Are We a Culture of Wimps?

Ghosting, Irish goodbyes, and the slow disappearance of our willingness to be uncomfortable together.

wimp culture
(Image credit: Getty)

When Charlize Theron broke up with Sean Penn, she didn't just go "Later, dude"—she (allegedly) stopped answering his calls and texts and completely disappeared like they were never secret-engaged in the first place.

I don't know what despicable thing he did, exactly, to deserve such treatment, but maybe he didn't *need* to disrespect her Pomeranian to elicit it. Maybe Charlize just implemented this reported relationship-ending technique because that's what we do now. It's the ol' ice-out or, as the Youngs call it, "ghosting."

People have been methodically avoiding one another since Wilma found some unsavory cave paintings under Fred's bed and didn't know how to confront him about it, so the concept isn't new. But ghosting, along with other newly popular shirking behaviors like the Irish goodbye and not opening your Facebook messages because of those stupid read receipts, has become so socially acceptable—so ha-ha-I-saw-this-on-the-Fat-Jewish-and-I-can-totally-relate—that it's almost like the cowardly thing is now the normal thing. Since when is texting someone to break up with them actually the *honorable* move?

Probably since we started avoiding those sit-down-because-you-deserve-to-hear-the-truth chats. Instead, we make ourselves less and less available until he/she gives up. Hell, even when we leave social gatherings, we sneak out without telling anyone and justify it as being more considerate than interrupting the party to thank the host. (This maneuver, the aforementioned Irish goodbye, is rude but also dumb because the police need to establish a timeline. THEY ALWAYS NEED TO ESTABLISH A TIMELINE! Think about that.)

Hey, I get it, it's easier to slink away. Maybe, counterintuitively, it's even easier now in the social media era to do it—the whole "I'm posting really fun-looking Instas while I'm not responding to your three days' worth of texts" thing does send a pretty clear message.

But it comes down to this: Modern civilian life already affords so few opportunities for meaningful human interaction that, if we continue, what shreds of courage we have left might very well go the way of the Juicy tracksuit—we might evolve out of the ability to take a deep breath, tap our annoying coworkers on the shoulders, and punch them in the face let them know in a reasonable and calm manner how we really feel.

To answer the question, yes, we might be wimps. But we don't have to be. Let's just make ghosting uncool enough that we can all go back to being appalled by post-it notes, shall we?

post-it note

(Image credit: Sex and the City)
Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.