We’ve all had it happen at least once. You’re dating someone and things seem to be moving at a perfectly nice clip. You see each other once a week or so, hooking up here and there, and generally having an enjoyable time of things. (Incidentally, I never hook up here and there, unless here and there are both the bedroom, with the lights off, on Saturday night at exactly 11:21.) You and your mate aren’t getting engaged any time soon, but you do text each other a lot, and if that’s not commitment, I don’t know what it is. Then all of a sudden, without warning, the person disappears. No, “Hey, I‘m going out of town for a while,” or “I don’t really think this is working out,” or “There’s a guy in the other room with a knife and I’m pretty sure he’ll kill me, so…adios.” They just fade out. All communication stops, and you’re left to figure out where they went. Were they kidnapped? Did they get eaten by a bear? Or were they just too wussy to end things with actual human language? Or is it something else entirely?
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking about the fade out. Here’s one from loyal reader Anna…
This keeps happening to me: I meet a guy OKC who’s good looking, sweet, and all around good company. So, this guy will continue to ask me out as well as text/call in between our dates, and we’ll go on 6-7 dates over the course of about a couple of months, and then suddenly he will just stop talking to me. I show interest but do not act clingy or super attached. Can you please answer me, from a man’s point of view, why after about a month or two the guy will just stop talking to me?
I will, Anna, but I fear you won’t like it, because not only is it infuriating, it’s also a cliche: he’s just not that into you. From what I can tell, men do this is A LOT. Like more often than they do anything else. If they brush their teeth twice a day, they fade out at least four. At first, because I’m a neanderthal, I assume this was tied to sex. Either the guys had gotten sex and felt they were ready to move on, or it seemed like sex was going to be too difficult to acquire, so they decided to jump to greener (easier) pastures. But apparently that’s not the case. After talking to more women, it’s clear that will fade out after a few emails, a handful of dates, or several weeks of visits to Bonetown International Airport. They really don’t care. Either they’ve lost interest in you or developed greater interest in someone else, and, they figure, why waste everyone’s time with genuine adult communication? Let’s just stop talking and sooner or later the message will sink in.
But here’s my question: is this really so bad? What would you rather do, hear someone tell you they’re not that into you, or figure it out after five consecutive nights without receiving a text? Because during those nights you can do whatever you want. Watch Shark Tank. Bake cookies. Solve crimes with your wise but smart-alecky cat detective Inspector Whiskerton. You’re getting dumped either way. Either via uncomfortable conversation, or slow realization after you spend a week having fun elsewhere. I don’t know about you, but I’m picking Whiskerton all the way. My female readers seem to feel this approach lacks sufficient respect (Which they would never say if they met the Inspector. He takes no guff from nobody), but what exactly does respect you? It’s a lovely concept, but it’s entirely intangible. Doesn’t the fade out allow everyone a more peaceful, dignified ending than they’d be getting otherwise? It’s like the Dr. Kevorkian of breakup techniques, right?
While I don’t think I’ve ever personally done the fade out, I talked to readers, FEMALE readers, who vouch for its value. Here’s Grace:
I see fade outs as a really gentle way of telling someone “hey, I’m not wild about you” without having to say it, and then be faced with the follow-up question of “Why?” I always explicitly tell the people I can stand “no thanks,” but if it’s a really nice person and I like them but I know, like KNOW, that they don’t blow my socks off, it’s easier to fade out because I don’t exactly know why I’m not 100% into them. I just know they’re not my guy. And trying to explain that to someone is a pretty tricky thing to do. I mean, what do you say? “I like you as much as I’m going to, and I want to look for something else.” Yeah, that’s gonna feel great.
See! I can’t be a total asshole if women agree with me, right? But Grace has more surprises for us.
The fade out is in no way gendered behavior. In fact, I’ve done it way more than guys have done it to me; and it has NOTHING to do with internet dating. In the 21st century, the people we date are more likely to be removed from our social circles, so no one has to explain to people why someone doesn’t work out. This makes the fade super easy. Had it been an option 50 to 100 years ago, everyone would have done it then too. No mess, no confrontation, a no without being a no. Isn’t that better? Why has telling someone you don’t like them come to be a sign of respect? Insults are polite now?
Wow. I’m starting to like Grace. And starting to not like the idea of dating 100 years ago. Do you think you had to pick up chicks in your horse and buggy? In the end, Grace makes the boldest case of all, that fading out is actually a sign of maturity.
What’s cowardly about walking away? Isn’t it kinda brave to know what you want instead of stopping and explaining everything to everyone? And I’ve been faded out on too. I’m fine with it. Hit it, quit it, still like it, but don’t quite love it? Move on into the wind….
So what do you think? Are you with me, Grace, or Anna? Is the disappearance act an acceptable one, or pure cowardice?