07/30/2014 05:29 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2014

Poof, He Disappeared


It started out so promising, with that instant intimacy online dating seems to elicit. Or was it the writing? I am a pushover for a man who can articulate his thoughts and feelings using the written word.

Yet, with only the power of words between you, the rest can be filled in with fantasy and personal agenda. You can grow incredibly close through writing and then suddenly become aware that it's only been 10 days. You've yet to get to the talking on the phone phase and are beginning to wonder if you are losing your rational mind.

You continue emailing, growing closer and closer until POOF, he disappears. Gone. No foreshadowing, no leopard buried in the Himalayan snow. Building trust with those you've yet to know, or even met, is an art.

While I may hold an MFA in sculpture, my mastery of the balance between caution and optimism is at the GED level. I have yet to complete high school. And true to that often-lauded spiritual law, I seem to attract others at the same level of development.

Sometimes I'm in the middle of a provocative written conversation. (I may be pontificating. But, isn't it time for women to be able to own that skill?). At some point, I do notice that the person on the other end has dropped off the line.

He was there, hanging onto each of my carefully crafted sentences Then POOF, he disappears. Too many of these abrupt endings and your trust in self and others could also disappear.

Back in the communal kitchen of women-talk, I asked others about their experience with the sudden disappearing acts particular to online dating. One woman said she started to have a bad feeling when she discovered that the police officer she'd begun dating had named his poodle Killer. When he failed to call again, she thought it might be due to mentioning her cousin, the motorcycle cop. Maybe they knew each other. She was confused, annoyed and concerned by his leave taking without a goodbye. She sent him a note: "Hope you didn't get hit by a bus."

We go online expecting the rules of off-line dating to apply. We find, instead, anarchy. The online culture is a strange land whose borders run the gamut from kindness, mindfulness and responsibility to rudeness, meanness and lack of accountability.

One friend, in commenting on a sudden disappearance, had this to say: "If we had met at a bar, he wouldn't have twirled in his seat and started a new conversation with the cute blonde in the midst of ours. He would at least have been polite enough to tell me he was going to the loo and then duck out when I wasn't looking!"

With online dating you can start something, not follow through or even remember that you had initiated something. It can become a free-for-all that often causes those more mindful and sensitive souls to flee.

My inner teen is not quieted by the stories of others. It is further proof of her false belief about others, particularly me: not trustworthy. I am attempting to explain that what occurs in life is not always evidence that adds to our preconceived assumptions. We can choose to look at the same life data with different eyes.

My mature self, in post-high school years, now wears corrective lenses. When my teenager whines that others do not want what she has to give or always abandon her, I acknowledge her feelings. I then offer her another view from the perspective of my acquired wisdom.

POOF, as I'll call him, did disappear. Yet, noticeably different was that I did not look inward with self-blame. I did not question what I had done wrong or see the disappearance as proof that there was something wrong with me. Yes, my inner teenager did but, I held and offered her a deeper truth.

I knew he was in his cave and trusted that he would come out when he finished processing. I didn't pursue. I chose to trust instead the integrity of our previous conversations. I sensed he would return to tip his hat in goodbye. That's all I wanted. I needed to trust in my ability to discern character.

He soon returned and shared how I had positively impacted him. Also shared was his need to exit. The kudos served to bless our short but deep connection in cyberspace. While neither of us fully understood his esoteric closure, his brief return gave me confidence in trusting my instincts. We had each given the other what would be needed for the next part of the online journey.

My inner teen was saddened. POOF had triggered long held feelings from a series of personal abandonments. I comforted her from my solid stance. Then I returned to my worldly tasks, gleefully checking to see who has messaged me while I'd been offsite.