#203: Scripts for saying “It was nice to meet you! But not THAT nice.”

Max Headroom wearing white shades
My mom's mental picture of the people you meet online (even though one of the people you meet online is...me).

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:

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.

Branson & Sibyl Downton Abbey
"Flattered is a word posh people use when they're getting ready to say 'no'."

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.

The Empty Child asking 'are you my mummy'?
It's called a "first date", not a "first imprint on you like a baby chick."

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.

45 thoughts on “#203: Scripts for saying “It was nice to meet you! But not THAT nice.”

  1. I went into my Dating Archives and pulled out an example of a GREAT guy response to being turned down after four (4) dates. Edited for brevity.

    You are obviously an awesome, solid, person, and one of the few normal, smart guys I’ve met in a long time. It was really comfortable being out with you. I almost never go out with anyone 4 times. Sad, but true. But after it all, I guess I was not sure if I felt a spark, and I was thinking you were thinking the same. I don’t think it’s good to force things if the chemistry is not there. Not sure where that leaves things. I wish you luck, I guess, in finding a good match for you.

    Hope you have a good trip to (x). And thanks again for the really wonderful times out. I hope you had fun too. It was really nice getting to know you.

    HIM: (this is his second email back. The first was totally funny and nice, he thanked me for showing him around the city).

    Yes, after the third date I was left scratching my head wondering where this was going. I do realize that I was a little shy and wish we just got in a real kiss so we’d know right away if the chemistry was there. I normally am a much more passionate guy and surprised we never got a chance to see that. I applaud you though, I rarely get shy like I did around you. It means you’ve got something special, for some lucky guy anyway. I really wanted to show you the other side of me though as all of my relationships blossomed after that point, rarely before.
    Anyways the reason for this email is to say that if you want to try hanging out again in the future, my door is open, and I won’t hold back.

    Okay, men, that is the way it’s done. This guy was wonderful, just not for me. As an aside, I’m engaged now to a guy I stopped seeing for a while after a month of non-date dates. When I told him we were looking for different things, he responded so kindly I was left with feelings of respect and fuzziness. Six months later, he called me and I remembered his sweetness, and we went out again. We’re getting married in six weeks.

    I hope this helps, LW.

    1. I found his stuff about We didn’t even kiss! You didn’t get to know the real me! You didn’t give me a chance! kind of creepy. He did eventually get to the point of politely accepting your rejection, but he had to go through (and subject you to) a bunch of passive-aggressive pleading and excuse-making to get there.

      1. I didn’t read that in there at all. I interpreted the kiss part as a wish that they could have discovered that there was no chemistry just a little sooner instead of dragging it out.

  2. The last date I went on before I met my current beau ended with the gentleman shaking my hand and saying, “That was fun, we should do it again sometime” and me saying, “Yeah, totally” and both of us knowing we didn’t mean it and neither of us contacting the other one again. Now, I’ve also been on first dates where I was not feeling it and I suspected the other person was feeling it and they asked me out later, and dates where I thought nobody was feeling it and I heard from them later anyway, and dates where someone said, “Let’s get together sometime” and I was feeling it enough to follow up and it didn’t happen (or did). Point is, while it is always good to use your words, don’t beat yourself up if the polite response is the thing you find yourself. What a person says at the end of a date (or their first meeting with anyone) is not legally binding. The other party may or may not follow up via e-mail or text or whatever — and if they do, you are not obligated to even respond. You know that, and a lot of the people you are going to go out with know that, and anyone who doesn’t know that has automatically made a second date impossible. Scripts are good. But do not sweat it if you happen to forget to use them.

  3. Generally, I’ve found that the woman just not responding to a text or e-mail is a perfectly acceptable way for her to tell me that she’s not interested in a second date. You don’t owe anyone anything more than that.

    1. Sure, you’re never obligated to respond, but a) sometimes the person was really nice/cool/polite and you want to give them a straight answer and b) that doesn’t really help with in-person interactions.

      You can’t really stand there in silence when someone says “(Now that we’ve had our drinks) Do you want to go grab some dinner?” without being rude.

      1. “You can’t really stand there in silence when someone says “(Now that we’ve had our drinks) Do you want to go grab some dinner?” without being rude”

        That’s what smoke bombs are for, because throwing a smoke bomb to the ground and running away is never rude.

    2. Eh, I did that for a text once and felt kind of bad about it, and then the guy emailed me later (circumstances made this less stalkery and more charmingly optimistic than the bare bones facts make it sound) and I felt really bad about it so I responded with “thanks, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to see each other again, good luck to you” and he was nice about it in his response. You can go the ignoring route, but I think it’s actually kinder to be upfront. Do you owe them that, no, but I dunno, I felt like kind of a heel the first time and wound up really glad I’d responded the first time (especially when someone went with “ignore” on me a few months later, it was like “YEP, I DID THE NICER THING IN THAT CASE”).

  4. The other thing you might think about is knowing you are not responsible for being the host of the date and making sure everyone at the party has a good time? Sometimes, in my head, on a first date, I have to remember I’m way more the President of the Country of Me instead of Date Host with Betty Draper Pearls. When I have on Date Host Pearls, I know would pretty much rather die than even politely, but firmly, reject anyone in person. With the President hat, polite, but firm rejection seems to be the most respectful thing I can do for another person. Then, we are both released back into the dating wild to find the person we would like to find.

    1. I love this separation of President of B vs. Perfect Hostess. You’re rejecting our ingrained gender training and taking care of yourself.

    2. This was the primary reason I insisted on paying for myself on any dates outside a relationship*. I’m married now (to someone I met online!), but back in the day I knew that if I let him pay then I would shift into eager-to-please mode, trying to make it worth it for him and not trying to figure out how I really felt. That would put me at a disadvantage. If both paries are just investing their time, then I can be President of Me and call the shots like a grown up who is looking for someone special.

      *inside a relationship for me means taking turns paying for things. Treating and being treated is fun.

      1. High. Five.I am totally understanding this logic. For dates to feel like dates to me, it involves one person paying the bill (I dislike the splitting.), but I do always feel more like the President of Me when there is good volleying of date planning and paying. I also like when outings feel more like, “let’s see how much we can surprise and delight each other!,” instead of a running tally. President of Me is never happy when love feels like a subtraction problem.

  5. Ahahaha, people’s reactions to online dating. I have an otherwise wonderful friend who used to tell me that my natural tendency to draw creepy dudes in (ones who introduce themselves by explaining their dream wedding, ones who insist I am their girlfriend after one not-really-a-date, etc.) was because I met potential partners online. She said “Have you tried meeting them… not online?” Because obviously this had never occurred to me! It’s not like I had tried asking guys out IRL in our relatively mainstream and gender-unbalanced college town or anything!

    She seems to have stopped giving me this advice after a.) she met a very no-boundaries kind of guy at a bookstore IRL who seemed charming and interesting on her first interaction with him, and b.) she met and had a serious relationship with an overseas pen pal. I don’t think dating sites are for her, but she has her own hobbies and activities that she goes to in hopes of widening her dating pool, and different people, depending on what they’re looking for in an SO, will be looking in different places.

    Aside from sockpuppets, everyone on the internet is also a real person sitting at a keyboard (except for, like, roleplaying accounts, oh god don’t date my RP characters please, they have been hit on before by real people and that is super awkward), so yes, there are creeps online but you can also meet them offline (I have!), and there are interesting awesome people IRL, some of whom use the internet too!

    1. Wait, wait… people hit on your RP characters?

      …That is so disturbingly hilarious, and I’m so tempted to ask for details.

        1. Well, I’m not the original poster here, but I DEFINITELY have an ultra-weird hitting-on-RP-character story with a happy ending (for me, at least).

          I’m a bit older, straight male who has been playing online role-playing games since 1998. I used to play a game called Everquest, which was, at the time, the big hit among American Massive Multiplayer RPGs. My first character was a male elf. My second character was a male troll. My third character was a female elf. Never had any weird things happen with my first two characters. Then I started playing my third, and I met another player one evening in a low-level area in the game. As it happens, EQ is the type of game where you really want to level up quickly, and the first few levels absolutely fly by with a partner or two. So we partnered up and started stomping on larger-than-average bugs for experience and profit.

          Then things started getting weird. He would go out, collect some bugs and come back for stomping (SOP, fyi) and then send some hugging emote after each one. Then he started talking somewhat provocatively. I don’t remember exactly what he said except in one instance- my character got mobbed by bugs and died (again, par for the course), which meant my corpse collapsed in that zone and I had to run back a bit to the zone. He sent a tell saying something like (I can kiss you to see if that would make things better). That seriously creeped me out and and I got back, collected my corpse (yes, seriously, that’s what you did in the game) and camped out.

          So I decided to go back to playing my troll for a couple days, just to avoid the guy. He had behaved soooo inappropriately, but (1) I felt a bit of sympathy for the guy, which was almost certainly not deserved, (2) I had not interest in having to have the “not all girl characters are played by girls, you numbskull” conversation. In retrospect, I wish I had done something right there and then, but such is life.

          Then the funniest thing happened- while playing as my male troll, I came across his corpse. I checked, and saw that he was running back to it from his starting area, so he had just died a minute or two beforehand. Suddenly I had the perfect way to have the numbskull conversation in the easiest way possible- I sent him a tell with my male troll 🙂

          It went something like this: “Hi X, I’m the same player who was playing Y. If you want me to, I’ll be happy to pull your corpse out of the danger zone.”

          He never replied.

          1. I love this story, only I am a little sad because I was hoping your realization would be more, “it was then that I realized how shitty it can be to be a girl playing video games.”

            What if you WERE a girl playing your first girl character? Would you deserve to be hit on? Do women who play video games do so because they are looking to be hit on? Does he deserve your sympathy?

          2. Have to add an addendum to cover xenu01’s reply-

            I should’ve made it much clearer that the reason the whole episode ended so well for me is that it did indeed plant the “holy crap, if a lot people want to play someone that looks a lot like them, women are friggin’ hosed here.” The “Asymmetry in RPGs -> Asymmetry in Real Life -> Holy Patriarchy, Batman” thought process followed pretty clearly after that.

            Having your eyes opened to a broader truth is a good ending, in my book.

      1. Last two threads, hir second being the awkward hitting-on. Sie was obviously not serious, but I’m not sure whether sie was hoping for sexy RP or was just drive-by complimenting him or what. I think when my character’s hilarious/terrible coworkers all piled on, sie figured out it was Not Going To Happen.

    2. I met my current husband online, in the most embarrassing way. I needed Farmville neighbors, so I joined a FB group specifically for the purpose of padding your friend list with people who play Farmville. Over the course of a year, we became better and better friends, until a day went by that I didn’t hear from him and OMG Something Was Wrong — and it was, he’d been in the ER all day. It wasn’t too long after that that he flew to the US from Austria to meet me. And… so it went.

      This is just to say that you can meet people in literally the most random ways. From that original list, I also now have friends in Germany, Croatia, and all over the US.

  6. There’s also the standby, “I’m sorry, but I’m married to the sea.”

    I like a fair amount of chatting before meeting someone (though it’s not a necessity). My pantsfeelings are related a lot to personality, so enough chatting and I can maybe get to write them off before having to go through a coffee date ordeal.

    1. “I’m sorry, but I’m married to the sea.”

      MAN. Now my only regret in having married HusbandLogic is that I can’t use that excuse!

      LOVE IT.

  7. I’m just going to post my screenplay here in the comments, ‘kay? Any and all feedback appreciated! (Unless it’s negative.) Thanks!

  8. Re: online dating. My mom, in her 50s at the time, used online and video (VIDEO!) dating to meet guys after my stepdad died about ten years ago. I was SO proud of her. She met a bunch of assholes and a bunch of nice dudes and a couple years ago married one of the nice ones. In short, online dating is just as valid as anything else and don’t let anyone (including your inner jerkbrain) tell you different.

    1. Man I want my mom to write a memoir chronicling her adventures in online dating. She’s openminded but like the LW knows real fast if someone has potential in that arena or no (I get that from her, I think) and her reviews of the “no’s” are hilaaaaarious.

  9. I wish Captain Awkward posts had a ‘like button’. Because goodness knows I need to keep these scripts in mind when trying to initiate the “sorry, dude, not feeling it” convo.

    I like the ‘take the initiative’ approach in interjecting your intentions not to date further. Somehow, that seems like it makes it easier to frame the polite response before being put on the spot can wreak havoc on your brain (as it does for mine).

  10. Hey, Letter Writer! (I will not refer to you as Awkward Dodo, for reasons that will shortly become clear)

    YOU ARE DOIN’ IT RITE. The online dating thing, the quick coffee/drink/burrito/low-commitment/whatever first dates, the boundary settings, all of it. So give yourself a massive pat on the back for being Terrifyingly Amazing.

    The Cap’s advice is spot on, but I just want to add one thing that may help take the perceived sting out of the rejection: refer to the next great dates this guy will obviously go on.

    “It was great meeting you, but I don’t feel like we’re a great match. I hope your next date is amazing!”
    “Thanks for inviting me to [event you are 100% uninterested in], but I think someone else on [dating site] might enjoy it more. I hope you find him/her! Good luck!”

    Shift your mind from “I am rejecting! OH GOD!” to “If I go on another date, I will be COCK/VAG/OTHERBLOCKING someone better for this person!” It helped me be a guilt-free date-rejecter, and it might help you use the people-pleasing thing a lot of us lady-folk struggle with to your advantage.

    1. Hah! This is such a good point. You’re just sending them off to find someone who will be better for them.

  11. Hey, this is off-topic, but I just wanted to say that reading your blog has gotten me out of the depressive spiral I’ve been in for the last month or so. You have a great life philosophy knowing that people like you are out in the world makes me feel a lot better about the world in general. You are terrific!

    1. My shriveled turdheart just grew THREE SIZES. This is a great community of people, so I’m really glad you feel at home here.

  12. I love these scripts, and can I second everyone who said responding, in some way, to a polite request/follow-up, is always the more compassionate decision to me. It’s not always easy enough to read signals to know whether or not to follow up and ask someone for a second date.

    But then, I also tried to politely decline contact from any decent request to chat on a dating site, too. Creepy requests were ignored, but anyone who took the time to write me something, I tried to say no firmly but nicely. I’ve had very few people really push that, and I know I appreciate being clearly turned down.

    I really like the “I’d like to think about it,” followed by an actual answer afterwards. I will be using that in the future. I usually know, but there have been some slow build relationships in my past, and there are people who I want to give a second chance to. Or might want to, especially given a bit of time to consider the date.

    I spent a lot of time pursuing the alternates to online dating when I first wanted a new partner. I took classes, went to lectures, joined groups in my tiny town. And then I went online and found that it was easier to meet people who wanted to date. Because that’s why we were all online. Most people in classes or at lectures are not there primarily to meet potential dates. So they were fun and edifying, but for dating, online was the way to go.

  13. So…question: let’s say (hypothetically) that I went on a date with someone smart and pretty; and then I asked for second date and she yes? It it goes well do I have to wait for *them* to ask for the next date, or can I ask for a third (after maybe waiting a couple of days)?

    I’m especially not sure because she is a lady and I’m not sure how dating ladies works, since I have mostly dated dues? I feel like I’ve been the more take-charge type of person so far…setting up the first date, picking up the tab, etc. So will a lady expect me to continue in this fashion, or should I expect some give and take?

    Yeah the second date hasn’t happened yet but I’m already worrying about this. >_<

    Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

  14. LW here! Thank you for all the advice, Captain, Commander, and commenters!

    You’re right about the “pathetic” thing – therapy, I am getting me some.

    I did not intend to imply (though I realize now how it came off that way) that online dating is somehow less valid that other ways of dating – only that, for me and given my particular relationship with my guts, it is frustrating and less than ideal, since I so far all the people I have liked (as in “I want to get to know you in person” not “I am already planning our wedding!”) online have turned out to be not at all attractive in person, which is sad and disappointing.

    I will put on my President hat, stock up on smoke-bombs, and practice these things! *high fives all commenters* And thank you so much for the reframe, Commander Logic. I think that is what my Jerkbrain needs to be hit on the nose with whenever it starts going “you’re rejecting someone because you’re eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil and meeeeeeeeaan!”

    1. The only thing I want to add here is, don’t beat yourself up over the lies thing. It’s perhaps not just your Jerkbrain. You could also be protecting yourself. Times in which I have lied instead of straight up rejecting are times in which I have, upon recollection, not felt entirely safe.

    2. “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.”

      I think you should be really proud of this, LW. The first step to finding the right person is, I think, knowing what you’re looking for, what you want and what you’d never put up with–and taking risks. There are lots and lots of people who don’t think these things through and then end up hurting others when they realize they’ve gone too far with someone they’re just not that into. Even if it’s hard to turn someone down–and oh boy, is it ever hard–just having the thoughtfulness to want to go about it in a nice way is something that you should feel great about.

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