love him.
Day 2: Genuine Naivety. Very cool and grown up that we still haven’t texted. I commend us both on our aloofness. He’s probably the kind of guy that doesn’t even call his mum on her birthday. Fit.
Day 3: Paradigm Shift. Radio silence still! But, I am a naturally direct person so it feels good to be kept on my toes. Really. Good. Maybe I’ll take up longboarding? That’s chill too.
Day 5: Pity. He’s probably just redrafting the text, bless. I can picture him now: bent double, tongue bitten, eyes watering. Just a boy, standing in front of his phone, trying to decide on
an emoji. Godspeed, fragile soldier.
Day 7: More Pity/Rage. Come on, you head louse. Just use the dancing girl. Or one of the monkeys.
Day 10: Concern. Imagine developing sudden onset amnesia at 27 years of age. Terrifying. I should probably reach out…?
Day 11: Realisation. He does not have amnesia. I don’t think he even has self-inflicted swine flu. I am being ghosted. I need to find a car and some eggs.
Day 12: Acceptance. I have been played by a man with the emotional maturity of someone smuggling Dairylea Dunkers and a Capri Sun into a cheese and wine night. Bravo, Tom. I was an innocent bush baby, unfurling herself from the womb, blinking her way optimistically into the romantic no man’s land of online dating. Love, actually, isn’t all around. Christmas is Alan Rickman and a gold necklace. You’ve made a fool out of me and you’ve made the life I lead foolish too. And if you’re reading this, in case you are, just so we set the record straight, I. Am. Fine. Happy Valentine’s Day.
- Hester Wolton