I tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear before turning the corner towards my favorite coffee shop. As I approach the back door, a guy walks out, coffee cup in hand. I’m not wearing my glasses, so I can’t make out his face. “Are you Claire?”
I step closer and recognize his smiling eyes from his profile photo, though his curly hair has been reduced to a buzz cut. He was still cute, even without the hair. That says something. We sat down on the patio and fell into a two hour conversation that had an impressively low amount of silent pauses, especially for a Tinder date.
Having had a handful of disappointing dates in the previous year, I tried to have minimal expectations for this one. But then I learned that he was an aspiring vegetarian, a prospective comparative literature and Slavic studies major, a world traveller, a native Minneapolitan, and a socialist. Hot. I’m sure I said a number of embarrassing things in those two hours, but I’ll excuse myself: I was nervous. He told me we should hang out again, that he had some free time in between working on construction projects (also hot). Then, he said what was simultaneously the best and worst sentence I could have heard at the end of our surprisingly good date: “I’m free for the next couple weeks—oh yeah, I didn’t mention earlier, I’m going to work on a goat farm in Quebec!”
Is he serious?
That was my first thought. That’s a lie. It was more along the lines of “Are you fucking kidding me?” Here I was, excited at the prospect of a fling, or at least a new friendship, and he’s leaving in a matter of weeks to go work on a goat farm? In the time between his announcement and my arrival back home, I swear I went through the five stages of grief.
DENIAL: How does one even get a job working on a goat farm, let alone in Quebec? Who does that? There’s no way he would bother going on a date mere weeks before leaving, right?
ANGER: Honestly, fuck goats. Goat cheese is inferior to cow cheese, and no one can change my mind.
BARGAINING: What if I had messaged him first? Maybe we could have met up sooner, and I could have seduced him (doubtful). Maybe he would have changed his mind.
DEPRESSION: So much for that. Guess all I have to look forward to in my love life is men who won’t talk to me unless they need homework answers or want something soft to grab on the dance floor of a frat party.
ACCEPTANCE: You know what, the goats need him. That’s so cool that he gets to have that experience. I’ll see if I can spend some time with him before he leaves, I mean, he said we should hang out again. I guess I’ll just have to make it happen.
And I tried to make it happen. I really did. I even broke some dating rules, but I excused myself, again, because of the whole goat situation. The first rule I broke was texting him to hang out again after the date had ended. In my defense, I didn’t have any plans for the weekend and figured I might as well ride out the goat excuse while I could. I knew I was running the risk of seeming clingy and overzealous, but he had told me we should hang out again. He seemed interested, so I took a chance.
He first gave a tentative yes to hanging out over the following weekend, which he later rescinded due to pre-existing plans. I tried again for the next week, and he told me he was getting his wisdom teeth out on that Monday. I still held out hope that he might recover enough to hang out on Saturday, fantasizing about Indian takeout and documentaries, shy touches—who knows! The last text I sent him was updating my availability—I could only do Saturday of that week, as it turned out. I sent that on Monday and never heard back.
I went through a number of scenarios in my head that could explain it, though none of them were particularly good. In order of best to worst:
SCENARIO I: Maybe he was drugged up from his surgery and forgot to respond.
SCENARIO II: Maybe he was drugged up from his surgery and forgot who I am. The only reason this one isn’t ranked first is because it would be grounds for a malpractice lawsuit.
SCENARIO III: Maybe he wasn’t drugged up from surgery and still forgot to respond. He wasn’t the most reliable texter, so it would make sense.
SCENARIO IV: He’s really busy with work and planning his trip and doesn’t have time to spend getting to know someone, so he didn’t bother responding. I would have understood this answer if he had bothered typing it out and sending it to me.
SCENARIO V: He was just being polite when he said he wanted to hang out again, so now he’s ghosting me. Either that, or he decided I was annoying after I reached out one too many times. This was the scenario I chose to dwell on the most, of course.
Based on my analysis, he’s either a flake, a victim of malpractice by an oral surgeon, an ass, or some combination of those things. I asked for my mom’s take, which was something along the lines of “Men are stupid” and, “Don’t date a farmer, they’re trouble,” which is a whole other story.
About a month after my last text to him, he was still following me on Instagram—he actually watched my story sometimes. He also didn’t bother unmatching with me on Tinder, so I took the initiative, and I made a point to like all of his posts on Instagram. That was my only weapon. I guess I was trying to remind him that I existed. I couldn’t text him and call him out for being rude because that would make me “crazy,” right? So I settled for passive aggressive likes on Instagram, each white-to-red heart screaming “I’m still here! I thought you were a good one, but you let me try and left me on read!” I was irked, to say the least, and so I did the only thing I could think to do: I asked a mutual acquaintance to find out the details.
As it turned out, the explanation was closest to Scenario IV. That is, he did like me, but he figured it wouldn’t lead to anything and that we probably wouldn’t see each other again anyways, so he stopped responding. When I learned that, I kicked myself for not telling him that I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere, but I still wanted to hang out—that I wasn’t there for a long time, just a good time, as per the classic Tinder bio proverb. I haven’t been on a Tinder date since, and I’m not planning on it. I mean, a man nearly turned me against goats, and I love goats.
I guess my takeaway from this whole experience, beyond a disdain for online dating and goat farmers, is that we can all become better communicators, myself included. Admittedly, I’ve ghosted people before. I’m not proud of it, and I’ve tried to justify it by asking myself, “Did I give this person the impression I wanted to see them again?” Well, no, but that doesn’t matter, because they may have thought it went well (even if it was a shit–show for me).
In the case of Goat Boy, the worst part was that he really did want to see me again, but his silence left me wondering whether he was just saying that to be nice (I certainly wouldn’t put it past a Minnesotan). What I perceived to be a lie was actually a combination of laziness and inconsideration, and I’m not sure which is worse. It’s so easy to get swallowed up in our own lives, especially at Penn, but this laziness about communication can quickly turn toxic. Take the two minutes to send the text that might just give someone closure. Let’s stop being so lazy in our relationships, whether it be with your friends, family, partners, or Tinder dates.
Claire Pince is a sophomore from Minneapolis, Minnesota studying Biological Basis in Behavior in the College.