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Disappearing Act

One second they're there, and the next they're not. For whatever reason, after one date, two dates or ten, some people just disappear. The 4-Way panel discusses flighty dates and *gasp* meeting the parents.

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Dear 4-Way,
I recently started dating someone. Things seemed to be going very well. We went out eight times in the course of three weeks. We went to dinner, told stories, and spent a day and evening at the beach. On the seventh date, we slept together. My parents were coming to town and I mentioned to him that I was having some people over for a casual brunch. I invited him and he accepted. Date number eight happened the night before my parents showed up. Then I didn’t hear from my guy. And then it happened. I got an email that said, “I needed some time to think. I know you’re busy but we should probably talk. Please call me or let me know when to call you.” I phoned him immediately and that’s when the disappearing act began. He called me back two days later, then sent an email saying that he didn’t mean to bail completely and that he wasn’t happy with his own behavior. One more voice mail from him and then … silence.

What’s with the disappearing act? I understand things were moving pretty quickly, but was I on an island by myself with this? And finally, how do guys so easily duck out and not feel bad about it? I’m sure it happens in both the gay and straight world, so I’d love to hear everyone’s responses. —EMS, New York, New York

The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
There’s a thing guys do where they make the silent deal: I’m going to date her until I sleep with her and then I’m going to move on to my next one. This is the stuff of the Caveman/Hunter/Player, and thousands of years of evolution haven’t changed us much.  On the rare occasion when a guy wants a deeper relationship, he’ll refine and redefine these cretinesque ways. But more often than not, ladies, get ready for some lonely campfires. And there’s nothing you can really do about it. We was the way we was, and we is the way we is.

In some ways, a woman would be better served to sleep with a man sooner than later, because if that’s all he’s interested in, then he bolts and you can find someone who’s interested in you beyond the sheets.  Or you can make him wait as long as possible before you sleep with him in the hopes he’s invested enough time in you to want to see you more, but that still probably won’t work. His silent deal’s a deal and he’ll be all too happy to recover his losses—and time—and happy to have finally reached his goal of sleeping with you so he can get back out there for his next bedding.

You waited ‘til the seventh date to sleep with him, which is a bit longer than the somewhat standard third date for physical activity. In your case, things were not moving too quickly for him, they weren’t moving quickly enough.  I can see you and your girlfriends discussing, overanalyzing, and belaboring your situation too much, scrutinizing your every move. Maybe you shouldn’t have invited him when your parents were in town? Maybe you shouldn’t have slept with him? Maybe he just needs space? RRRRRRNNNTTTT! (That’s the sound of a buzzer. Maybe I can utilize this function in an upcoming podcast.)

I can’t see anything that you did wrong here. Caveman want go ... so let him crawl under the rock he came from.

The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
Hey, EMS, I wouldn’t be so quick to pin the disappearing act exclusively on guys. Girls do it too, trust me. Without talking to this vanishing varmint of yours, I can only guess why he took off or what he was or was not feeling about his actions. What I can do is look at the story that you present and let you know what comes up for me.

First, has this disappearing dude act happened to you before? I ask this because you write that guys do this so easily. Of the guys friends I have, gay and straight, some have run like the wind away from a relationship without so much as a “see ya” to the other person. Others have not done this. Also, if this has indeed happened to you before, perhaps you are unconsciously placing the guy in a situation where he feels like he needs to escape. For example, let’s talk about this brunch of yours.

I’m curious to know if you told him that this “casual brunch” included your parents. Meeting someone’s parents after only three weeks seems like a big deal to me and I certainly wouldn’t want that small little detail left out of the story. Perhaps this is why he leapt away.  And of course there’s the first time sex with this guy. How was that for you? How was it for him? Perhaps it didn’t rock his world and he couldn’t figure out how to tell you.  Does the person who leaves abruptly feel badly about it? Some do, some don’t. Just because he doesn’t communicate with you about it doesn’t mean he hasn’t had numerous conversations in his head about his lousy actions. He could be really beating himself up about it, but you may never know.

Bottom line, EMS, I’m sorry it happened to you, but not every guy you meet and date will jump ship like that. And if he did, obviously he’s not worth keeping around for the meet the parents brunch anyway.

The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
First of all, it’s a good thing he didn’t try this Houdini act after he actually met your mamma because if he’d suddenly reappeared, she would have likely smacked a knot on his head for hurting her baby girl! Next, thank you for acknowledging the fact that this does indeed happen in the gay world as well as the straight world. Too many times people think that it’s a guy/girl miscommunication. That hasn’t been my experience, nor has it been the case with several others that I know. Unfortunately, it’s just human nature for some people.

With that said, let’s look at a few things here. Clearly it was the parent thing that freaked him out, but in your defense, it was an odd position to be in and it makes me ponder what correct form really is. To invite him or not to invite him after only a few dates? Was it a serious “I want you to meet my parents because I really like you and I think they’ll like you too” invite or was it a more casual “Hey, I’m going to have a few people over to meet the ‘rents while they’re in town, wanna come” kind of invite? (Option B is always a better choice, for the record.)

Also, how did he email you when clearly his fingers were all broken and he could not call you to discuss this for days? Seriously! You probably stayed up late and lost a few pounds pondering these answers. You also probably missed out on some of the parental enjoyment due to his jackass behavior.  I know it isn’t fun to hear, but just rest easy in the fact that you discovered this side of his personality early on. The point of dating is to shop. We look around for the ones that fit and cast aside the ones that rub us the wrong way. This one was a mismatch and you’re too good to settle for that. Smile knowing this will happen to him too at some point, if it hasn’t already. Karma is a bitch.

The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
Oh my god, EMS, this is a train wreck. I only say that because I’ve been on this train myself. (What woman hasn’t?) It’s the Instant Relationship Express, and it chugs along full-steam ahead until one day, the tracks just disa-fricking-ppear without warning. You pick yourself up from the massive derailment, you look around, and you discover you’re the only passenger left on the train. WTF? Where’d the other passenger go?! Or did you just dream about him?

You were not on an island by yourself. You went to the beach! You told stories! He participated in this and was clearly enjoying himself. But here’s where I think things might have gone wrong: you slept with him. Now don’t panic, that part is perfectly normal and expected after such momentum. (And I certainly hope it was fun.) I think the sleeping with him followed by the invitation to meet your parents and all your judgey girlfriends might have freaked the guy out a little.

As we are all painfully aware, men and women often think about sex and relationships differently. Without over generalizing, I think men often see sex as the end of something (here comes the angry email), whereas women see it as a beginning, and unfortunately (thanks to the two gazillion books published about it), men know this. Even when they like us, it worries them a little after we do The Deed. Do I have to do stuff with her every weekend now? Do I have to hold her purse while she tries on clothes at Banana Republic? Will I have to… meet her parents?!  Now, you might not have had that “beginning” expectation at all, but I’m guessing that he thought you did and he freaked out when you extended a potentially Focker-like parental meeting and he pulled a David Copperfield.

I wish I could explain why or answer your questions, but I can’t. All I know is that a good guy—a guy you’d want a meaningful relationship with—wouldn’t have done that. A good guy would’ve picked up the phone and called you instead of emailing you. And he probably would’ve waited until after your parents were gone so he didn’t stress you out for your visit with them. I can’t solve the mystery, but I can give you some good advice someone once gave me: stop asking “why” questions because you’ll never get an answer that you understand or that satisfies you. Instead ask yourself how you can move on and what you can do to cheer yourself up. Try not to let this one bad apple sour the ocean of available applesauce out there.

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