Dear Captain Awkward,
After a very painful marriage breakup and over 10 years of not dating (for many reasons including mental breakdown, SSRI sexual side effects and being too scared to go back into that shark pool – and yes, I’m currently in therapy) I’ve recently started online dating.
At the end of a recent (first meeting) coffee date, the man indicated that he would like to see me again, but then rang a few hours later to say that he had changed his mind. I am totally ok with him changing his mind, but the call made me feel quite uncomfortable because he seemed unable to just say what he needed to say then get off the phone. I assume he was trying to be polite, that perhaps he thought it was more chivalric than sending a text message or email or just dropping off the face of the earth, but I would actually have preferred one of the more impersonal methods in this setting, where I hardly know the man and am never going to see him again anyway.
My question is whether I should be upfront about my preferred mode of rejection while we’re still just emailing or texting, or whether it’s silly and preemptively negative to bring up how we’re going to end things before we’ve even met, and I should just learn live with the fact that all rejection will be at least a little bit painful.
Scared of the Shark Pool
Dear Scared of the Shark Pool,
That phone conversation sounds extremely awkward and all my sympathies are with you for being on the receiving end of it. However, rejection by someone you wanted a chance with is probably gonna sting no matter how it comes, and dwelling on the method vs. the fact of the rejection is one of the lies we tell ourselves about what would make it better.
You *could* put a preferred rejection policy in your dating profile or bring it up in the early emails with someone, but as you correctly point out, it’s kind of a jinx, right? “When this all goes to shit, just rip the bandaid off with a text, ok?” “If you find you don’t like me, feel free to ghost! No, really!” “Just so you know, I’m already planning for our inevitable failure, and I like to keep things terse.” My recommendation is, don’t set yourself up as a supplicant who is planning to be dumped.
I’d like to see if we can’t change the story here, at least a little bit:
After 10 years of not-dating, in spite of a lot of trepidation, you are still trying it out again. You put on a clean shirt and met a total stranger for coffee. That’s brave and cool. Go you!
You had a not-terrible date with someone that you mostly wouldn’t mind seeing again. Hey, that’s something! Maybe there is someone similar to this person on the dating site who will be more compatible with you.
You survived being rejected in an awkward way with your own dignity intact. You weren’t the one making it weird! And you’ve got a great perspective: Someone you hardly know and are never going to see again did something slightly annoying to you. He’s probably reacting to something that happened six months ago with someone who said, “I AT LEAST deserve a PHONE CALL.” You now know that when and if you have to deliver the “no more dates, thanks!” news, you will choose a quick textual bandaid-ripping. I personally like the method of sending a message through the dating site along the lines of “Thanks for meeting me! I’m not feeling a second date, but I appreciate the chance to meet a cool person like yourself and I hope you find someone great.”
There’s no need to change up what you are doing here. This was an outlier.
Readers, what’s the strangest/most awkward way someone has chosen to deliver the ‘no second date after all’ news? Singing Telegram of Nope at your workplace? Running into your mom at the supermarket and delegating the task to her? Having their new partner deliver the news like that really painful “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” scene in Evita? LinkedIn?