I’m going to try one last time, I told myself as I mustered up the courage to type the words, “Happy birthday to Miss Ava! I hope you’re all doing well” into the text box. Should I add an emoji? Yes, definitely. I added a red heart and held my breath as I hit the blue send button. I put my phone down and tried to forget about it.
I had seen the pictures from the birthday party on social media. Pink balloons in a sunny, green park, a rainbow-colored cake, and the smiling faces of mutual friends and my children’s classmates. What did I do wrong? I wondered for the thousandth time before pushing the thought out of my head. It doesn’t matter. As my therapist (aka my mother) said: If you did something to make her upset, she should be an adult and communicate that to you. If she’s not willing to act like an adult, then you don’t want her in your life anyway.
I repeated the words in my head, as I have many times over the last several months but to no avail. The situation still fills me with a potent dose of confusion, anxiety, and sadness. I thought we were friends.
The birthday text went unanswered as did the handful that came before it. I’d been ghosted. The mom friend I’d met through my children’s preschool, the one whose kids were best friends with mine, the one we had countless playdates with, the one who helped me DIY an old dining room table, the one who giggled with me as we picked out outfits for her family’s fall portraits, the one who I confided in about marriage and motherhood and finances . . . ghosted me.
The term “ghosting,” as defined by Psychology Today, is abruptly ending communication with someone without explanation. It’s a newer term and is often used to describe something that happens in the online dating world after a bad date. Person A and Person B chat online and have great rapport and a lot in common so they decide to go on a date. The date seems to go well. They laugh, make jokes, and get ice cream afterward.
Person A feels excited about the possibility of another date and developing a relationship with Person B, but suddenly Person B—without explanation—stops responding to all methods of communication, and Person A never hears from them again. Maybe the date didn’t go as well as Person A thought, maybe Person B was living a secret life and had to get back to it, maybe Person B ran away and joined the circus—who knows? Person A never will.
And neither will I. During the months that followed my friend ghosting me, I experienced a slew of emotions. I had so many questions. What did I do wrong? I poured through our last text messages and only found friendly, relaxed exchanges. I played our last few get-togethers over and over in my head. Everything seemed to go fine. The kids played happily, and we chatted.
Why couldn’t she just tell me what was wrong? Did she still have the snowman waffle maker I gave her for Christmas? Did she think about me every time she used it? What’s going to happen when we inevitably run into each other at a mutual friend’s birthday party? What if we enroll our youngest children in the same preschool class? The questions were unending.
And sadly, I wasn’t the only one who had them. “Mommy, when can we play with Jackson and Ava again?” My kids asked about their friends for months, leaving me sad and speechless. “I don’t know, sweetie,” was all I could bring myself to say. I hoped they would just stop asking and, eventually, they did, but not for almost a year.
Ghosting is a cowardly way to end a relationship. I know that now, and I stand firm in the knowledge that I want nothing to do with someone with cannot take on responsibility or deal with the emotional work of empathy. It’s been more than a year since I was ghosted by my mom friend. The wounds and turmoil it caused me and my children are mostly gone, and I’ve gained wisdom and perspective on the situation. I know that no one can make me feel unworthy without my permission. I know I am worthy, loving, and a good friend. I know I will always choose conversation, even if it’s a difficult one, over the convenience of ghosting. And I hope you will, too.