We’ve all be there: a guy you know from class, or that DM’d you online or found you swiping through Tinder, starts out nice, but the more you talk, the more you begin to cringe.
How did you get in so deep? How can you back out without being the Bad Guy?
The real questions begin to hit you then: should you be upfront with him, potentially crushing his dreams, or do you slowly fade into the darkness?
Let’s start with Nice Guys, and make our way back.
The myth of the “Nice Guy” is as long as the internet (at least), but really goes back much further: the concept that if someone shows you some special attention, smiles at you, holds a door open, says nice things, that they deserve a payoff.
I met such a Nice Guy when I took a creative writing class at my community college. I’m going to call him Jack. He stopped me after our first class by calling me by name.
That was odd. I had never met him before. He had to have been paying attention during roll.
Jack seemed immediately interested in me to the point where it was kind of overwhelming. He might have been cute otherwise.
This ‘off’ feeling never quite went away.
He started giving me things. Poems. Paper cranes. Books. Things that, otherwise, I would have liked.
It was a lot.
At the time, it was mostly just embarrassing. Kind of funny, something I’d laugh about with my friends in a self-conscious sort of way.
He asked if I wanted to go see a movie with him, and I told him I wasn’t interested in dating.
Jack stopped me after class to tell me, you know, he wasn’t looking for a girlfriend…but a muse. (I’m dead serious).
That’s when I first considered ghosting him.
Today, so much of the way we communicate is through our phones. To ghost someone means to stop replying to their messages, to start ignoring them, to just…disappear, out of thin air.
When I tried ghosting Jack, it was a lot harder to do in person, and certainly more awkward. I avoided walking the path I thought he might walk to class, but sometimes I know he saw me, quickly walking in the opposite direction. I didn’t sit by him, did my best to avoid acknowledging him if I could. It wasn’t very nice, but I’d hoped he’d get the hint.
But being there, when I’d end up at my desk, I couldn’t help but notice the stoop to his shoulders, the way he carried himself seemed so much sadder.
Being on the other end of ghosting, whether it’s by a potential love interest, a friend, or even a professor can feel incredibly bad. Nobody wants to be haunted by questions of where they went wrong.
The lack of communication leading to even further misunderstandings, and is part of a larger issue, otherwise known as…
Everyone knows what it’s like to be rejected or to have an unrequited crush of some kind.
I can remember my prom date, one of my best friends, telling me after the fact that he only went with me because “he didn’t know how to say no” or, on another occasion, I dressed up and told a guy I liked him on Valentine’s Day and he told me he just “wasn’t looking to date in college.”
This is Let-You-Down-Easy speak for, “I’m just not that into you.” Guys do it. Gals do it. Non-binary pals do it. It seems like the kindest thing to do, sometimes, to go on that date because you can’t think of a reason to say no, or to make up some nice thing to tell them that, really, it’s not them, it’s You…even when it very likely is them that you’re not interested in.
I’ve been on the other side of someone hoping I’d just “get the hint.” Even friends and colleagues and potential employers can do this, distancing themselves in hopes that you will make the leap to understand they’re just not that into you.
When that second guy told me he wasn’t looking to date in college, he only had months left before he graduated. This meant that I waited, hopelessly, for months, for when he would be available to date.
All because he hadn’t given me a clear answer.
I didn’t want to be that guy.
Jack and I were sort-of friends by this point, which I thought would be enough. The semester was coming to an end, and it was my last at that school before I transferred to a four-year university, and I thought that would be the end of it.
Then he left a present at my house.
I had never given him my address.
I confronted him on Facebook and he started to confess things. He told me that he wasn’t creepy, that he hadn’t meant to watch me in my drawing class (something I hadn’t realized he’d been doing), and that he’d just seen me write down my address for my professor to mail me my final assignment.
Jack told me he’d seen me before on a dating site (though we had never matched) and that that’s why he had been drawn to me before.
I tried to give him another chance as friends. We’d started off on the wrong foot, I thought. I was making a bigger deal out of it than I needed to.
I jokingly referred to him as my stalker amongst my friends.
They didn’t think it was very funny.
The romantic overtures didn’t stop. I’d told him how I felt about them, that I knew what it was like to be rejected and I understood that it sucked, but I was willing to be friends… but he couldn’t seem to help himself. I was beginning to get worried.
Finally, I told him I’d had enough. I blocked him, ghosting him for good, on every platform I could think of.
He sent me a message on Paypal, along with nearly two hundred and fifty dollars: “Don’t go looking me in the mouth,” the message said cryptically. “You’ll put this to good use.”
He knew I was broke, between jobs, but I sent it back. I didn’t want to owe him anything.
This time my dad got involved, and my professor suggested that if he tried again I should contact the police.
The last message I got from him was a penny, and another Paypal message: “penny for your thoughts?” he asked me, as though we were just goofing around.
As though I wasn’t afraid of the stories I’d heard of guys who retaliated when they were turned down. As though I didn’t now know that he knew where I lived.
Even though he’d never made a single threat towards me, his inability to listen to my boundaries when I’d repeated them, again and again, glared at me like the reddest of warning signs.
I didn’t feel safe in my own home for a while, and I was glad for the move to my new school. But even then, I worried he would show up.
It’s been over two years and I’ve not seen him since. He’s vanished. Mostly.
It’s easy to feel like I overreacted back then, sometimes, and wonder if maybe, I’d made a big deal out of nothing…that maybe, he was just a Nice Guy.
Every so often he finds something I’ve done, written, or otherwise, online, and comments on it under a new profile. I always know it’s him, but it’s easy to feel paranoid just the same.
He once went on a commenting spree, commenting under all of my pictures on Instagram under a throwaway account and then immediately deleting them, so I wouldn’t have the evidence.
I screenshot the notifications to have proof that I wasn’t going crazy. That I wasn’t being haunted.
He’s sent me Christmas presents more than once.
Always just left outside my door. He leaves them, and me, physically alone. With no sign of life, no trace of him, like a ghost.
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