Dater X: When A Guy Fades Out

“What are you up to tomorrow night?” The Juggler asked me last Tuesday morning. We were on the train to work, as had become our routine over the past two weeks. He held the pole with one hand, his other wrapped around my back, playing with the ends of my hair.

“It’s my cousin’s birthday party. Ugh,” I said, imagining how much I would rather be staying up into the wee hours of the night going from foreplay to sex, foreplay to sex, as had also become our routine, than twiddling my thumbs at a party with my family. I searched my head for the next evening I didn’t have plans. “But I’m free Friday,” I said.

“Cool,” he said, giving me a lingering kiss that totally turned me on again, before sliding out of the subway doors. “I’ll talk to you before then.”

Only he didn’t.

The fadeout. It’s a page out of the dude playbook that I’ve seen in action too many times to count. A guy is so, so into you—wants to see and talk to you all the time—until he doesn’t and he recedes into the woodwork.

For two weeks, it felt like 75 percent of my spare time was spent with The Juggler. In addition to hanging out every other night, it felt like my cell phone was constantly buzzing with a text message from him and that there was always an unread email waiting in my inbox. I’ve always been a big fan of constant communication, so even though it developed quickly, I liked knowing that I was constantly on his mind.

So when I didn’t hear from him for the remainder of Tuesday, I thought it was strange. When Wednesday afternoon rolled around with no communication, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I wrote him a quick text. “Have you seen ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World’?” I typed. It was the movie we’d left halfway through to go to his place and bone.

He wrote me back with a winking emoticon, which … OK. A minute later, “How’s it going?” popped up on my phone. I wrote back with a funny anecdote about how I’d fallen asleep during a meeting. No response. Uh oh, I thought. Is he checking out?

Thursday passed and nada from The Juggler. Maybe he’s just … busy, I told myself. But I knew better.

By the time Friday afternoon rolled around, I was all the way to angry. How dare this guy blow me off? I thought. He’s lucky that I was sleeping with him in the first place! I made a date with a group of friends, secretly hoping that The Juggler would call so that I could say some version of, “Sorry, got plans. You snooze, you lose.”

Finally, on Saturday, I got an email from The Juggler. It was just two sentences. “Sorry I didn’t come through Friday night. How’s it going?” I wrote back trying to be my normal, witty self. But all I could think was, Do you actually care how it’s going?

And that was the last I heard from him.

The fadeout. It’s a page out of the dude playbook that I’ve seen in action too many times to count. A guy is so, so into you—wants to see and talk to you all the time—until he doesn’t and he recedes into the woodwork.

I’m proud to say that in the past few months, I’ve gone from seeing the fadeout as some grand statement about me being unlovable to seeing it more as an inevitability of dating. I get that while you’ll click with a good number of people in the short run, there’s only a few with whom you can make the transition to long term. I get that most people won’t be my green zebra.

But still, the fadeout hurts. Even if I knew that The Juggler didn’t want a relationship. Even if there were things about his personality that I knew weren’t going to mesh with mine. Even though I specifically asked you guys last Tuesday—the very same morning I last saw The Juggler—if I was wasting my time.

For the past few days, I’ve been asking myself: Why is it so crazy-making when a guy starts checking out? And the only answer I’ve come to is that, for a little while, you feel so important to someone. And then you feel so … not. And isn’t that the last thing people want to feel—like they don’t matter?

But here’s the good part. I’m not heartbroken here. If anything, I invested very little in this pairing—just two weeks. This fadeout hurts less than Tall Guy, which hurt less than the guy before him. I’m getting so much better at handling this. My normal reaction when I feel the fadeout begin is to cling—to start calling and texting, hoping to get the communication level back up to where it was. This time I didn’t. I tested the waters once and only once. I left the ball in his court. If he ever wants to pick it up and try juggling with it again, I’d be open to it.

I’m getting more fluid at this dating thing, not needing things to start and end with precise lines.

Plus, as many of you suggested last week, even before The Juggler faded out, I’d decided that I wanted to keep dating other people while seeing him. I had drinks last Thursday with a friend that I have a feeling would like to try for more, though he hasn’t said it in so many words. And I had a first date Sunday night with a guy I’d met at my cousin’s party. We didn’t click, but that’s OK. Earlier today, a guy popped up in my Quiver on OKCupid who is (a) hot and (b) extraordinarily my type. I decided to write him an email. As I pressed send and returned to my inbox, a message was waiting for me from him. We’d written each other at exactly the same time.

I figure that has to be a good sign.

Tags: dater x, dating