“So I Caspered her,” Matt* said flatly as he took a sip of his second Pilsner.
“Like the mattress?”
“Ha, no. Caspered. You know, like the Friendly Ghost,” he smirked.
He should’ve added, “I’ll show you in an about a week.”
After my ex of almost two years and I broke up, Matt was the first guy I’d hung out with that I could see myself actually dating. We had been on six dates over the course of just two weeks, and things were looking pretty promising. We’d mutually reach out to each other, and he kept making plans with me. I was feeling hopeful about my new romance.
Then, one night, Matt canceled on me an hour before we were supposed to play darts. He’d also started taking longer and longer to text me back—if he texted me at all. He’d blame it on not being by his phone, but he was always on his phone—frequently adding to his Instagram story or responding to group texts when we were together. If he was over it, I’d rather know immediately. Something felt off, so I insisted on meeting up the next day.
We met the next afternoon at a U.K.-style gastropub, and that’s when he told me about Caspering. Caspering is nothing new, but it was new to me as I re-entered the dating world. The last time I was single in 2017, I only had to worry about ghosting, which, despite the new name, was not a new thing either. Back when our parents were dating, they called ghosting “joining the army” or “going out to buy a pack of cigarettes and never coming back.” Today, we’re hyperaware of what everyone is doing every minute of the day, so we know when we’re being ghosted.
But Matt assured me that we were fine and he wasn’t Caspering me. He made plans with me for the following Friday night. “You’re so tall,” he shook his head as he kissed me goodbye. We were exactly the same height; his third reminder of my size is actually what made me start telling people I was five foot seven and three quarters, instead of rounding up to five foot eight. I should have known it wouldn’t work out with him.
We met up that Friday evening so Matt could take me on the date he’d promised at a Scottish pub where plaid-clad waiters served us prime rib and Old Fashioneds. Its decor perfectly fit our mutual love for all things Old Hollywood. When he left my apartment the next morning, he smiled at me. “I’m so happy I took you to that place. I knew you’d love it.” “I did; it was really nice. Thank you.” I kissed him goodbye, never expecting that would be the last time I ever saw him. Days turned into weeks, and I never heard from or saw Matt again. Was he an actual ghost? That would explain his love of all things Old Hollywood…
Then I started dating Jim*, who I liked even more than Matt. Jim was vertically confident and a phenomenal texter, and we shared the same favorite Bob Dylan song. In just a week, Jim and I had been on four incredibly fun dates. Our whole courtship felt meant-to-be. We matched on Raya, messaged, and ran into each other at a Target. We exchanged numbers in person, and when he later matched with me on Tinder, he insisted on grabbing a drink that night. We did, and I told myself that if we were to lie to people about meeting on a dating app, we could tell them we met at Target. Cute, right?
Matt and I only lived a block away from each other. Since things were off to such a promising start with Jim, I decided I should smooth things over with Matt—even though he’d basically told me we were done by not texting me for a month. I was mostly concerned about avoiding awkward neighborhood run-ins. So I texted Matt, “It seems we drifted apart but if we run into each other, there are no hard feelings. I wish you the best.”
Twelve hours and seven minutes later, Matt texted me back. First he took offense to my accusation of us “drifting apart,” followed by excuses of how his attention had been on work and his family. He said he hoped we could grab a drink soon. I said sure. We never grabbed that drink.
A week later, Jim Caspered me too. He stopped asking me to hang out, so I would reach out instead. He’d always text me back immediately with enthusiasm, even “loving” my iMessages. But plans never materialized. When I’d ask him for a specific time to meet up, he’d assure me “soon.” “Soon” never came.
It was then that I started digging deeper into Caspering. I polled friends on Instagram to ask if they’d ever been Caspered, and if they think classic ghosting is better or worse. Turns out a lot of people have been Caspered, and they still think ghosting is worse.
Since I’ve experienced both dating “trends,” I’m going to say that, to me, Caspering is a much crueler mind game.
Those good-natured text replies really give you hope—at least the silence of ghosting lets you know it’s over. I think we’re seeing a Caspering epidemic because men—sorry, boys—and their fragile male egos don’t want to be “ghost-shamed.” So instead of ghosting you, they are still nice to you even though they know they’re over it. It’s a desperate attempt to cling to their “good guy” persona without the difficulty of being honest with you, so then we cling onto that “soon” message in hopes that we’ll see them again.
When I searched the internet, I was surprised to discover numerous definitions for Caspering. Some said it was when a person lets you down nicely; others said it’s when someone slowly stops contacting you but is nice about it the whole time. I’m going to say that Caspering is when someone you’ve dated texts you back, but has no intention of ever actually seeing you again. In contrast, ghosting is straight up vanishing with no explanation. There’s also orbiting, which is when a person will keep you in their “orbit” by watching your Instagram stories or liking all of your posts. This way you’re close enough to see each other but far enough to never talk again.
It seems like, every day, there is a new cute dating term to excuse our bad behavior. Caspering, ghosting, orbiting, Sixth Sensing (when someone who ghosted you suddenly wants to hang out after you’ve already decided they’re dead to you—I just made that up). Here’s an idea: Let’s stop behaving badly! I’m talking to women, too—we all ghost, Casper, and orbit. I’ve done it, but I’m not doing it anymore. Instead, why don’t we try being compassionate and transparent. As John Mayer cooed in that one Hallmark commercial, “Say what you need to say.”
*Names and details have been changed to protect the very fragile male ego.