Some crimes receive too much punishment, and other crimes don’t receive enough. For instance, every boozer knows that hungover driving is twice as dangerous as buzzed driving, but perfectly legal.
Similarly, you can lose your livelihood for making a pass at a colleague. But you can commit the arguably more abusive act of “ghosting” someone you said you liked or loved, and no one can hold you accountable.
Ghosting is a new word, but not a new concept.
Growing up, we all heard stories of people whose parents (usually fathers) disappeared or “ran off” when they were young.
And long before Tinder, ghosting was one of the 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover: “Slip out the back, Jack.”
It was how I resigned my first job in Chicago—near the end of my first week as the “night waterman” at a public golf course. After four endless midnight-to-eight shifts with a deranged Vietnam veteran as my only companion, I simply turned off the alarm on the fifth night and didn’t go in. I remember writhing in my bed as I listened to the voice of the disappointed superintendent, who had hired me (and paid to have me drug tested) earlier that same week. He said he’d send my check in the mail.
I only had to feel that way once to realize I would never do that to anyone—boss, friend, lover or even enemy—ever again. I think it’s one of the most violent things a person can do to another, to break off a relationship without telling why, or saying goodbye.
And yet it’s become a near standard practice in online dating, where people see one another as profiles first, sex partners second and people only on the off chance that things happen to go really well. A dear friend of mine got ghosted not long ago and it made me feel just about the same way I bet I’d feel if the bastard had hit her. Not just protective of her, but protective of us—people with consciences who are supposed to be doing what Kurt Vonnegut said we were all put here to do: “Help each other through this thing, whatever it is.”
If you feel strongly enough to break off a relationship—or quit a job or resign a client or end any significant partnership—I believe it’s something close to a Law of Communication that you should explain why you’ve done it. So the other person can learn something from hearing you say it, and so you can learn from hearing yourself say it—and so you don’t make another person more generally cynical and lonely and despairing in the reliability and goodness of other people, you nihilistic, cowardly, no-account creep.
Littering is against the law. Harassment is against the law. Reckless endangerment is against the law. Torture is against the law. Fraud is against the law. Ghosting should be against the law.