By Chris Slater

It was a slow shift at work one late summer day in 2010. I was a manager at Pizza Hut, and several of us working were bored and doing nothing productive. I sent a tweet announcing that I had eaten nine slices of pizza — a proud accomplishment for about 10 minutes — and how it was now the worst moment of my life. I was also talking with a girl on Twitter who lived in Hawaii. I don’t remember the specifics, but she and I made some sort of joke, a play on words about “brah,” meaning brother and “bra,” as in a breast-holding garment. It was dumb, but silly at the moment.

I walk to my car at the end of the shift and see a text from my girlfriend. I had met her a couple months prior and had been dating her for less than a month. The message was one word.

“Really?”

I stared at my BlackBerry in confusion. My reply didn’t help matters: “Yeah, I really did eat nine slices of pizza.”

We quickly established that she was a little jealous, and it was not always justified. “Why did you tell that girl she was pretty?” She’s my friend and she looked nice. “Who’s that girl you’re talking to?” She lives in Germany and we message each other about professional wrestling because we’re nerds. “Why is that girl posting on Facebook that she misses you?” That’s my half-sister. I haven’t seen her in a couple years.

And so on and so forth. By the time she asked me why I was flirting with that one girl on Twitter, I rolled my eyes and explained that it was just my friend from college. She lives an hour away, this is our main form of communication, and we’re not flirting.

Fast forward a couple years and I have a new girlfriend. She is much more laid back and cool with me having female friends. Except, she brought up one issue that she noticed: why was I flirting with that one girl on Twitter?

At that point, I realized that if two different girlfriends were bringing her up, then it might be an issue. So, I did dial back communications for a while. Eventually the second girlfriend and I ended our relationship. This coincided with the time that my Twitter friend and I moved our flirtations to Snapchat.

When something is on your timeline for everybody to see, you are a little discreet and not as open. When your message disappears after 10 seconds and only one other person sees it, then things can get a little more extreme. We quickly both came to the conclusion that we had a physical attraction to each other, as well as an interest in exploring it.

The distance was a small factor, but more important than that was the fact that she had a boyfriend. So when she told me that she would randomly be passing through town and wanted to hang out, I wasn’t expecting much to happen. I figured we would get together, maybe eat some dinner, talk a bit, and basically act like those explicit messages didn’t really happen.

We went to my place. I had no bad intentions; I had just gotten off work and wanted to change clothes. We sat on my couch talking and figuring out plans. She very casually dropped a bomb: that she had cheated on her boyfriend. “I thought I would feel guilty about it, but I didn’t” she said. My reply: “Oh. Okay.” Internally, it was more like: “Did she just give me the go-ahead? Am I doing this?”

And, yes, I did do that. She and I continued meeting up for the better part of the next year; a couple times a month or once every other month, it just depended on our schedules.

She was cheating on her boyfriend. With me. I was “the other man,” so to speak.

• • •

There seems to be two main kinds of cheating: physical and emotional. Say you go out to the bar one night, you knock back a few, then wake up in a stranger’s bed. You regret it, but it happened. You cheated on your partner for purely physical reasons. On the other hand, people who create bonds and lives with other people behind a partner’s back, that’s an example of cheating emotionally.

Why does it happen? That’s the important question. I had been mulling it over and felt like I needed some additional viewpoints. So, I went to the Facebook and asked that simple question. I got a wide variety of responses from an even wider variety of people in my life; everybody from high school and college friends, former and current co-workers, a few Tinder matches, and more.

Below is a sampling of their answers, some of which have been edited for clarity:

Insecurities in both themselves and their relationships as well as an inability to communicate with their partner/partners.

I think we live in a throw away society. If something newer or better comes along people have to have it. When it gets hard… people don’t wanna work for it. You are a swipe away from something easier and newer.

I think people like to still know they have options since things go wrong all the time in life. I also think people cheating can be a symptom of them being unhappy in their relationship but they’re so afraid of being alone or not finding someone else if they leave the relationship they stay in it and end up tempting fate. There’s so much pressure, society treats being single like it used to treat having leprosy and people as a whole don’t like to break norms by stepping away. Think every problem has to be worked through when sometimes you need to just give up for your own good

Because we’re trained to need constant attention.

Insecurities, selfishness, deep, underlying issues such as their upbringing or mental stability, a need isn’t being filled… but ultimately a lack of respect. They feel as if their partner is not worthy of mutual respect, and so why should they bother at any level? I also believe it’s a cop out. If someone doesn’t have the guts to end a relationship then they will cheat instead.

Our entire society tells people to be monogamous and stay together, and when someone isn’t feeling it anymore there isn’t a great support there for ending it in a healthy manner. People become afraid and don’t end it, and eventually the temptation is too great.

At the first time a problem happens, instead of working it out, they just give up.

I also think there can be a level of manipulation, and power/abuse at play. Cheating or threatening to cheat can be a powerful weapon/tool in getting your partner to do what you want, even if it’s not what they want. I don’t think this is always the case but it can’t be ignored.

You are so used to the person you’re with that someone new is exciting.

Going to concur with what was said about society pushing monogamy on folks. I think it is a lot of pressure to assume that a person can get EVERYTHING they need out of a partner from one other person. What relationship can live up to that? But we feel ownership over our partners and they over us, so not enough people are willing to say “Hey, I really enjoy this about you but I also need this other thing and that’s okay.” Whatever other problems are underlying — that they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by ending things, that they DO want to cause their partner pain (which like ew, but it’s a thing), that they like the novelty of something new — it all comes down to feeling like monogamy is the only option in terms of relationships.

• • •

Is there any conclusive answer? It seems like that dreaded “C-word” keeps coming up: communication. Talking things through does tend to fix most issues in life. Why do you think people cheat? Share some stories or offer a theory in the comments section, check me out on Twitter, message me on Facebook, or shoot an email to chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com if you’re so inclined.

By Chris Slater

img_3099Hearing the news of Charles Manson’s death last fall brought a wave of emotions out of me. But not the ones you would think. A famous criminal mastermind who became a pop culture icon had died. And what was I thinking? My mind went to probably the last place you would expect: my kitchen table.

The queue of books on my list to read is long and diverse. Autobiographies are a favorite genre of mine, and there are several sitting around waiting for me, after I finish the one about Tom Petty I recently started: Jordan Belfort, Kurt Cobain, Mick Jagger, and 1970s professional wrestler “The Grappler” are my next reads. There’s one biography I’ve owned since last summer that I’m not sure if I’m ever going to get into. The Charles Manson biography has been sitting on a corner of my kitchen table for months, untouched.

Why? We’ll get to that.

• • •

Ghosting is a trend that has become more popular with the proliferation of social media. You add friends on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and etc. So, obviously, the opposite of that is deleting these people. Doing that without their knowledge and making sure they can no longer find you again — usually through blocking — is known as ghosting.

It’s more than just falling out of touch. It’s different than not liking what somebody posts and unfollowing them on Twitter. It is a concerted effort to make sure that person no longer knows you exist. You essentially become a ghost in their lives.

There are reasons to ghost. Your safety, for one. If you feel your physical safety is being compromised by somebody on social media, there is nothing wrong with disappearing with no explanation. If the guy you match up with thinks an acceptable first message is an x-rated picture and pressures you to reciprocate, then don’t waste any time deleting and blocking.

One thing we have to remember, though, is that these are people. Sure, sometimes they’re rude and disrespectful and don’t deserve an explanation. But, ghosting should be deployed as a last resort. You don’t want to be friends anymore? Talk about it. Work through it. Be a decent, polite person.

When I lived in the middle of Virginia, I began talking to a girl who lived in Northern Virginia, or NOVA as they like to abbrev. She came over a few times to visit and we had a great time. Work schedules and life got in the way of us seeing each other as often as we would like. We went nearly a month without visiting, but still talked regularly. One morning, I sent her a Snapchat message and was confused when I saw the gray triangle that means we are no longer friends. I sent her a text. The iMessage was showing that it wasn’t delivered. I pulled up Facebook and searched her name. I couldn’t click on her profile, as I had been blocked. I could see the thumbnail of her profile picture, though. It was her and another guy, presumably her boyfriend.

It didn’t bother me that she was seeing another guy; I saw other ladies as well during that same time period. It did bother me that when faced with the option of explaining that she was going to become exclusive or deleting me from her life with zero warning, she chose the more drastic and permanent solution.

I ghosted a girl once. I feel like if you’re untrustworthy, you don’t deserve an explanation. I matched with her on Tinder; she was in Huntington and I in Charleston. She was on the heavy side, but it didn’t bother me; I’m not a shallow man. Plus, I appreciated that she had full body pictures in her profile, and not those camera-angle-trickery shots that girls do to appear thinner.

I invited her over. I don’t know who showed up, because she looked to be about 50 pounds heavier than the girl in those pictures. I wasn’t physically attracted to her, and once she opened her mouth and talked to me, I wasn’t mentally attracted either. There was nothing there, and I sat on the couch beside her downing glasses of wine while counting down how long it would take before it was no longer considered rude to ask her to leave (I figured since it took an hour to drive here and an hour back that I would wait at least two hours).

That next morning, I deleted her number from my phone and unmatched her on Tinder. It’s one thing to not have 100 percent up-to-date Tinder pictures; one of mine is from 2014, but I still pretty much look the same. If you have become an entirely different person and don’t have a picture to show that, you’re not being honest. If I immediately can’t trust you, then it’s over.

• • •

Sometimes, there are no explanations, and that’s the hardest to explain. I don’t agree with why the NOVA girl ghosted me, but I see why it happened. I’m sure some may not like how I handled my situation, but they can understand my reasoning.

Shortly after moving to Charleston, I matched up with a 24-year-old beauty who had long, flowing red hair. We met the first time for coffee and sat there for hours enjoying each others’ company.

We had similar interests, and enjoyed a fun month of taking it slow and getting to know each other. She was much less sexually experienced, and a little timid about that as a result. She and I talked about it; I told her if at any point she felt uncomfortable to let me know and we would slow things down.

Her birthday was coming up. I went to the mall and roamed around, trying to figure out what to get her. I thought about a shirt from her favorite show. I found one at FYE. But, I don’t know how sizing works with girls; the chest region was busty and I didn’t know if that necessitated a large, an extra large, a what? So, I decided on something that doesn’t require measurements: a book. I walked into Books-A-Million and headed to the serial killer section, since I knew she enjoyed stuff like that. I picked out what looked like an interesting Charles Manson biography. I sat it on my kitchen table when I got home.

The night of her birthday, she had plans with friends. She and I hadn’t discussed what we would do, but I was plotting some ideas. As I texted her that night, I told her to have fun, and that later she and I would have some fun as well. She responded in a frustrated manner, seemingly taking my innocent comment in a sexual manner; which she was not ready for. I told her that wasn’t the intent. She told me I had been talking about sex too much. I had been talking about it a little, but I didn’t think it was excessive. I told her I would cut back on it.

And that’s the last thing we ever said to each other. We would often go a day or two without texting; so I didn’t think much of it until the fourth day. By one week, I realized something was up. I don’t know why I didn’t check social media sooner. I finally did, and we are no longer Facebook friends.

We had one small “tiff” via text, something that could have easily been remedied with a little communication. She decided to instead throw away the nearly two months we had spent getting to know each other and vanish from my life.

There is a time to ghost, and there is a time to handle a situation like a mature, responsible adult. And I get that sometimes people don’t know the difference. That’s why “30-Something” has you covered. Below, you’ll find a handy flowchart on whether or not it is appropriate to ghost. Share it with your friends. You’re welcome in advance.

ghost-flow-chart

• • •

Thoughts? Comments? Care to share a story of how you ghosted or did the ghosting? Want to commend my sick graphic design skills? Leave something in the comments, PM me on Facebook, DM me on Twitter, or EM (email message) me over at chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com.