Men, Dating and the fine art of Vortexing

Graffiti in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong


Here’s something I have been meaning to write about, as a concept, for a quite a while. Vortexing is a term Elvish Pixie and I are very familar with and use a lot. I think we coined it even.

It’s Monday morning after a wonderful weekend with Jin and Elvish Pixie, staycationing of sorts, wakeboarding, drinking wine, eating loads of cheese both on pizzas and off. I go into my bathroom, turn the lights on and before picking up my own toothbrush, I irreverently pick up the disposable toothbrush that Sam used to use. I swiftly toss it in the trash – it is a paradoxal gesture, too quick and yet ceremonial in a way. The loathsome toothbrush of a loathsome man – both equally worthy of the bin reserved for hair and used tampons.

It is safe to say that I have dated many men. Some good, many bad and some even ugly. I know a thing or two about the way men behave in the world of dating. Some are too keen, some too aloof, some perverted and some, sexually inert. Several of them suck at breaking up. Breaking up with someone is a scary proposition whether or not you care about the person you’re breaking up with. It’s hard to be sensitive about the other person’s feelings when you are in fact placing your own selfish interest first. We have all been there. I think serious relationships deserve decent breakups, a conversation that is worthy of and that respects the time you shared. For the shorter, not so serious ones, I guess a phone call is sufficient. I have done it on email on one occassion after going on two dates with a guy. My fiance of three years used email too – this is not the same thing. I have never broken up with anyone over text which is not to say that I may not consider it in the future.

And then there’s vortexing. Vortexing is the act of disappearing off the face of the earth as a means to avoid awkward situations. It means the person in question does not answer calls, texts or emails. You never see or hear from the person again. You hope that they will turn up in the obituaries (well, some of them deserve to) but they usually don’t. Maybe they move countries, I don’t know. A guy friend in New York used to wryly refer to this phenomenon as “she’s in a tunnel, there’s no cell reception in the tunnel”. Vortexing happens all the time and it can happen any time. It can happen right after a really great date. It can happen during an intense conversation on text or whatsapp – you will see your messages as d for delivered, r for read. And suddenly no replies. The chats don’t show an i for ignored.

Vortexing is great in the early stages of dating. Bored of that twenty-seventh okcupid message that guy sent you? Why won’t he just suggest drinks? Vortex! Not interested in that over-eager person you slept with on a one-night-stand who insisted on getting your number and is now texting about a repeat? Vortex! Owe someone money? Ignore their annoying emails! Don’t want to go on that first date you asked someone out on? Don’t reply when she asks about the venue! (pre-first-date-vortexing is a rather special subcategory of this retarded phenomenon, I find).

The vortex has swallowed many a willing boyfriend and potential boyfriend, that evil thing. Sometimes people come out of the vortex and you find out they had been married all along. Other times they add you on facebook. Yet other times they message you out of the blue asking you out and you oblige and end up having sex with them because they shower you with compliments. You can’t control this – the vortex is a black box, you don’t know what happens inside it.

What you can control is how you feel when someone vortexes on you. I usually and understandably get angry and frustrated. And then I quite quickly forget. My friends sometimes ask “hey whatever happened to whatshisface?” and often I struggle for a brief second to recall which whatshisface they are talking about. And then several months down the line, I might (and I usually do) run into whatshisface in a bar or the street and I say hello if there is eye contact or I keep walking if there isn’t. Either way I think naught of it. The inherent beauty of vortexing is that it is loathsome and cowardly and it renders the doer forgettable, which is exactly what they are in the first place.

What does all this have to do with Sam’s toothbrush? You see, Sam vortexed on me. After that miserable Sunday night when he disappeared to watch football while gutlessly and conveniently forgetting that we were supposed to meet, he also disappeared from my virtual world. I never replied to his infuriating “I am in Stanley watching the football!” (I hate his excessive use of the exclamation mark). I did not hear a word from him while he was on his business trip. Then I continued not to hear from him while I was vacationing in Myanmar. I never initiated contact, I am too proud and I have a temper. Two weeks of radio silence. Textbook vortexing.

On Monday, I found out he was in Bangkok (actually Chiang Mai). He hadn’t told me. It was not that he was obligated to tell me but the omission in itself was quite telling.

On Wednesday, I did not go up and talk to him. He did not do so either. I was drowning in back-to-back meetings that entire week so I figured I did not have time to infuriate myself with his gutless behaviour. And fate had other plans. Sam’s boss was traveling and my boss asked me to ask Sam to sit in at the meetings. So I had to walk over to Sam and talk to him. It was most bile-inducing.”Hey”
“Hey, how are you? How was Myanmar?”
“Great; here’s the thing….<insert work stuff>”

He followed me to the meeting room and sat right next to me. We exchanged smiles occasionally. The next meeting, I was early and so was he. Again he sat next to me. I asked about his cufflinks. He made a joke and I think I blushed. How revolting. The same day I also had to talk to him several times about work-stuff that I usually just discuss with his boss. Much to my own disgust, I joked “are you sick of me yet?” The next day we bumped into each other while grabbing lunch too. He cutely asked if I had been eating shoots in Myanmar. There was a small part of me that was hopeful. Or is anxious the right word? He hadn’t really initiated any kind of conversation, he hadn’t asked me out to a drink. He hadn’t done fuckall.

And then it hit me. Sam had done the impossible. Sam had vortexed in front of my eyes. He sat ten feet away from me, I could hear him fake-laughing from my desk, I knew when he went to gym and I saw him on my way to the pantry and yet somehow he had manage to also fall off the face of the earth and pretend like the last 6-7 weeks were a figment of my imagination. He had some fucking nerve.

And on Friday morning, in the middle of a meeting, I realised that was unacceptable to me. I was very literally nauseous with anger. I could not forget him and his vortexing or relegate him to the recesses of my brain reserved for inferior human beings and remember him in passing say, 10 months down the line as some old English fart I had once dated if I saw him every single fucking day. I went out into the corridor and called his desk (I could not tolerate the possibility of him screening my call if I rang his mobile). I asked him to come downstairs to talk to me.

He walked very slowly. As soon as he came towards me, he started getting chatty about Myanmar and Singapore and Chiang Mai. I humoured it for 5 minutes and then I got down to business. I told him I knew it was over but I wanted him to spell it out. I didn’t need reasons.

“I’ve been thinking…. a LOT about you…and you’re an amazing woman…..but….I am just not ready for a relationship. It’s not you, it’s me.” (the emphasis on the word “Lot” was so sickeningly contrived, it deserved its own Razzie award).

I smiled “Yeah. It probably is. It always is.”

We continued talking after that because apparently he was shocked that I knew it was over. What? I told him that I was used to men disappearing and it didn’t bother me usually but it did bother me this time because he was right there in the office. He conceded that he was too quiet for too long and it was not the right thing to do.

And I curtly said “Yes. That is why I decided to be an adult about this”.
“I thought you were pissed about the football”
“I was just giving you space”

The only thing more loathsome than his gutless vortexing was his gutless textbook breakup speech. A simple “sorry it’s not working for me” would have been more honest and more appropriate. But then again, it’s quite clear that he isn’t ready for a relationship or any sincere kind of human interaction for that matter. I have not seen a more insincere face, more vacant eyes in a long time. And it saddened me to think that I had believed this shell of a man when he had said sweet things and made hitherto un-empty promises to me. I had prematurely held hands with this douchebag; how utterly vile!

As we walked back into the elevator, he had already resumed making small talk with me, excitedly asking about my Chrismas plans moving from Spain to North Eastern India. I have since decided that he cannot have the joy of my conversations, he cannot laugh with me, he just does not deserve it. I made eye contact with him all of once today and that too by accident. And if there is a God, I will get a job outside this bank soon…before I go deaf from blasting my music so as not to hear his stupid voice.

This is not to say that I don’t feel lighter or better. Because I do. I confronted an asshole who thought he could get away with it. I refused to carry the burden of the uncertainty and I am already starting to get over him. Sam had told me once that he had never broken up with anyone, it was always the girls who had dumped him. Maybe one way to look at it was to think Sam was one of those “nice guys” who always got treated like dirt by “mean bitches”. Another is to infer that Sam systematically weaseled his way out his relationships by being an inert, gutless shithead until his poor partners decided they couldn’t take it any more.

Well, I am not like them, Sam. I made you do the adult thing of having a conversation. I may be cutesy, girly and petite but I have a lot more testicular fortitude than you ever will.


4 thoughts on “Men, Dating and the fine art of Vortexing

  1. Ugh. What a douche. Well for people like him who have none of that semblance of shame, he probably thought he didn’t do anything wrong – you proved him wrong! Show him how happier you are without him! And you truly deserve so much more! xoxo

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