I had a great first date with a curly-haired breadcrumber who kept in sporadic touch with me, which made me sad because I wanted to see him again.
Technology has changed the way we interact with each other. A few years ago, if you’d been dating someone and you didn’t want to anymore, you had to say “hey, thanks for dating me, but I don’t want to anymore.” It was rude to do this over the phone! You had to meet someone in person to reject them!
Now we ghost, fade, or breadcrumb our way out of hard situations.
Ghosting Has Been Well Documented
You’ve gone on a number of dates with someone, and then you Keyser Soze them like in Usual Suspects- you’re just in the wind. No text, no call. Everyone hates it, but everyone does it. Having been ghosted implicitly gives you permission to ghost, like being bitten by a werewolf makes you one yourself.
The first time I was ghosted, it took me by surprise. I assumed that the person I had been dating for nine months was in rehab or prison (either one would have been a pretty good idea.) Then, after two weeks of silence, I saw him tagged in a photo in his favorite bar.
I was amazed. I didn’t call it ghosting, I called it “being dumped by a sociopath”.
Ghosting happens because it’s the easiest option. There’s no confrontation, and also, ghosting never really closes the door. In the ghoster’s mind, they’ve never really broken it off with you, so there’s still a possibility of dating you in case what they’re pursuing peters out, and also the thing after that, or if they someday reach the end of Tinder and it’s just a picture of a cat with a colander on its head.
Breadcrumbing is the same- they might not want to date you now, but they maybe want to later? Or not?
Fading is a slow ghost.
Responses just get shorter and less committal until they’re gone, but by the time it’s done, you’ve gotten used to not hearing from them, like when you taper down from smoking or eating carbs.
Monday after a date: You say “That was fun!” Three hours later they say, “Ya!” You say “Have a great night!”, they say nothing!
Tuesday: Still nothing
Wednesday: You ask about plans, three hours later they say “rly busy, talk later”
Friday: You ask, “Hey! Good week? Weekend plans?”
Saturday: No word back at all! Spooky, they’re a ghost!
In many ways, breadcrumbing is even more infuriating than ghosting or fading, and this is how it goes:
They don’t make plans with you for months, but sometimes you’ll get a text out of nowhere that says, “TGIF!” or “Happy 4th!” or “Hope ur gr8!” The two weeks between Christmas and New Year’s are filled with enough breadcrumbs to fill a bakery, as people have free time and think “I guess there’s worse things than going out with that girl again.”
They never have a long conversation, but just drop a three syllable text from time to time. Dropping tiny bits of attention your way keeps you from forgetting about them.
If you respond, they might say something back and they might not. You might get a picture with a caption that feels generic/out of context, and this is because they’re sending it to a bunch of people. (IF YOU THINK THIS IS ABOUT YOU THEN IT IS.)
If you’re Facebook or Insta friends with them, they might wordlessly “like” a particularly nice selfie, just pressing a button to change the color of a heart somewhere in the universe, to remind you that they still exist.
What Happened Was
I had a really great first date with a curly-haired breadcrumber who kept in sporadic touch with me, which made me sad because I wanted to see him again.
I ran into him six months later and he asked me out again, and when I told him no, he was surprised.
Me: “I have a two-three week test period on dates. Your window of opportunity to ask me out again has long since expired.” (This is fancier than how I really said it, I think the f-word was in my original response.)
Him: “I wish I’d known that was a requirement.” (That’s what he really said)
Me: “I think it’s pretty normal. If I see you every six months, that’s less often than my parole officer or my hairdresser. That’s not dating. I don’t know what it is.”
If the ghoster is keeping you in cold storage, the breadcrumber is just keeping you on the bench. They might get back to you. They might not. They’re “keeping in touch.” It’s infuriating. And it’s a tiny, gradual waste of your life.
What are they after?
They’re either a player and like to have lots of people in rotation or else, and this is the sadder option: they really think this is what dating is. They think if they keep meeting people they’ll find the right one, and until they’re sure you’re not the right one, they’d better keep you on the line.
What’s hard to explain to a breadcrumber is that romantic attachment doesn’t happen like in the movies, where you both reach for the last box of brown cinnamon Pop-Tarts at Von’s and your eyes lock and you fall hard.
Romantic attachment and feeling is something two compatible people who like each other build, with communication and intention, not with breadcrumbs but out of whole slices of goddamned bread.
What do you do if you’re being breadcrumbed?
The only way to stop it is to be clear about what you want from the other person.
“Hey, I’m interested in you. Do you want to make plans with me?” If they respond, great, go out with that person.
If they don’t respond with plans, cross them off your list of prospects. Now, you can spend all the time you spent waiting to hear back from them talking to people who want to date you, and put that emotional energy into people who’ll give it back!
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