In the January edition of their monthly column for Document, Liara Roux answers readers’ questions about ghosting, pronouns, and maintaining a work-life balance
I have a funny story, and for some reason, it made me think of you. I’ve been using Spotify to play a “musical communication game” with a guy at work who is “forbidden” for me to be in a relationship with. He’s high up and partnered. We send each other dirty lyrics, and use the song titles to convey messages and overall moods. We’ll call him Peter. Peter and I don’t talk IRL about our game. At work, we keep it super clean. But we have this whole other world beneath the surface.
It made me think of you because it’s fascinating and bizarre, and you seem to take delight in that. I feel like you’re a part of me—hear me out! You’re the side of me that I always kept hidden, and that side started to come out more over the pandemic. I embraced being a “hot chick,” got a new body, a new face.
I’m back at the office three times a week now, and I’m losing that part of myself. I don’t want to quit, because it’s pinnacle-worthy in terms of what I’m doing for my career.
What do you think?
Being a hot chick is a state of mind—it’s not about your body, nor your face! Exchanging flirtatious messages via Spotify with a guy at work is absolutely hot chick behavior. I’m not sure how being at the office feels like losing your hotness. Do you feel less connected to yourself? Required to sublimate your sexuality to perform a corporate role?
Make sure you’re not burning yourself out. Keep it to 40 hours! Clock out at 5 p.m.! Don’t check your email when you’re home, and don’t bring work with you. While working from home is great for quality of life in many ways, make sure you have barriers that prevent it from seeping into the rest of your life.
And then enjoy your life. Date. Go out dancing. Cook beautiful meals with your friends. Buy some flowers. Masturbate. Take a bath, go to the spa, get a massage. While, of course, we all must sublimate to some degree in our contemporary society, it’s good to make sure you’re not being overly rigid with. An office flirtation—as long as it’s kept to a level that everyone involved is comfortable with—is a great way to bring a little bit of mischief and fun into your day.
And remember: Once a hot chick, always a hot chick.
“While, of course, we all must sublimate to some degree in our contemporary society, it’s good to make sure you’re not being overly rigid with.”
When you’re the sort of character that goes on the occasional six-hour first date, you learn to recognize the signs and patterns that lead to that dynamic. The endlessly flowing conversion, no line forced nor strained. Perhaps a moment of attraction, when you ask yourself, “Am I feeling something?” And, more importantly, “Are they feeling something?” At this point in life, I am reassured that if you’re finding yourself in this position, the answer to both is undoubtedly yes.
Our second date was quickly scheduled, and enthusiasm was high. Everything clicked perfectly, almost too much so. I don’t consider myself smooth by any means, but that night, I knew I was making power plays. Even little things indicated the stars were in my favor, like happening to know the pianist at the bar—a friend’s father with whom we struck up casual conversation. It was too good to be true, to pick up so much momentum so fast, so easily, after recently becoming single—thinking that this interim may be short-lived and the escape so ideal.
Then things abruptly fell off. I chased, double texting, unashamed of admitting I cared. When the silence on the other side was proof of an answer in itself, I was owed a proper explanation. I wrote a message, knowing I’d force a move, and minutes later we were on the phone. She confessed a 10-year-old crush from study abroad; how he had just moved to New York, and felt compelled to pursue that instead. “It’s not you, it’s external factors.”
Several weeks later, I noticed she updated her dating app profile, and some of the edits made me think things had gone poorly with the other guy. I got my hopes up and decided to reach out again, and was very definitely shut down. Now, I’ll be the first to admit I made a bunch of mistakes here—for example, checking her profile and reaching out. If she was back on the market and didn’t reach out to me, wasn’t that already a sign? But the thing I don’t get is how, even in the very end, she admits we had a great time together—but doesn’t even want to stay in touch.
I think I’m generally pretty dense with this stuff; if I was seeing green flags, she must’ve really been throwing herself at me in the beginning. I hate knowing, in hindsight, that when I first got ghosted, the best move would’ve been to not chase—and then, maybe, there was a tiny chance it could’ve turned around. I guess I don’t have a particular question. I just don’t know how to make sense of any of it.
There are a few words from your letter that really stick out to me. Force. Confessed. Admits. These are not words typically associated with romance; they sound more like a police report. I get it: It’s frustrating when you can’t understand someone’s motivations. I’ve been in your shoes. But at the end of the day, people are not perfectly logical beings who operate like clockwork. Having one good date, even two—even if both people had a great time, even if there were sparks—does not necessarily imply another.
There are many reasons why people lose interest. Maybe it was the conversation you had after you “got ghosted.” Maybe it was just a vibe. Maybe, on the second date, you left a shit stain in her toilet, or the sex wasn’t as good as she remembered, or she didn’t like how you smelled, or you didn’t bring her flowers, or her dog didn’t like you, or it was raining that day and she felt sad, or she realized she couldn’t stand the way you dressed, or you made a joke that hurt her feelings. It could be anything. Or nothing!
Her rejection has literally nothing to do with you, and everything to do with her wants, preferences, and feelings. At the end of the day, you need to respect that. There is no perfect thing you can say or do to make someone want to date you. Either it works, or it doesn’t. In my opinion, the more you try to force it, the more likely you are to end up with someone you’re just not that compatible with.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put yourself out there. It’s fine to ask for closure at the end of a relationship. But I think your expectations need to be adjusted here; you went on two dates. You hardly knew her. Her not texting back is hardly ghosting; in fact, some people consider it rude to offer an explanation for why you don’t want to see someone anymore, if you’ve only seen each other a short time.
It does sound like you may have some control issues you might want to explore in therapy. I say this not to shame you, but because it might bring you some peace of mind. I have no idea what your childhood was like, but mine was incredibly chaotic. I felt like I had no idea of what was going on, or why the adults around behaved the way they did. I developed control issues as a coping mechanism to keep myself safe.
Desire for control in life can manifest in a variety of ways. It can appear as OCD, or as an eating disorder, or as manipulative tendencies. What was helpful for me was using cognitive behavioral therapy to adjust my responses to upsetting circumstances. It reframes how you think of stressful situations, and problems that may pop up—as they tend to do in life.
I’m sorry that you had this upsetting experience! I’m sure you have some fun dates in your future. In the meantime, I hope you’re gentle with yourself. It’s okay to be sad about rejection. Just remember that, sometimes, there’s really no way to puzzle out someone else’s intentions. The easier you can let it go, the happier you’ll be.
“These labels and terms are not about picking a team or a lifestyle, or anything as dramatic as all that. It’s just about what feels good and right for you, in that moment.”
How did you know you’re not cis? I’m scared to ask, but I’m trying to understand my own gender. I hate my breasts, but I’m not sure if that makes me trans. I feel really confused and I don’t know what to do.
As a kid, I always wanted to be with a boy. Most of my friends were boys. The way they played felt a lot more straightforward to me. Girls confused and upset me. I didn’t want to play with Barbies or dress up as a Disney Princess—I wanted to trade Pokémon and build Star Wars models out of Legos.
Look at that sentence. It’s so revealing as to how commodified gender roles are in our society. You buy boys one type of toy, girls another. The reality is, most people don’t fit squarely into a gender. Plenty of women have a hobby or interest that’s considered masculine; the reverse is also true of men.
Gender, in my opinion, is just like picking out clothing. You should choose whatever makes you feel comfortable and beautiful. If you feel happiest when people call you she—embrace it. Not all women need to have tits. Chop them off if they don’t feel right!
But maybe you’d like other pronouns. Maybe you want to dress like a fuckboy. Maybe you want people to think of you as a guy instead of as a girl. Try it on! Wear a binder, hide your hair under a baseball cap. Is it exciting? Is it comfortable? Does it feel right?
Maybe sometimes you feel like being feminine, and other days you want to act like a bro. That’s how I am. Maybe you want to wear stockings every single day, and high heels and a beautiful dress and lingerie and do your hair and makeup and look just like a doll. Just as valid!
These labels and terms are not about picking a team or a lifestyle, or anything as dramatic as all that. It’s just about what feels good and right for you, in that moment. When I was younger, I desperately wanted surgery, because I thought I needed to change my body to change how other people saw me. Once I started living in a way that was more true to myself, telling other people how I wanted to be referred to, and having that respected, that desire ebbed.
Maybe it’s the same for you; maybe it’s not. Either way, whatever you feel is right for you is what’s right for you. It’s as simple as that. Maybe that just means gently sitting with yourself for a while. No one else can answer these questions for you.
Send your questions for Liara to firstname.lastname@example.org to have them answered in future columns—next month’s topic is Sex Addiction. They can also be found on Instagram, Twitter, and OnlyFans.