Q. I’ve been Caspered. On a dating app, I made an instant and valued connection with an amazing young lady. She’s normally very cautious to proceed through the progression of steps in an online relationship, but we hit it off so well, messaging on the app every day for a week, that she became comfortable exchanging digits and real names. After a few more days, we set up a real-life date. I suggested we meet for a quick coffee or drink in case she wanted an easy exit strategy. She replied that since we “chat so well,” she was OK with a full dinner date with time reserved after in case we wished to continue. I was really caught off guard when, several days before the scheduled big date, she went into radio silence mode. Didn’t answer my last text or follow-up voice message.
To me, “ghosting” can only happen after you start the real-life portion of a new relationship and have had at least a couple of dates. I believe it’s perfectly OK to just drop someone for whatever reason if all you have is two weeks of chat messages. But THIS one felt special to me, with a lot of potential. As a writer, I felt a need to define what exactly I was feeling; I coined the term “Caspering” — it is as painful as ghosting, but not as serious an infraction.
I hate unresolved conflict, especially as mysterious as this was. Since I know where she lives, I’m tempted to show up at her door and say, “Can’t we talk about this?” What now?
A. I’m sorry this experience was a big disappointment. She should have canceled the date with a message, like a grown-up.
But that does not entitle you to show up at her home. That kind of behavior would cross a major line — and could be scary. Scarier than a Casper kind of ghost. If we’re going for monster metaphors, it’s more like one of those mushroom zombies in The Last of Us who just keep walking when everyone wants them to stop. They make weird noises. I think they’re called Clickers. Don’t be a Clicker.
(Also, I hate to have to break it to you, but Caspering — friendly ghosting, or letting a date down gently before disappearing — has been out there in the dating lexicon for a few years. I do like the concept. Not all ghosts are trying to hurt you.)
If you want to send one last message, a “Hey, I’d just love one sentence of closure” note, go for it. Either way, the “what now” is clear. You need to get to an in-person date — or Zoom/FaceTime — with a potential love interest as quickly as possible. A person might be great with the pen-pal part of courtship, but if they’re too cautious to take the next steps, they might not be the best match for you.
You’ll move on knowing that potential dates must earn those special “this could be important” feelings. They can do that by showing up.
Sounds like she scared herself by transforming your suggested coffee date into a full dinner date with “time reserved” (for sex?) afterward. My only thought is to take a few steps back and ask if you could reschedule and limit the date to coffee. THATGUYINRI
She could be married/engaged/involved with someone and trying to test the waters of the dating pool. It could be any number of other scenarios. FREEADVICEFORYOU
Feel hurt about the silence — she definitely could have been more gracious about it — but she owes you nothing. Remember that and move along. PENSEUSE
Find the new season of the Love Letters podcast at loveletters.show. Meredith Goldstein wants your letters! Send your relationship quandaries and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Columns and responses are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.