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.

By Chris Slater

The first thing that hit me was the smell. It wasn’t horrible, but this guy’s apartment was definitely too small for the three large dogs that lived there with him. I could tell he cleaned, but it wasn’t enough to mask the smell of damp fur.

“Why am I even here?” I thought to myself. Oh yeah, I’m here for the reason I do most dumb things in my life: a woman.

He comes into the kitchen, where I’m awkwardly sitting at the table. “I’m ready for it,” he said. I hand him a $20 bill. “I’ll be back in a minute,” he tells me.

I sit there staring at my phone, trying to avoid looking at the three dogs eyeing me suspiciously. Finally, he comes back. The dogs seem relieved. He hands me a small plastic bag. I don’t even smoke pot, and I can tell this is garbage.

Again, I question myself as I drive home. Why? Oh yeah, trying to impress her.

• • •

lurayLuray, Virginia is a fun town to visit. It looks like it would be a fun town to retire in and settle down. There are the Luray Caverns, there’s a thriving triathlon and bike races, the scenery is wonderful, and the people are nice.

I don’t like to run or ride bikes, I don’t like to go hiking, and I have no desire to wander around a giant hole in the ground. The 15 months I spent there working at the newspaper were very challenging in terms of making friends and finding ways to spend my time.

With Tinder, everybody interesting was an hour away, either in Harrisonburg or Winchester. So, when I found a beautiful 24-year-old on Tinder who was 1 mile away – which meant right in town – I was excited. We matched up, and began talking. Turns out she had just moved to Luray for a job from Texas. So, she and I had that in common at least; we both had come to this small town from other places, although my 4-hour trip from West Virginia was much closer than her trek.

We begin texting and are hitting it off well. I’m instantly attracted to everything about her. “Smitten” to use a word that nobody says anymore. We meet for the first time at her house. She gives a very fake-sounding and hollow “Hugs!” as she wraps her arms around me. I later found out that was her greeting for people she wasn’t close to, just kind of a way for her to appear bubbly.

She smoked pot, and I didn’t. But, she said she felt weird if she did it by herself, so I agreed to partake with her. It hit me harder than I expected, but I tried to maintain my cool, as we sat on her couch to watch Rick Moranis in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

After a while, I excuse myself to the bathroom. I start washing my hands and think about how the night is going. The water feels good on my hands. I’m trying to calm myself down from my altered state, but also thinking about how fun the night is going. Then, a moment of terror: “How long have I been washing my hands?!” Now I’m panicking, worried that I’ve been standing at the bathroom sink for 20 minutes.

I decide that I’m going to just walk out and play it cool. She doesn’t notice anything. Once we become closer, I ask her about that night and if I was in there for a long time. She tells me it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; just a little paranoia on my part. She also agrees with me when I say I shouldn’t smoke with her anymore. She’s running out of her “Texas supply,” and asks if I know anybody. I do, and I tell her I’ll get on that later.

• • •

50300789613__e1c8f947-a07e-4e40-88dd-02927a055d53We had been hanging out for about three weeks; we mostly just sat in her apartment and watched “Rick and Morty,” or “Black Mirror.” She cooked pasta for me one night, and I made tacos for her once. I used my only real “move” that I know: I casually made conversation about candy, and then brought her favorite candy with me the next time (Sour Patch Kids).img_0215

She is upset that Christmas is coming up and she is so far from her family. Christmas is her favorite holiday. She has a tiny, fake Christmas tree up in her apartment; it’s like three feet tall. I quickly hatch a plan. One of these nights when she is asleep, I’m going to sneak in some presents and put them under her tree.

img_0217I go to Walmart and pick up a bunch of cheap stuff; I’m mostly going for things that are rectangle shaped and would look good in wrapping paper. I also got her some candles, gloves (she didn’t need any when she was in Texas) and some wine glasses (since she had lost hers in the move). I spent like $30; it was nothing crazy.

I took her out on our first official date. We went to the fancy restaurant in town, and I spent way too much money. The police chief from the next town over was there, and he knew me from town council meetings. I think he was excited to see me outside of “work.”

We go back to her place, and she follows her normal procedure of toking up and turning out. She fell asleep on the couch, and I quietly brought in a bunch of Christmas presents. And then I went home. I woke up to a text message from her telling me I didn’t have to do that. I played dumb, and implied that it was Santa.

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We agreed to meet up later that night. I really have no clue what happened next. I didn’t hear from her for a couple days after that. I accepted her excuse of getting called into work out of town and forgetting her phone. I accepted it until things stopped adding up. I felt like I was being lied to, and I needed to know the truth.

I had left my coat in her car after our date. So, I needed it back. She told me she was busy and asked if she could drop it off at the newspaper office. I told her to drop it off at my apartment; I would come down and grab it, and she could continue with her plans. When she texts me that she’s arrived, I grab that $20 bag of subpar pot and walk out to meet her. I trade the bag for my coat. She didn’t have any money, but I told her it was cool. She opens her arms and I hear a fake-sounding “Hugs!” I’m back down to that level, apparently. As she walks away and tells me we need to do something together soon, I know that I’m never going to see her again.

• • •

I spent the next few days being very sad, as one is prone to do. I hadn’t texted her for a few days. The plan had been to spend Christmas with her. She didn’t have anybody to be with, and my family was four hours away. Christmas Day, I’m moping around my apartment alone. I decided to text her. I have to be on her mind, right? It’s Christmas and she has a bunch of presents under her tree. I’ve sent much-riskier texts without any hesitation. But, as I stared at the words “Merry Christmas” on my phone, I felt such a nervousness about hitting send.

I hit send. Then I waited. And waited. Of course she never responded. She was done with me.

I’m sure we’ve all been in those situations. What do you do when the other person doesn’t like you back anymore? Can you do anything? How do you heal the hurt? I’ve found three options that help.

Time

There’s no way you’ll immediately feel better after a breakup. You need more than days, and likely more than weeks. It might take months, but hopefully not years. There is no set system for when one feels better. But, the pain eventually gets lessened with time.

Keep busy

My mistake was to sit around the apartment and mope. Keep your mind occupied and you won’t have time to think back on the previous relationship. Exercise, consume yourself with work, video games; anything that stimulates your mind and keeps you busy is necessary directly afterward.

Positive relationships

Yeah, it may not have worked out with this person, but you’ve got somebody else in your life. A friend, parent, co-worker, there are people with a positive attitude who can be there to take you out of your negative doldrums. Smiling is contagious; if there’s somebody is around who can have a wine and movie night, or just a fun dinner, or casual conversation; any little bit of positive thinking helps.

• • •

There’s no set way to get over somebody. We all work at our own pace and need our own ways to cope with heartache and sadness. What are some of your ways? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or shoot me an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

A helpful list of handy Tinder hints

By Chris Slater

Tinder has changed our lives; well, the dating part of our lives at least. No longer do we have to get dressed, style our hair, go to a restaurant or bar, and talk to somebody. Now, we have this little contraption in our hands with a magical app that does all the work for us. We all know how it works: it’s GPS and age based. You select an area, say within 50 miles of you and an age bracket, let’s say 25-35. Ladies or fellas who meet those requirements will show up. You can give them your approval with a right swipe, or pass with a left swipe. If you both swipe right, you match up and are allowed to chat.

We all have different reasons for why we’re on Tinder. Some people want to find a long-term relationship. Some don’t even want a commitment that lasts longer than that night. Some people want love, some want friendship, some just want sex. And, it’s all good. You do you, and have fun with it.

But, there are some simple ground rules that we all need to abide by. You may only want one thing, but we’re all in this together. Respect, common courtesy and decency will go a long way.

With that, here is a handy, helpful list of Tinder Do’s and Do Not Do’s.

Pictures

img_3198Do: Have a clear, current picture of you to start off with. Let people know who you are and what you look like.

Do Not Do: Multiple group pictures. If the first picture is you and five other people, which one are you? And, if they’re all you and other people, then it implies that you’re trying to hide something; why can’t you just be you?

Do: A mix of serious and fun pictures. If you’re proud of your professional life, a picture of you doing something related to that is fine. If you like to go out and party, a picture of you at the bar with a drink in your hand won’t hurt. But, we don’t need six pictures that are all similar. Mix it up and give people a look at your life.

Do Not Do: Shirtless pictures. Yeah, you love your abs and want to show them off. But, here’s a tip: Don’t. Ladies don’t like it. If you have a lot of muscles, we can tell with your shirt on.

Do: Puppers. “I just swiped right for your dog” is a bio line that girls think is clever, but not when 95 percent of them all say it. But, it’s true. If you have a doggo, take a picture with her and make it prominent.

Do Not Do: Dead animals. If you like to hunt, just say that. A potential mate can overlook those ideological differences and like you for who you are. But, not if you’re sprawled out on a dead deer holding his lifeless corpse up by the antlers. Talk about a mood killer.

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Do: Give a thoughtful, honest representation of yourself. If you’re looking for something serious, mention it in your profile. Tell about your hobbies, career, dreams, anything that you think is interesting. A picture says a lot, but words are literally the definition of saying something.

Do Not Do: Be disgusting. There are clever, non-pornographic ways to say you’re just interested in sex. The sexiest organ is the brain. Use it.

Messaging

Do: Be fun, flirty and lighthearted. Start with a joke. A well-timed GIF is always welcome. Compliment a picture tastefully. You’re communicating with a new person; be on your best behavior.

Do Not Do: Be immediately crude. I would say roughly 98% of Tinder conversations are initiated by men. With that said, give the dirty talk a slow burn. Girls love to be filthy, too. But, they usually don’t like it within the first couple messages. Patience is a virtue. If you know how to properly talk to a woman, you will eventually get rewarded.

• • •

This is not a comprehensive list by any means. It is merely a quick look at how to get started and better enjoy your Tinder experience. Has it been working for you? Got any other tips? Sound off in the comments section, over at Facebook or slide into my Twitter DM’s and let me know.