Usually, a personal essay is based on something that has happened in a writer’s life that is personal to them. That’s why it is called a “personal essay.” Elite Daily, like XOJane before it, has been known to stretch this concept until it disintegrates into a soft pile of fragrant poo particles.
The personal essay genre may have lost its luster of late, but wow, are there some spectacular exceptions. In an essay titled “I Thought A Guy I Was Dating Ghosted Me, But He Actually Passed Away,” Elite Daily writer Layla Finch ponders the meaning of her brief interactions with “Greg,” a man she went on two dates with and never saw again because he died. A similar thing happened to Miranda on Sex and the City, but Miranda is a fictional character who also did not, as far as I know, write a personal essay about her experience. This, despite my initial impression, appears to be a real non-parody that someone wrote and an editor published.
Here’s how it starts:
Have you ever wondered where a third date with someone could have taken you if you had the opportunity to have one?
Here’s another paragraph:
Our first date went really well. There were little red flags though, like he seemed pretty hung up on his ex-girlfriend, he traveled for work a lot like I did, and it had already taken so long for us to meet up initially. Regardless, we decided to set up a second date, which once again took some time to actually happen.
Here’s when the writer realizes she is totally over Greg because Greg was not that great:
My first date with Ted went well, and there were already some perks to him that I wasn’t seeing with Greg.
Here’s how Greg died:
When I found Greg on Facebook, I was shocked. I decided to Google him to see what happened. Car crash. Died on impact. The date? Three weeks after our last date. The same time he sent me my last Snapchat. The same time he didn’t answer my last text.
Maybe Greg was actually fine?
Ted and Greg were both smart, funny, easy-to-talk-to guys, yet because Ted didn’t travel for work and Greg did, it made Ted the more appealing boyfriend. But now, I’ve really started to think about how I might not have given Greg as much credit as he deserved.
I wanted to look Greg up again partially to see if we could reconnect. Knowing that opportunity is gone, it makes me think about how I shouldn’t look at things that could be worked around as red flags, like traveling for work. Had Greg and I progressed into more, I’m sure we could have figured out a schedule that worked for the two of us.
Anyway, she learned a lot:
Honestly, I don’t know what could have happened to me and Greg — friendship, actually dating, or never talking again. I do know that he probably wouldn’t want me to dwell on this, but instead learn from past mistakes and continue living life doing what makes me happy.
This brings up a number of questions for me, such as: What? Am I in purgatory? If she had given Greg a chance, wouldn’t he still have died? Can I go lie down, Emma?
A certain amount of egotism is not an unusual quality in the media universe: you have to believe, to a certain extent, that people want to hear your stupid ideas. You don’t have to believe—in fact, you cannot believe—that the world revolves around you specifically, and literally anything that happens adjacent to your life can be twisted and smushed into Meaningful Content. Because then you might find yourself in a situation where you have written and published an essay clumsily reframing the violent death of a person you barely knew into a story about your own personal growth.
H/T Jez pal Mark Shrayber