I gotta say, popular Philly street artist Amberella is a far better woman than I am.
Instead of retreating into her feelings and/or resorting to social media stalking — two things that, yes, I’m ashamed to say I’m guilty of — she took a brave, much more mature approach in her dealings with the guy who ghosted her.
First she penned a haiku, titled Where’d Ya Go?
Then she sent it to the man who did the ghosting: You sucked my melons/ We ate meat lovers pizza/ Did you get too full?
Next Amberella, whose real name is Amber Lynn Thompson, turned the three-line poem into a piece of head-turning street art. She pasted a large version of one of her signature Goth Hearts on the side of a vacant building at the corner of Frankford Avenue and Norris Street in Fishtown. The title of the poem was written inside of the heart, and underneath the heart was the poem.
Fellow street artist Nicole “Lace in the Moon” Nikolich crocheted a 5-foot tall slice of pepperoni-and-mushroom pizza, and some of Amberella’s smaller Goth Hearts were the pizza’s sausages.
The installation became an instant conversation piece and Instagram backdrop. “I didn’t want to write a nasty message on a text and I didn’t want to just cancel him,” Amberella said.
Like I said, Amberella is a better woman than I am.
Ghosting, the miserable, crappy, soul-crushing experience that it is, is defined as disappearing from someone’s life without explanation. One minute your special someone is doing the most and enjoying a meat lovers pizza with you. The next — poof — they are gone, just like Casper.
Ghosting entered our pop culture lexicon in 2015 after a New York Times article that described how Charlize Theron broke up with Sean Penn. Theron stopped returning Penn’s texts or calls. She ghosted him.
Where’d Ya Go? only lasted a week in its fullest expression. Someone — perhaps they were guilty of ghosting, themselves — painted over the haiku, leaving just the pizza with its little sausage hearts. The art calling out ghosting was in its own way, ghosted. How do you like that?
Lovers aren’t the only ones who practice the heartless art of ghosting. Ghosting is a mechanism for people who don’t like confrontation, said Abbey Wexler, an associate professor of psychology at Philadelphia Community College. This is why we ghost friends we stop seeing eye-to-eye with. (I’m considering ghosting the unvaccinated.)
Potential employers ghost us. Potential business partners ghost us. Contractors disappear. We ghost our hairstylists, ignoring the Hey, where you been? texts. Hairstylists ghost us, too, as in all of a sudden your once always-available beautician has no more openings for the week, the month, or even the year.
Some ghosting is temporary. Most of the time it’s permanent because when you discard something, that’s pretty much the end of it.
“The problem is that we’re eager to find love but [during the pandemic ] our social skills have gotten worse.”
You would think since we are living through a pandemic, we’d be more sensitive and perhaps compassionate to others’ feelings. We are definitely trying to meet people. According to a story on Bloomberg.com, daily active users on the most popular dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble reached a record high in July, toppling 15 million users.
The problem, Wexler said, is that we’re eager to find love but our social skills have gotten worse. “We’ve become increasingly lonely,” Wexler said. “We became more sensitive. People who may have brushed off being ghosted before the pandemic might now suffer from feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and depression.”
“I didn’t want to be ghosted, so I didn’t put that energy out there. If I knew a guy wasn’t a match, I sent a text right away.”
These are the feelings Amberella was trying to avoid. Amberella spent a lot of time this past year working on her inner spirit, learning how to hold herself accountable, practicing integrity, and focusing on what her healthy needs are. And when it came to dating, she decided she wanted to practice hot monogamy. “I didn’t want to entertain someone that wasn’t clear about wanting partnership as an end result,” she said.
At the same time, she wanted to be a straight shooter. Even if she just had coffee with a guy who she realized she wasn’t that interested in, she’d go out of her way to tell him. “I didn’t want to be ghosted, so I didn’t put that energy out there,” she said. “If I knew a guy wasn’t a match, I sent a text right away: I loved the hike. I love your sense of adventure. I love that you brought me tacos. And I appreciate you. But we aren’t a match.”
So when the dude she met on Hinge — let’s call just him Pizza Guy — decided to bounce after four great dates, she was mentally prepared to deal with her emotions. “I just wanted to open my heart up to a different outcome,” she said.
And she got the closure she needed.
“After I sent him the poem, he contacted me right away,” Amberella said. “He thanked me for bringing levity to the situation. He apologized for fading to black, and we were able to have an open, honest conversation.”
The two have managed to remain friends, and Pizza Guy gave her his permission to turn the poem she wrote for him into public street art.
Amberella’s work is all about matters of the heart. The 40-year-old graduate of University of the Arts is well known in Philadelphia circles for her Goth Hearts and Power Hearts — think Brach’s Conversation Hearts — plastered on buildings and light poles. But instead of being lovey-dovey like the candy hearts, Amberella’s Goth Hearts express emotions that are connected to relationships, like, “Stay” or “Trust me.” Power Hearts are more inspirational: “You are worthy.”
Where’d Ya Go? is Amberella’s second collaboration with Lace in the Moon. The first one, This Still Works, was based on a poem that Lace wrote, about finding love again. Amberella provided the Goth Hearts. It, too, was popular on Instagram for the few months it lived on a boarded-up wall at Marathon Grill at 16th and Sansom during the height of the pandemic.
“These conversations are hard,” Lace in the Moon said. “But once we have them, we feel so much better instead of regressing and push it down.”
Amberella’s work was part of a campaign by yoga brand Spiritual Gangster three years ago. At one time she had her own eponymous collection of baseball hats. And for a while, her hearts were featured on Honeygrow to-go boxes.
Amberella’s hearts will be featured on totes and T-shirts that will be given away later this month at the Midtown Village grand opening of Brooklyn-based Van Leeuwen ice cream. She’s bicoastal now, and in the last year she started turning her hearts into mosaics that she’s commissioned to make. They sell for thousands of dollars apiece.
Amberella sees Where’d Ya Go? as a call to action.
“How crazy is it that a heart that says, ‘Where’d Ya Go?’ resonates with almost every single person that walks by it?” she asked. “We treat each other like we are disposable, replaceable and like something better is always around the corner.”
Be better, people!