The Venus Flytrap: A Good Ghost(ing) Story

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If you’ve been ghosted and have sincere doubts that you’ll ever enjoy vengeance for it, take vicarious relief in the recent story of a man who learnt that ten years after he abandoned his partner (by moving out of the country without letting her know!), she had become his new boss.

This sordid tale with an assuredly happy ending comes courtesy of a workplace advice website called Ask The Manager. The ghoster, a Maths teacher at an international school, had written in to ask how to handle the situation, after finding out that the new school director was none other than his ex, who he names Sylvia. Before responding, the advice columnist wrote back and gathered a crucial piece of information: the duration of the relationship. The ghosting hadn’t happened after a few dates or an awkward one night stand – which we all know is bad enough – but after three years together, two of which involved cohabiting. I repeat: he moved to another country without telling his live-in partner.

Personally, I have a history of being cyberstalked by people who have ghosted me, both flings and friends. Please don’t ask me what the logic behind that is. I can only tell you that I have very good taste in everything, with the notable exception of people. So you can bet that no one who’s ghosted me will wind up as my subordinate unless that’s exactly what they planned on.

“Ghosting” was coined as recently as 2014, but hit such a chord that it made it to the Collins Dictionary the following year. Applying it retroactively to various confusions of the more distant past helped many. There has never been anything honourable about abruptly dropping communications with another person, leaving them bamboozled in every sense of the word.

But there are also people who claim ghosting when in reality the ghoster had been driven to an impolite extreme because all their efforts had failed. What’s the word for that – when someone has consistently ignored the other’s requests, responses and feelings, possibly even been abusive, then feels surprised that the other person has let go? The Dictionary always has more room, especially as our hearts don’t always have to be so accommodating.

To get back to the drama at the international school: the advice website recommended that the teacher write a pre-emptive note acknowledging the situation, so that Sylvia wouldn’t be in for an unpleasant shock at her new job. The teacher accepted the advice, and we who have too much time to spend on the Internet were then treated to an amazing follow-up.

Without responding directly to him, Sylvia arranged for a meeting with the chairperson of the board to discuss the scenario and ensure it didn’t affect their professional environment. The teacher decided to quit.

Even told entirely from the ghoster’s perspective, this is a great story. Imagine how much more beautiful Sylvia’s version must be! It may not have all the elements of our best revenge fantasies but we can almost be certain her wardrobe was on fleek. What would you wear on a day when karma is likely to rule in your favour?

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on November 23rd 2017. “The Venus Flytrap” appears on Thursdays in Chennai’s City Express supplement.

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