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What a great piece, so visceral and painful. I remember when I first heard about shunning in the Pennsylvania Dutch culture—of course hardly limited to them, as you point out the history—and how terrifying I found the concept, how brilliantly cruel and coercive. There is nothing quite as effective as withdrawal with no explanation. Your school friends shunned you. I think of ghosting as a personal form of shunning, because I had that vocabulary first. Either way it is soulless and cowardly.

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Thank you. I also should say: I could not see The Banshees of Inisherin because of this.

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What your friends did was emotional torture and inexplicably cruel Elissa. They’ve done psychological studies on leaving someone out of a game suddenly, for no good reason, and it’s very painful and confusing for participants of the study. They don’t know what’s going on or why.

Some exclusion seems punishing and cruel - like your friends and members of my own family. It’s a weapon used with deft skill. They know what they are doing.

The average ghoster in my life seems to be conflict avoidant to the extreme. They don’t know how to say no without causing offense. They lack the words or training to talk through conflict. I feel like that too at times. Some are absent minded. They get a text that gets lost in the weeds. Others just don’t have the words to say the truth of their feelings,

But as someone who has been deliberately left off family wedding guest lists, not invited to birthdays and anniversaries as punishment I feel like I can sense the difference. It’s hard, very hard to go through deliberate exclusion. Thank you for expressing it so clearly. It helped.

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Wishing we were around that barn table in North Haven right now! right there is the antithesis of ostrakizein!

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Agree -- I wish it too.

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Apr 15, 2023Liked by Elissa Altman

As a recruiter I am often ghosted and I try to explain it by thinking that it doesn’t have anything to do with me but that it’s where they are in their journey. That somehow they are incapable of being accountable to others or themselves. Which is often why they can’t keep employment.

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Zero accountability.

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Apr 15, 2023Liked by Elissa Altman

I was totally fascinated by your personal story on ghosting it happens to all of us. Did you ever find out why it happened? It has to be heartbreaking when it is a family member and someone you cared about. I’m sorry for you but hope that you realized it was her and not you. Thank you for the story and the great recipe 😊

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Nope never found out why (with my friends). With my family member, it’s been like emotional whackamole

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This is so powerful! Thank you for sharing another profoundly moving piece of work and your vulnerability. Ghosting is so painful, regardless of one’s age. I so vividly remember groups of school friends giggling at the lockers while ignoring me or another girl who was on their radar too often. Those recurring events make it so hard to trust. To believe that those who profess to love us will stay. It is emotional torture. I don’t chase those people down anymore, don’t try to fix them or myself in their eyes. I’m worth more.

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I never had a pack of friends. I only had a few friends when I was very young. In middle school, I only recall having two or three friends whose homes I visited, and who came to mine. In high school, I finally had a small group of regular friends, and a few others who were more like semi-regular. We always slept in our own beds at home -- no need to sleep anywhere else. Mostly this deviation from the "normal" way of things was due to my own family dynamics. I was the oldest of six, and our parents were quite strict. Our family was where we lived and belonged. We didn't need anyone else, and there was too much that we had to do together anyway. I recognized even in high school, when I took a psychology class, that we were different from other families. I never felt deliberately left out (we'd call it "ghosted" nowadays); rather, I knew that I wasn't included or invited because I'd have to say no anyway. I didn't do this to my own kids. Not being included/invited happened to them, anyway, for various reasons. Only my daughter -- then and still a very friendly and resilient person -- endured the sort of deliberate exclusion you experienced. She kept her pain to herself for the entire first semester of sixth grade. There was a reason that she found out when one of the girls told her so, which was her commitment to her ballet studio. In some ways, her friends thought she had abandoned them. Once the secret was out, though, she didn't want to go back to school, so our foray into private schooling began.

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This was a difficult topic to talk about, and so beautifully written by you, Elissa. Thank you for expressing your thoughts on the matter.

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I forgot to add I really love radishes thanks again!

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