Dear Captain Awkward,
I am making forays into online dating, and it is Awkward. Mostly it is Awkward because I am one of those people who can tell within the first few minutes whether or not someone does or could ever give me a ladyboner (The “NOOOOO NOT EVER RUN AWAY!” instinct has never been wrong. Sometimes I get a “hmm, not currently interested but try again later” vibe and I roll with it when I don’t have a “this is one of Your People” to pursue.)
I feel that I should point out also that my romantic history is nonexistent (I’m 25) because my crushes have almost always been on people who are partnered (the few that weren’t were turned into various kinds of FEELINGSTHINGS, but I am much better now, I promise). My sexual history is also pretty pathetic, because I’m not a person who is interested in sex with someone I am not romantically involved with. I know this from the aforementioned pathetic amount of experience. I do, however, know what I want, or at least what I want to try, and I am very good at listening to my gut, setting and defending my boundaries, and am trying to become better at asking people out before I turn into a feelings-volcano.
With online dating, I tend to glance over someone’s profile, exchange a few messages, and try to meet them as soon as possible, with a bare minimum of previous contact. I do not want to get excited about meeting them before I know if my guts approve, and I do not want them to think online chats means I will for sure like them (that way) in person. I know I need to get involved in more things where I meet people face-to-face over mutual interests, but for various reasons I can’t right now and online dating at least makes me feel like I’m doing SOMETHING for that area of my life.
What I need are scripts. I am very good at adapting them to situations, but I am not very good at coming up with Least Awkward Things to Say when, for example, someone asks me on a second date I do not want to go on. Or proposes drinks after dinner that I do not want to go to. Relatedly, how can I suggest that someone friend-date instead of date-date me? Basically, I need a tutorial in How To Turn People You Barely Know Down Politely Without Lying and Making Up Excuses. Because that’s what tends to come out of my mouth. Like tonight, when I said I couldn’t go out for drinks because I had Important Things to do early tomorrow, by which I meant staying up into the wee hours of the morning to write to you. And sometimes it goes like the end of tonight, when he said “I had fun. I hope we can meet up again sometimes.” And my mouth said “Sure, that sounds good, text me sometime,” before my brain had the chance to approve this message. I have good boundaries – I won’t go on another date with him, but how do I tell him that firmly and politely? If I try to write a message, I will get so awklustered (awkward-flustered) about it that I will procrastinate until the next time he asks me out and then text “Um, sorry, just not feeling it, I hope that is not too disappointing. Have a good life! ^^” THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY.
I’m not suffering from any confusion over how much of someone’s reaction to me rejecting them is my “fault” – I’m blunt and generally up front, and the first online->real life date I went on I think the person could tell that it was a total DO NOT PASS GO because there wasn’t even a handshake and I have not been contacted since, to my relief. My brain just goes blank and reverts, Eddie Izzard child-style, to transparent excuses (I WAS DEAD AT THE TIME! I mean, I WILL be dead at that time!) I would like to be classier than this.
I know that turning someone down is never easy and never free of awkwardness, but I am hoping you have some sauve scripts that will be less awkward than my Awkward Dodo brain. And for some reason, the sheer fact of having some scripts to draw on always makes me feel like less of an asshole and more like a Certified Competent Human Being, automatically.
Thank you in advance,
Really Awkward Dodo Is Confused And Lonely
First, I need you to do a few things.
1. Stop using the word “pathetic” to describe your sexual/romantic history. You are 25-year-old YOU.
2. Stop knocking online dating as something that’s somehow inferior to any other kind of dating. It’s all just dating, ok? I had a conversation with my mom Sunday night and it came up that I’d had a few very nice dates with a very nice gentleman and that I was feeling really happy. “Where’d you meet him?” “Same place I usually meet people.” “Online?” (said with the same inflection you’d use to say “Dog turds? In your hair?“) Then there was some sighing and tutting and “I’m just glad that we did things differently back in my day” and “I just don’t like to see you sell yourself short,” as if somewhere out there there is a mysterious NOT ONLINE person who is waiting to meet me and he will be magically better because of his NOT ONLINENESS. I tried to explain that once you actually meet the person the “onlineness” doesn’t really matter and it’s just like any other date because hey, a person you like is present in the room? And then I did the intelligent thing and got off the phone.
So yes, you should absolutely go meet people through hobbies or whatever as well as online dating. Vary it up. And the way you’re approaching online dating, where you exchange a few emails and then take it into meatspace ASAP? You’re doing it correctly. Most of us who have used the internet for any length of time have fallen into the Catfish trap of getting overly invested in something that didn’t hold up in real life. The thing where you know really quickly whether you’ll be into someone? That’s a good thing. Let online dating help you practice being picky in a good way.
Okay. Here at Captain Awkward Dot Com Enterprises we’ve covered many ways to say “No thanks.” Let me refer you to them:
- The Art of No
- No, But Thanks
- I don’t want to go out with you LOL Please don’t write again LOL
- I prefer not to give out my phone number.
- When people say “not right now” they really mean “not with you.”
Still, since you ask so nicely, and since connection is rare and “Meh, not feeling it” is the most likely scenario, let me give you a few scripts when You Are Not Feeling It Even A Little Bit After One Perfunctory Date.
The easy one is when you end the date without anyone making a move toward making future plans. You meet for your coffee or drink or whatever, and then at a certain point, you say “Well, it was nice meeting you!” Then you stand up, put on your coat, and get out of there as quickly as possible. Follow up online. “Thanks so much for meeting up with me. I don’t think we fully clicked, but it was great to get affirmation that there are neat people like you out there. Good luck.” Anyone who doesn’t answer that message with a variation of “Nice to meet you too, good luck!” is a dick and you are well clear of him.
Sometimes the other person will ask you out again directly right then. This is so tricky? Because when you do want to go out again it is the BEST THING EVER. But when you don’t, you’re totally put on the spot. Personally, I want to give the other person credit for using his words to express clear interest. But I don’t want to lead him on? So how I respond to this is somewhere between “Do you mind if I think about that and let you know?” and “I really appreciate you asking, it’s very flattering, but I’m not feeling a second date.”
Again, the other person may be disappointed and embarrassed, but anyone who reacts really angrily or sulks or insults you in the wake of that is a jerk. If that happens? Congratulations! You’ve just received irrefutable confirmation of your own instincts to disengage.
Since we’re here, let me address what the proper responses to the above scenarios are when you are the one doing the asking out.
“Do you mind if I think about it and let you know?“
Incorrect: “Well, that sounds like a no, so don’t bother.”
Incorrect: “Jesus, if you’re going to reject me have the balls to do it now and don’t jerk me around LIKE ALL OTHER WOMEN.“
Correct: “Of course I don’t mind.” And then you quietly assume the answer will be ‘no’ and back off completely. Perhaps you will be pleasantly surprised by a “Hey, I thought about it, and I would like to go out again, and I really appreciate your no-pressure way of handling a potentially really awkward moment!“
“…I’m not feeling a second date.”
Incorrect: Why not? But why? Whyyyyyyyyyy? What’s wrong with me? But you said…. You can do a Google search on it.
Incorrect: Yeah, I should have figured you wouldn’t be into a Nice Guy like me.
Correct: “Well, not the answer I was hoping for, but I totally understand. Thanks again for meeting up with me.”
A good rule is “Don’t get your self-pity all over other people, no one likes that.“
This is also a good argument, in my opinion, for keeping first dates very easy and casual and not overthinking it. Pick an inexpensive, centrally-located public place that you would hang out at comfortably even if you weren’t on a date, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and wear clean clothes. Don’t bring weird presents. Definitely don’t bring your feature screenplay that you’d like me to read and give you feedback on (True story!). Don’t go into it thinking “ARE YOU MY
MUMMY SOULMATE?” Think “I hope you are a nice person and that we have a nice time.”
Edited to Add: Signal-boosting this post. It’s just satisfying to see someone take no bullshit.