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#822: PSA that answers about 10 current letters

If you’ve met someone online…

…made plans to meet up for a first date

…but then after you’ve made those plans, the person says or does something creepy (or racist) that makes you reconsider…

IT IS OKAY TO JUST CANCEL.

Use a text medium (preferably the dating site itself):

“Dear (Name), I’ve changed my mind about meeting up in person and am writing to cancel our plans. So sorry for the short notice. I wish you well. Your Name.”

No further explanation needed. You don’t have to tutor them about what they did to annoy you. Send and disengage.

They will react how they react. Rejection never feels great, but a good reaction is “Wow, that’s sad but I understand & wish you well, too” + leaving you alone.

If they react with extreme anger or clinginess or “you’re just like all flakes who always cancel on me” (typecasting), or demands for a chance or for reasons, think of it not as “you making them angry and owing them a correction.” Rather, they are confirming your instincts to not meet them. You changed your mind about meeting up. THAT IS THE REASON. YOU ALREADY GAVE IT. Don’t respond, block them everywhere.

“But,” you say, “I flirted with them!”

“But they told me a lot of personal stuff/I told them some personal stuff!”

“But we’ve been texting a lot, I am worried they will think I am rude or that I led them on if I just bail”

They might think that you are rude. So, do you want to tell them you don’t like them *during* the awkward date? Or afterward? Cancel! Cancel now and risk that someone you have already decided you don’t like won’t like you anymore!

I’ll go back to regularly scheduled posting of questions, but these were piling up and some of you are on deadlines with looming weekend dates to cancel. Cancel away, my friends!

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153 comments
  1. SM said:

    Oh my god yes – I’ve told friends this time & time again. You have not actually met this person, & may not even know their full name. You do not owe them anything – you don’t owe them a date, even if you scheduled it. You do not owe them an explanation. You do not owe them continued communication.

    If you go on the date, if you offer an explanation/apologies for cancelling… All of that is extra. Only do it if you really want to, and if it makes you feel substantially better. If it makes you feel terrible… don’t.

    It goes the other way, too – no stranger you found online owes you a date, explanation, etc. If you get it, that’s extra. If you don’t, try not to linger on the mysterious of internet strangers and find someone who wants to and is willing to give you the extras 🙂

    Happy online dating, everyone!

    • Hostapasta said:

      Even if you met this person, even if you are the holder of each other’s secret true names, even if your souls are inextricably bound by years of hardship and glory, even if you have said the magic words and are married before God and man and all the beasts of legend….you don’t owe them a date. If someone has upset you, you don’t even owe them politeness beyond a single ‘no.’

      Other people’s affection and hopes are not an obligation.

      • “Other people’s affection and hopes are not an obligation.”

        Embroidered on a pillow please!

  2. Thank you Captain! If only someone had told me this 7 or 8 years ago. I went on so many dates I was uncomfortable with, then got into awkward conversations when I politely turned down the second date and received a barrage of BUT WHYYYYYYYY in return. This is an important lesson.

    • Hannahbelle said:

      Gosh, I actually remember the first moment I had someone automatically respect a boundary I set without arguing or even questioning. Just automatic, oh ok, of course. I think I actually sat back and blinked. Then I was confused and suspicious, like I’d somehow handled things wrong because the normal script was definitely not being followed.

      It was awesome. In retrospect, but yeah. Awesome.

      • sempercogitans86 said:

        It even makes me rethink the rejection sometimes (only for a second, usually). “Immediately respects my stated boundaries” is such a rare quality that it causes slight momentary swooning.

        • Sarah said:

          Totally agreed (but also, how horrible is that?).

    • MuddieMae said:

      Ayup. Once upon a time I was on a social high from a great date with Dude 1 when Dude 2 asked me on a second date and I accepted. Literally the next morning I regretted it – Dude 2 and I really hadn’t clicked at all and I definitely didn’t want to tromp through the snow to be bored again. So I reneged my acceptance and apologized, and got a long text message about how I should reconsider because some of my OKC answers made him think we would be super sexually compatible. Thanks for confirming my instincts, Dude 2! Blocked with extreme prejudice.

  3. omj said:

    The thing that the “At least tell me what I did wrong!” crowd seems to miss is that a) there usually isn’t one, easy-to-state reason why someone’s not interested in someone else, and b) even when there is, it’s usually a question of who you are and not some little behavior you got wrong. And you really shouldn’t go around changing your fundamental nature for random people on dating sites.

    That’s why I rarely give someone a specific reason for turning them down even when there is one – I find it leaves them thinking that but for that one thing we’d be going out right now, which turns it into this one little obstacle to get over, and I just don’t think that kind of thinking is good for either of us. Like even if they give up on me, there’s rarely any reason they should go around feeling insecure about something that might be a fine match for somebody else. So I just stick with vague-but-true reasons like, “I don’t think we’re compatible” or “It turns out I just don’t feel that way about you” or “On second thought, I’m going to have to cancel our date, but thank you for asking.”

    I will say that doing that was terrifying to me when I was younger, but once you get used to it it’s lovely and freeing and usually makes the conversation go a lot smoother than throwing excuses at someone as you run the other way.

    • Dizzy said:

      Also, I have to ask the “Tell me what I did wrong!!!” crowd: What exactly do you think someone could say that would make you feel BETTER about being turned down? Do you think you would feel better if someone said “I found somebody cuter” or “Now that I look at your picture, you’re not as hot as I originally believed” or “You act like a rapist, though”? What if it was something like “Your breath is disgusting” or “The way you shook my hand was just… creepy”? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t feel better about my life if someone told me these things.

      Like, there are a million reasons someone could turn me down, and a lot of them are things I’m not interested in budging on. Being told I’m too aggressive, or not feminine enough, for a woman? I get that a lot. Being told that doesn’t make me feel good because a) I’m not going to change it and b) though I’m not going to change it, it isn’t *pleasant* being told I’m not good enough. Whereas if someone tells me they didn’t feel any chemistry? For me, that’s a good thing, because now I’m not wasting my time with someone who doesn’t like me. It doesn’t mean I’m bad at dating, it just means that This Guy and I weren’t quite right for each other. No big deal!

      I’ve been told by a lot of people that I ping as a lesbian because of my short hair and masculine, Army-taught body language. It doesn’t bother me when women say it because they’re usually lesbian/bi/pan and in my experience, women are much better about being turned down. When men tell me that, what they mean is “I want to put my penis in you, but you’re not good/feminine enough for me.” No thank you!

      There was only one time I asked what I did wrong, and that was because I was having a really, really hard time figuring out how to act like a civilian. Turns out gallows humor, aggression and fits of barely-controlled rage might make a good soldier, but a very bad civilian. And I asked because I knew I was doing something that wasn’t benefiting me but wasn’t sure what to change. (The guy told me he didn’t want to date smokers or women who had already been married, because he wanted to be “special” to his future wife. I laughed for days. So I didn’t get a lot out of it.) And you know what? He didn’t have to answer. His reason could have been “I’m just not feeling it.”

      (Personally, I think most of dating is knowing how to market yourself. My BFF is shy and not interested in casual sex, so he’s much better off marketing himself to women looking for relationships and not hookups. I get anxious and unhappy when men want too much commitment too quickly, so I tuned my marketing of self to be good at acquiring friends with benefits who become boyfriends.)

      Of course, a lot of people who demand to know what they did wrong aren’t interested in changing themselves. Instead, what they want is a chance to argue and prove that the other person is wrong/unreasonable/uptight/frigid/a bitch/etc. And they have just PROVED to you what you already suspected–that they’re mean, possibly dangerous people.

      • Clao said:

        I love every part of your answer. I identify as well on the not-so-feminine nor delicate looking female who likes guys, and I am still to learn with rejection.
        I had never really thought of one’s abilities as marketing strategies, and it makes so much sense.

      • Light37 said:

        Good point. There isn’t really any answer that’s going to make the rejected feel better, and so the best thing for everyone to do is to walk away when someone says they aren’t feeling it.

      • johann7 said:

        “What exactly do you think someone could say that would make you feel BETTER about being turned down? Do you think you would feel better if someone said “I found somebody cuter” or “Now that I look at your picture, you’re not as hot as I originally believed” or “You act like a rapist, though”? What if it was something like “Your breath is disgusting” or “The way you shook my hand was just… creepy”? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t feel better about my life if someone told me these things.”

        I’m not in the habit of asking for reasons from people I haven’t been dating for less than a few months, so it’s a slightly different scenario, but I do appreciate knowing why someone I was getting along with well as far as I knew is calling things off (I ask once, with the explicitly stated qualifier that if one isn’t really sure or doesn’t want to say, I’ll accept that without issue and move along – I have no interest in trying to argue someone into dating me, as that sounds awful for everyone).

        The reason I like to know is in case I am behaving unacceptably in some way, so I can correct that, not to try to keep dating that person, but to have better social interactions in the future. I doj’t think it’s anyone else’s JOB to be my life coach (other than an actual life coach I’ve hired), but it’s also the case that if, for example, I’m using a racist phrase that I don’t know is racist, I’m unlikely to realize this and stop using that phrase unless someone calls me on it. This is especially true when the bad behavior is normalized, so there’s less of a chance of other people I know seeing the problem and pointing it out.

        If it’s not something that can’t be changed, I also find that helpful in terms of internalizing that it just wasn’t going to happen; of course it wasn’t going to happen anyway irrespective of the reason, but it’s easier for me to not second guess my behavior if the reason is e.g. some (usually politer) variation of “you’re ugly”, since there’s nothing I could have done differently.

        It’s definitely about my own comfort and understanding, and, as I said above, I don’t think I’m owed an explanation, but that’s why I appreciate explanations.

        “though I’m not going to change it, it isn’t *pleasant* being told I’m not good enough.”

        I think that’s the difference – if it’s some BS/sexist* reason, I don’t interpret that as something wrong with me, I interpret that as something wrong with them and feel good about dodging that bullet. I imagine this is much easier if one has not been socialized to always put others’ (and perhaps especially one’s romantic partners’) wants/needs/opinions ahead of one’s own.

        *perhaps not quite sexist for me, as I don’t face a cultural system that marginalizes me on the basis of my sex, but I do encounter plenty of people who expect more normatively masculine behavior from me

    • Osirus said:

      To present a counterpoint, I don’t find it unreasonable to say, “I totally understand we’re not a good match. But just to aid my future search, I’d much appreciate if you could let me know what the dealbreakers were for you.” Admittedly, this may be partially me conflating dating with job interviews, but I don’t think that makes it wrong. For me, the key is that you’re not trying to argue anyone into a second date, you’re just gathering data for your future dating.

      • But why is this information useful?

        Unless we’re talking about obvious hygiene issues that you could ask a good friend about, dealbreakers are highly specific. If you’ve only been on 0-3 dates with someone, I’d argue that knowing what their dealbreaker was isn’t really useful. You’ve either made the person feel unsafe somehow — in which case, badgering them about why they’re leaving is going to strengthen that perception — or, more likely, there’s just something not-objectively-objectionable-but-not-quite-up-their-alley about you that has made them want to stop dating you.

        Example: I like to talk about my dog and the the fact that I think he has the personality of a Tea Party Re-pug-lican a lot. A LOT. I think it’s funny, but someone might not find that funny, and that’s perfectly okay! I’m not going to change that about myself because some new person that I dated didn’t like it. They should move on, and I should find someone who also understands and sympathizes with my struggle that my dog thinks of himself as a “job creator” and refers to women as “females”.

        If someone you have only known for a short while has decided that you possess whatever qualifies as one of their personal dealbreakers, then asking them about it is asking for a lot of emotional buy-in and engagement from someone who has already indicated that they don’t want to engage with you any further.

        If you’re worried that something about your physical presentation or behavioral patterns might be off-putting to people, I think it’s a much more useful strategy to ask your friends about it, rather then asking for that kind of emotional reassurance from a soon-to-be-former acquaintance.

        • si1verdrake said:

          “Unless we’re talking about obvious hygiene issues that you could ask a good friend about, dealbreakers are highly specific. If you’ve only been on 0-3 dates with someone, I’d argue that knowing what their dealbreaker was isn’t really useful. You’ve either made the person feel unsafe somehow — in which case, badgering them about why they’re leaving is going to strengthen that perception — or, more likely, there’s just something not-objectively-objectionable-but-not-quite-up-their-alley about you that has made them want to stop dating you.”

          This is a very true statement. Real-life example: I met up with a dude off of OKCupid years ago, had a decent time during our date, and then never met him again. Why? Because his posture/walk and speech patterns reminded me way too hard of a good friend from high school and it weirded me right the fuck out. Not his fault. Not something he could (or should!) change. But enough to be a dealbreaker.

          I did have a long-term boyfriend ask me why I broke up with him, about a year afterward (relationship was 3 years long, and we’ve stayed friendly). I think he phrased it as “Was there anything I did wrong that I should work on?”. Which is more reasonable, since there was then emotional investment. However, I really didn’t have an answer that was useful. In hindsight, the main reasons I stopped feeling it after the “ooh, there’s someone interested in me!” energy wore off and broke up with him were a) he was too tall for me, which he couldn’t possibly change, and b) too romantic for me (the reason I decided to break up with him? For our 3rd valentine’s day, he sent me flowers, and my immediate reaction was “crap, now I have to get him something”, which was a good wake-up call). That’s not at all a thing he should change! He’s now married to a woman who loves romantic gestures and is rather taller than I am, which is better for everyone.

          So even when it’s appropriate to ask, I’d guess at least 75% of the time, you’re not getting useful information back. As wee_ramkin says, it’s probably better to ask friends about it. If you have genuine worries about needing improvement, I’d recommend asking multiple friends of your preferred gender(s), as any given group isn’t a monolith, and friends of a different gender from your preference(s) may not notice nuances that read poorly to the intended recipient.

          • B said:

            I can only think of a few scenarios where it might be helpful and most are pretty unlikely, and the info could probably could come from a friend rather than attempting to survey a series of dates.
            If the dealbreaker was actually something a person wanted to change and repeated by multiple people ie “your place is overflowing with broken trombones and I literally struggle to fit in there” or “smoking/getting trashed on the first date/other substance use is a dealbreaker” (again, only relevant if one is looking to quit) etc. MAYBE that might be helpful to push for a positive life change one was actually thinking about doing anyway.
            OTOH if one just really loves burrowing in piles of broken brass instruments it’s better to find someone who shares the enthusiasm rather than try to make oneself generically marketable.

          • MuddieMae said:

            @B, and I must say as a smoker – it’s rarely a surprise to find out that smoking is a dealbreaker. If someone told me that after a first date the only reason I would be pissed is that I put it clearly on my profile, and they should have selected out before wasting my time.

            If someone lies about smoking, then that’s on them. And I might mention the lying/concealing more than the smoking, because that’s more easily actionable.

        • BrownTown said:

          The repuglican story absolutely made my day!

      • espritdecorps said:

        One person’s turn-off is another person’s turn on, how much do you want to change yourself for an imaginary person you haven’t met yet?

        Also, people often don’t have a concrete reason, they just weren’t feeling it.
        I did a lot of on- and off-line dating, and was very open to FWB type relationships. Most of the time it was me sitting across the table from someone who was great to chat with at a party or online, and checked most of the right boxes, but there was no pull to see them again. Many of those people got second dates just to be sure because they were good people, but chemistry is a fickle thing.

        Asking someone what you did wrong on a date feels a little too close to the mindset that people are interchangeable, and inputting the right data gets you sex or a relationship. Maybe focus on refining what you want from someone, and go into the date looking to see if they measure up to what you need, rather than trying to be what you think people might want.

      • Jane said:

        And. . . sometimes there really really isn’t any helpful information that the other person could give you.

        The last guy I turned down for a second date was because my anxiety ramped up enormously at the thought. No conscious thought process at all.

      • Dizzy said:

        I gotta say, despite my having done it, someone asking me “What did I do wrong?” makes me suuuuper uncomfortable. In a way, the answer is “You asked me what you did wrong. That is what’s wrong with you.” It almost feels like, jfc I turned you down and now I have to explain why????? Like, I did the awkward work of kinda-dumping someone and now there’s MORE WORK I have to do????

        Also, since I date men, it’s a question that also contains a threat. I don’t know for sure if the guy sitting in front of me is the kind of guy who thinks that women who answer wrong deserve to get beaten… but I don’t know that he ISN’T that kind of guy, either. And even worse, there’s no good answer. “No chemistry” is just as likely to get me beaten as “You’re mean and scary.”

        Seriously, I had a much easier time figuring out how to be a civilian when I asked a bunch of my friends, rather than putting some poor dude on the spot after he turned down a second date. It was a lot kinder to everyone, too.

        • Yes, this!

          Also, in @Osirus’s original post, he/she wrote that they might say: “But just to aid my future search, I’d much appreciate if you could let me know what the dealbreakers were for you.“.

          The more I read over that sentiment, the more annoyed I become. I understand the impetus behind it, but it still frustrates me. To be very blunt, why would I care about the future search of some person I don’t know very well? I’ve already done the uncomfortable work of turning you down, now I have to engage with you further to help you find another person to date? As I said in my first reply to @Osirus’s post, that’s asking for a LOT of emotional buy-in from someone who has just told you that they’re not interested in giving you any more of their time or energy.

          To add to the discussion of gender dynamics you brought up in your post, when you are a dude and you ask this of a woman, it reinforces the idea that women are there to be the caretakers of everyone’s feelings. That’s really not our job. It is not our job to care whether or not someone we reject finds love with someone else. Please don’t try to make it our problem.

          • espritdecorps said:

            “That’s really not our job. It is not our job to care whether or not someone we reject finds love with someone else. Please don’t try to make it our problem.”

            Exactly!

            A guy had blown off a date with no real reason, and instead of anger, there was jealousy. Why couldn’t I do that?
            Saying no without guilt, leaving bad dates the minute my stomach started turning was so freeing. Not only was my time, energy, and money, not being wasted, but setting boundaries attracted people who respected boundaries.

            If a rejected person told their friends, “Esprit is a bitch!” Hooray! That’s 3-10 entitled jerks that were weeded out of my dating/friendship pool.

            Dating is a numbers game, it’s going out on tens and even hundreds of dates until you find a good match. Using each date to refine what you want in a relationship partner, so that you start recognizing good people who won’t be a good partner for you sooner, before investing in them.
            Asking someone you barely know to help you circumvent that process, to take the hard-won knowledge of what they need from a partner, and try to apply it to you, a stranger, so you don’t have to do that work yourself? UGH!

          • carabiner said:

            +1000000 to all of this

          • Light37 said:

            It smacks of “I expect you, Woman, to do the emotional labor of explaining to me why you won’t bonk me so I can argue you into compliance.”

            If they really want help, they can get a dating coach or a therapist. I don’t have time to try to fix every wandering jerkoff on Tindr/OKCupid/whatever.

      • Tonia said:

        I feel like this is one of those fallacies on the internet re: job interviews that you aren’t actually supposed to ask. There’s nothing actually wrong with it, but is anyone actually going to tell you the truth?

        I mean, “went with another candidate” and “someone with more experience [in X]” are OFTEN the truth, but I’m going to say that even if the truth is “you chew with your mouth open and it pissed me off so I hired someone else.”

        If you’re consistently not getting jobs that you’re qualified for, you should know the reasons why. Talk to a friend, colleague, career center, whomever – but I don’t think HR/the search committee is really going to give you useful information. And that aligns perfectly with dating. If you’re consistently getting turned down AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHY, start with friends, family, etc, not people on dating websites.

        • stellanor said:

          I have asked interviewers if there was anything they thought it would benefit me to work on and gotten some good answers. Buuuut that was when I was interviewing internally while trying to move teams within Massive Megacorp.

          And two of them gave me completely conflicting info. Both of them said stuff that would have been very helpful if it hadn’t directly contradicted what the other said. I was so confused.

          • MuddieMae said:

            And while jobs and dating do have many similarities, they’re not identical. Someone asking you to change your professional persona (dress differently, don’t talk so loudly, etc) is like asking you to change the particular costume you put on for a play. It’s not who you are – it’s just who you are at work. But if a first date told me “you swear to much and aren’t really as polished as what I’m looking for”, I’m going to let that fish go. I like my personal level of swearing and dress. Why would I change them for a stranger?

          • slythwolf said:

            My tax accounting professor teaches one evening a week on top of running his own CPA firm, so he’s always handing out job hunting advice and we’re all always asking him about interviewing and resumes and stuff. The one thing he says over and over and over again is that what he’s looking for is not always what someone else is looking for, and in general if we’re being professional in our appearance and behavior the style of resume and interviewing and just generally talking to people that we do is going to weed out the employers that wouldn’t be right for us anyway.

            So in a way, I guess, job hunting *is* a little like dating.

          • Jack V said:

            I was thinking about this recently. I think when I was starting out, or when I was out of work and wanted *any* decent job, I wanted feedback on the “what did I do wrong” level, and there’s not much point asking about that — if they were generous, they would say how I fell short, but I could have got the same info from interview practice with friends or an agency.

            But when I’m more experienced, I know a lot better what I’m looking for, and it might be genuinely relevant, “Were you looking for someone with more experience? Or someone with X specific experience? Or someone you just ‘click’ with?” If I know it’s somewhere I was a good fit, but they were looking for a web programmer, not a me programmer, then they might well really want me if they have a different opening. If they want someone who’s better at schmoozing, or think an IQ test is a good aptitude test, I can steer clear.

            I guess that might be the difference between dating someone you’ve just met, and dating someone you’re already close friends with: you should expect a lot of false starts when meeting people, and there’s no point begging for second and third chances. But if it’s someone you already care about, “I just don’t want to”, might be the best answer, but you might also say, “You’d be a really great partner but I’m not into you that way” or “I’m really really into you, but we’d kill each other if we lived together” or “We’d be a really great couple, but one of us wants children and the other doesn’t, this isn’t going to work”.

        • No Longer In Academia said:

          True story — my husband was turned down for a job, and called to ask why. They said that they’d liked a lot about him, but he lacked any experience in the field (he was trying to switch careers at the time due to the total absence of opportunities in his original field), and they didn’t want to take the risk. He offered to work for a three month trial period, with a temporary cut in salary that would cover the recruitment agency fees so they wouldn’t be out of pocket if they decided not to keep him on. They gave him a job. I’m sure it doesn’t happen often, but sometimes knowing why with jobs can be a starting point for negotiation. Not so much with dating, though 🙂

        • omj said:

          I worked in Recruiting for a couple of years in a few different places, and not once did we offer feedback on interviews. We just gave a flat, “I’m sorry, we don’t offer that kind of feedback.” One place would add, “But here are some local services you can use for job coaching if you need it.” And that was it. I would tell someone I knew well why they didn’t get the job, if I knew, but not random applicants. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt to ask and all, since a professional setting has less of the sensitivity and fraught-ness of a dating situation, but I’ve never heard of it paying off.

      • Mel Reams said:

        One of the problems there is I don’t know you’re not going to try to argue me into a second date. I mean, even if you write the exact words “I’m not going to try to argue you into a second date” that’s just going to make me think “this person knows this behaviour looks like a precursor to arguing with me about how I should date them some more and…. they still decided to do it. BLOCK.”

        Second, it just feels so much like having to justify why I’m not interested in someone. Outside of work, absolutely nobody gets to tell me to justify my decisions. I’ll generally explain myself to people I care about if asked respectfully, but I am a grown woman and do not need anyone to approve of my personal decisions.

        Third, there’s no upside to giving out this information and there are pretty big risks for me as a woman. If the reason I don’t want to date someone again is because they made a racist joke, if I actually tell him that then the very best I can possibly hope for is that he’ll only call me a stuck up [insert gendered slur here] a few times before I block him. And if he’s an objectively lovely human being who I just didn’t click with, he doesn’t get any useful information and probably wonders if I’m lying to spare his feelings. All the options kinda suck.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Of all the times I’ve been asked BUTTTT WHYYYYYYY? 99.9% of them were in bad faith – meaning, the person asking was not “gathering data for their future dating,” they were just trying to argue me out of not seeing them again.

        My blanket policy is now to not ever answer that question. If that’s sadtimez for the .01% of people who might be asking it earnestly, that’s 1. too bad and 2. not my problem.

        • stellanor said:

          I’ve never understood that — do you really want to date someone you had to talk into dating you??

          • whinge drinking said:

            I have a theory about that. Most people like to think of themselves as good people, and want other people – particularly people they like – to think they’re good people too. So if someone you like doesn’t like you, you get a whammy of cognitive dissonance. One way to resolve that is to think, “I’m not a bad person – they’ve just made a mistake about me. If I can convince them that the things they don’t like don’t actually matter, then I’m still a good person!”

          • CommanderBanana said:

            Couldn’t say, honestly. My experiences are rather limited to being perceived as a hetero woman (I’m queer, but don’t ‘read’ that way to most people because I’m femme-presenting) dating hetero men, so all of what I’ve experienced is filtered through a layer of sexism, usually topped off with a heapin’ helpin’ of entitlement and misogyny.

            I feel like the thought process usually goes something like this: I’m attracted to this woman –> I’m entitled to her time and attention –> Wait, she’s denying me her time and attention –> She must be wrong, it’s mine because I want it –> Let me hurl a bunch of reasons at her about why she’s wrong/she owes me her time because I bought her a beer –> Wait, she’s not giving me what I want –> RAGE RAGE INVECTIVE DUMB BITCH etc. etc.

            I mean, I actually had someone I had told I wasn’t interested in seeing again message me to tell me that I *couldn’t* refuse to see him again, because we had such a strong connection! Didn’t I feel it?! The connection that we had??? That existed because HE declared it existed? HOW COULD I DENY THE POWER OF A CONNECTION THAT I 100% DIDN’T FEEL?!?

            I would never try to argue someone into wanting to see me again, because I’m not entitled to anyone’s time or affection unless they choose to share it with me…but then, I don’t believe that 51% of the world’s population was created to cater to my needs and desires, soooo.

          • Also, there’s the whole…well, like this: Once, I had a big crush on a friend of a friend. I’d just worked up the courage to ask him out when our mutual friend said, “Don’t go straight out and ask him. [Crush] likes a chase. If it’s too easy, he’s not interested. Let him think he has to talk you into it.”

            That would have pretty much put paid to my crush, except it turned out that my friend was projecting his own preferences. But it’s definitely not uncommon, particularly in guys around the age I was then (early 20s).

          • MuddieMae said:

            Well, if they do that to everyone, they’ve only ever dated people they had to talk into dating them. Maybe they literally don’t think it could be different?

          • Nanani said:

            Nah, they don’t think you’re a person, you’re just filling the spot marked “girlfriend” and they’re negotiating your acceptance of the role.
            Steer clear, obvy.

      • omj said:

        I’ve never been in a situation where I could’ve given someone useful, actionable information in answer to this question. Like, I could get into the specifics of why I didn’t think I was compatible with them or didn’t have feelings for them, but then I’m just giving someone a lot of stuff to be self-conscious about that they probably shouldn’t even change. Being not right for *me* doesn’t mean they’re not right for *anyone,* so they’re really just better off meeting someone else.

      • neverjaunty said:

        That’s a question to ask of close friends and exes-who-are-now-friends, not people you had 0-2 dates with, though.

    • I don’t really date per se, but I will say the most annoying actor I’ve ever had to deal with was the one who emailed me after an audition, when I told him that I had more people to see and would get back to him in a few days, asking me for feedback. I decided to be nice to him, because he was clearly new to this process and didn’t know that straight-up demanding shit from a director who hasn’t even hired you is way not cool. I explained that actors have to be used to being rejected for reasons ranging from “the director wants someone taller” to “the director doesn’t think your style will work with her vision” to “the director instantly and instinctively felt, the second you walked into the room, that she wanted to throw you into an active volcano”. None of this is necessarily fair, and has absolutely jack to do with how good an actor you are, but theatre is art. There is no formula. We make decisions with our guts, based on what we think will have the best results.
      Oh man, I should NOT have gone there. I instantly got an email back, demanding to know what about him was incompatible with my vision, and I quickly blocked. 😛

    • Brooks said:

      Yup. I was going to say that, as a cis-male with occasional tendencies in the “nice guy” direction that I usually carefully squelch (because seriously, nobody ought to have to deal with that), maybe I could offer a few scripts that would help my “nice guy” side not feel insecure and hurt by the rejection, without opening the door to questions. But you’ve pretty much given all the scripts I was going to, better — the only thing I’d add would be a simple, “I’m just not feeling it.”

      To be clear, I strongly agree with the Captain’s point that there is no need to offer any reason whatsoever, and that is entirely fine!

      The only reason I’m offering this is that I’m seeing a bit of subtext that some people do worry about being rude or mean if they just cancel, and that worry makes it harder to say “Nope!” when they ought to — so, if you’re in that boat, maybe this will help get past the worry. From my “nice guy” ish perspective, any “Nope!” is entirely reasonable and okay, but I can confirm that those particular scripts would in fact help me shut down the “what did I do?” feelings, if you feel happier doing that along with the cancellation.

      And I hope that my saying so makes giving that sort of reason a little less terrifying for someone. 🙂

      (I also note that I do not speak for all of “nice-guy”dom, obviously!)

    • slythwolf said:

      And it’s not like a job interview, where my feedback is going to be useful with the next person (unless it’s, like, a personal hygiene thing, but I’m probably not going to give that kind of feedback unless we’re super close anyway). So really there’s no reason to even ask the question in the first place unless it’s coming from a mindset of either a) “tell me why not so I can argue you out of your decision” or b) “all [gender] have the same likes, dislikes, wants, and needs”.

      Neither of which is remotely okay.

  4. Perfect timing. Thank you. I just blocked someone today whose questions, though they fell within common getting-to-know-you scripts, felt just a *little* too focused on my appearance and how my traits made his pants feel. I wanted to say so directly that I felt uncomfortable but was frankly afraid to do so and not much in the mood for gaslighting, considerations which really say it all.

    • Sarah said:

      Honestly – I delete/block any guy I match with who says, “You’re really pretty,” before we meet in person. My looks are not the part of myself I am most excited about, so complimenting them gets you almost nowhere. Complimenting them when all we’ve said so far is, “Hi! What’s up?” leads me to believe those dudes think their dick has magic powers and is allowed a vote in my life, and I respectfully disagree.

  5. Andie said:

    The good v. bad reaction is so important.. I had a guy lose his shit on me because I told him I was not comfortable meeting at my home (I have kids, which was the main reason). It got stupid and a bit scary for a bit.. because he had all these FEEEEEEELINGS and because we had flirted by phone I should have been comfortable enough to let him into my home without actually having met previously.

    Ended up having to block the dude, stop answering calls, etc. etc.

    • RedCat said:

      That is scary! It’s amazing how many people interpret sensible and reasonable safety precautions as personal insults.

      • RSVP said:

        Usually it’s the sort of man who rants on online forums about “feminazis” and how they think “every man is a rapist”.

        • And the ones who say, “Well, if you’re alone with a guy and wearing a short skirt, what do you *think* will happen?”

      • I had a guy flake on two loose hang out in public places dates (I was going to be there anyway, so I wasn’t super upset) and then counter that he’d pick me up (presumably in his windowless white van) and take me somewhere for a drink, and I was like NOOOOO.

        He freaked out, said I was too suspicious and being mean and what about his feels…and then texted me despite receiving no response ever, every 4-6 weeks for almost 2 years. I finally wrote back “New number who dis” and he said “Oh sorry man” and stopped texting.

  6. I had to be told this by a friend, but when I started putting it into practice I felt so much better.

    You don’t owe these people! Just don’t go on the date if you don’t want to. 🙂

    • Courtney said:

      Yes! Date plans are not a contract.

      • gallantqueer said:

        LOL I read a blog post by a guy who actually wrote a contract in order to help his now wife comfortably go out on a date with him. His wife was raised in a church associated with the Christian patriarchy movement and was worried about what going on a date “meant.” Ironically the contract basically said “this is time for us to hang out together to see if we like oneanother. By agreeing to this date you aren’t agreeing to anything else.” Methinks this dude was smart.

  7. e271828 said:

    How much “personal stuff” is it customary to disclose before a first date? How much is appropriate? How personal is “personal”? (Totally asking for a good friend.)

    • JenniferP said:

      It varies wildly and I can’t answer that in a general way. My preference is “not that much” but sometimes you get to talking with someone and stuff comes out.

      • stellanor said:

        And sometimes you get to talking to someone and they turn out to be a feelingsbomber of epic proportions and the reason you no longer want to go on that date is that you prefer not to date people who disclose all their childhood traumas over OKCupid IM within 36 hours of learning your name.

        I preferred to keep it to “things I would disclose to a friendly barista” levels, e.g. what I do for a living, what state I grew up in, amusing anecdotes about my pet. But there are, out there, people who prefer to disclose why they are in therapy, the gnarly details of their relationships with their family, and the entirety of their dating history. And apparently I am a lot of those people’s type.

        • RedCat said:

          This happened to my friend. She doesn’t date and has now decided that relationships are not for her. A few years ago, before she made that decision, she started chatting with a guy who liked some of her photos on a popular social networking site. They chatted, flirted a little, decided to meet up at a bar and they ended up sleeping together. So far, so good.

          They scheduled a second date, and that’s when all the heavy stuff came out. He was depressed, in therapy, had just come out of a long relationship, had drug and alcohol problems due to the breakup, etc. My friend was *horrified*. She’s rather reserved and rarely discusses relationship, feelings or personal information, and has a real aversion to needy people. She’s also someone who gets over things very easily and and quickly moves on.

          I love her dearly, but she’s not someone I would talk to about romance, depression, breakups, etc. I’ve learned this from painful trial and error. She’s a great travel companion, someone to see a movie with, fantastic with pets, but *not* a shoulder to cry on.

          Needles to say, my friend quickly blocked the guy and they never spoke again.

        • jessalae said:

          Yep, I once went on a first date with someone I met online who not only talked only about themselves the entire time (I think I got about two comments in edgewise), half of their monologue was about their complicated relationship with their parents and stories about family drama and traumatic childhood experiences that Made Them The Way They Are Today and it was all WAY too much, way too soon. I did not continue to date them.

        • MuddieMae said:

          And this will always depend on what your personal definition of gnarly is. My parents split up before I was born and some people react to that like it’s a trauma, but it’s just totally normal to me. I know some people who lost parents or siblings at a very young age who have a similar experience – it’s lost it’s edge for them, but for strangers it feels like a horrible and vulnerable thing.

          • stellanor said:

            I’m more thinking gnarly to the speaker. Like, “oh my parents divorced, my mom lives in Miami now” is no big. But “My parents divorced and let me unpack my trauma about that for you right now” is a bit much for me in the early getting to know you phase.

          • MuddieMae said:

            Ah, yes, that makes sense.

          • stellanor said:

            Yeah I have a deceased sibling and I mention it when people ask if I have siblings because I hate erasing his existence. But it’s like, “I had a younger brother, he died a few years ago. So did you grow up in [current town]?”

            The circumstances surrounding his death were very gnarly (there was a homicide investigation, soooo…) but that’s something I’ve had a lot of time to process and get used to, and I’m a well-adjusted person anyway. But a lot of times that BLOWS PEOPLE’S MINDS and THEY want to unpack all my supposed trauma. And I’m like, no thanks, I’ve dealt with that over a period of years with my loved ones and trained professionals, so how about that local sports team, relative stranger?

          • Dizzy said:

            I usually have everything laid out up from, *but,* and this is the important thing, only things I’ve already worked through.

            Like, any man who wants to do the sex with me needs to know about the men who abused me since I’ve got a bunch of complicated problems around sex as a result. The thing is, I’ve done my therapy and made peace with everything, so I’m as healed as I’m ever going to be. So I’m in a position where I can say “Hey, one of my exes tried to kill me, and this is information that you probably should have going forward.” Men who shame me, or guilt me, or don’t believe me, or act weird about it? Congrats, they’ve selected themselves out of the pool of Butts I Will Touch! I win! This includes men who get awkward I-don’t-know-what-to-do-halp about it, because I present it the same way someone would present “And that’s why I moved away from [place].” It’s just a fact of my life, and someone who can’t deal with it doesn’t get to date me.

            I don’t talk about my current and unresolved problems. New Person isn’t a friend yet, so he doesn’t need or want to hear about “Here are the 5,000 ways I am a failure.” It doesn’t show me in a good light, and it’s too intimate for someone I hardly know. (In “Daring Greatly,” which I will recommend until the day I die, Brene Brown calls this kind of false intimacy the smash and grab. Essentially, instead of developing real intimacy, someone who smashes and grabs is trying to use inappropriate oversharing to get any attention and energy they can, because developing real intimacy is too scary.) That comes later, when we’re actually dating.

            That’s not something everyone is comfortable with, though, and that’s okay. If you’re not comfortable sharing that kind of personal information… don’t!

            (On the other side of the house, I once went on a date with a guy who was so crippled by anxiety that just finding out where he went to college was like pulling teeth. It was awful. If you can’t share ANY information, I think maybe it is not dating time just yet. That’s okay too.)

          • SM said:

            @MuddieMae and @Dizzy – this is so true. My best relationship to this date started after a first date where I talked about my family’s history of alcoholism and my attitude towards it… And afterwards I thought, omg this guy is going to run for the hills after that overshare. But he luckily responded to it the way I meant it – as just sort of a general, philosophical discussion of how we learn can learn healthy habits and attitudes for people who are unhealthy, or were unhealthy and came through the other side.

            It’s not something that’s raw or traumatic for me – the alcoholics closest to me have been in recovery for 15-20 years – so his casual response ended up being an indicator that we’d be a good match.

    • My preference when I was online dating was to find a person online or be found, exchange 2-3 messages each to establish mutual interest, make a date, and then shut up and not talk to them until the date except for one (1) confirmation message the day of.

      • e271828 said:

        Thanks!

      • MuddieMae said:

        Yaaaassss. Unless you plan on conducting the entire relationship online, don’t get too invested until you meet in person.

      • Jane said:

        This is a thing that makes me a little batty — I really dislike texting with people I DON’T KNOW. Having a real-life conversation with someone I don’t know is really not so bad. But it seems like people don’t believe in my interest in seeing them unless I’m willing to commit to a few hours of texting beforehand. -_-

        (This is not really relevant now, because I am On Break Until Further Notice with the whole idea of dating.)

        • stellanor said:

          It’s so hard to get a bead on what people are like via text when you don’t know them already, at least for me. My SO is a boring-ass texter and comes off like he doesn’t care about anything, but he’s NOTHING like that in real life. It just doesn’t come across in text. So if we’d texted a lot before we met it probably wouldn’t have gone ahead. Which would have been a shame because we’ve been together a looooong time and I am quite fond of him.

        • I had a guy once superflounce on me because he wanted my number and I said “just send me a message via the app”, assuming he wanted to text. No, he wanted to CALL ME. Insert horror-stricken face here, since I hate talking on the phone as a rule.

          He got super mad, said I was being “secretive” and he wasn’t interested after all. I was like “Yay!” and blocked him.

          • Jane said:

            There are like FOUR PEOPLE who I am okay talking on the phone with. It does NOT reflect anything about how I feel about a person if I am 100% unwilling to talk to on the phone with them.

            The other thing is that all of my friends and family know that I don’t pick up calls — I will notice the phone number and call back, but unless you’ve texted me beforehand to okay a call, I am not going to respond until I am ready. This is not something I want to justify to a new person very much at all.

          • aebhel said:

            Yeah, the only person I don’t dread calling is my dad–which is funny because we’re not particularly close otherwise, but he’s very much of the ‘what do you need? okay. okay, bye’ school of phone conversations, which is nice for my ANXIETY OF INTERACTING WITH HUMANS.

            If some dude I didn’t even know wanted to call me and chat I would also nope right out of there.

          • Redgirl said:

            My husband, the man I’ve lived with for 2 decades and who fathered my child, apologizes every time he absolutely has to call me, because he knows how much I hate the phone. If some potential date I’d just met online wanted to call me I’d offer him a relaxing swim with the nopetopus.

    • SM said:

      I’m big on getting to the actual in-person meeting as soon as possible. I don’t want to get into long emotional discussions about my past… heck, I only give my first name, & don’t usually give out my cell until we have a date set, so they can call/text if they’re late or need to cancel. The point of online dating, for me, is just to meet people I might want to date, not to actually do any real dating online.

      So my approach is surface-level until you actually meet in person (I’ll say I work in ___ field, but not the company. I have a younger brother, but I’m not telling you his name, hopes & fears, etc).

      Not sure if that answers your questions… but it’s worked out well for me.

      • SM said:

        Oh and just to clarify – surface level in case there’s a big deal-breaker to address that’s better headed off at the pass (“you mention the Bible – is it important that you date a Christian?”)

        • LW700 said:

          Right, I tell everyone I’m bi because there’s no point wasting my time on a date with someone who doesn’t want to date bisexuals.

          • strophoria said:

            Yeah, mentioning my bisexuality is a good way to weed out biphobic juice boxes too. Its a great filter. I wouldn’t consider it intimate information though

        • Light37 said:

          Yah, I want to know if someone is looking for kids/devoutly religious/doesn’t like dogs off the bat, because otherwise we’re wasting each other’s time.

      • e271828 said:

        Thanks! That’s how I thought it should work, but many people seem to want to get into long text, email, or even phone conversations, which seems like a waste of time if it’s possible to meet in person.

        • TootsNYC said:

          Then maybe just say (via whatever medium), “I’d like to save the conversation for if we meet in person.” Flat-out say it. Feel free to repeat.

          If they take it to Time 4, then say, “you know, you’re too intense here–I haven’t even met you. So, never mind. I’m sure there’s some other girl on the site who’ll be interesting to you.”
          Or, you know, just stop talking to them, and block them.

        • alter_ego said:

          I know some people are more comfortable with a long communication before meeting in person, but I haaaaaaaaate it. So much about chemistry can only be determined in person, and I’d rather not have formed a strong attachment to a personality that doesn’t actually exist in person (because text gives so much more opportunity for editing and prevarication).

          • TO_Ont said:

            Yeah, it’s one thing texting with someone you already know, whose voice, mannerisms, and likely tone of voice or raised eyebrow or whatever you can read into the text… But texting with a stranger is a little more like reading a novel. Your mind fills in the blanks, using your imagination. And then when you meet the real person, no matter how pleasant or attractive they are, it’s usually jarring because they’re NOT the person your mind filled in.

            I am happy with exchanging a few messages over a couple of days, maybe. You can get a little taste of someone’s sense of humour, or find out one or two things about them that might give you something to talk about when you meet. And you do learn something about them by how they present themselves in writing. But it’s very minimal. Past a certain threshold of ‘yes, they seem polite and rational and pleasant’ there’s only so much to be gained by writing before you meet at least once.

        • SM said:

          It turns out you’re right 🙂 So often these people who like long conversations are just metaphorically kicking the tires, and I learned the hard way they rarely turn into in-person dates (or if they do, don’t live up to the online intensity).

          • It worked for me. I never had the confidence to meet someone in person until I felt I’d got to know them a bit. I learned quite quickly that there’s an important part of a person, a certain je ne sais quoi, that you can’t see until you meet them in person, so I prepared myself to not feel any chemistry and just have fun. I’ve got a few good friends who started out as online dates after having got to know each other a bit via email. Others I dated for some time. One I married and have now been with for 6 years – we emailed back and forth for about a month before we actually met and that suited us both because we were very busy.

            Turns out there’s no right or wrong way to do it, I guess. As long as you’re on the same page. I’ve done it this way with everyone so I didn’t realise that wasn’t normal.

          • I’ve had it go the other way. I’m one that prefers the long conversations online before meeting up. When someone is pushing for a date right away it makes me feel uncomfortable. I think it really all comes down to personal preference

          • Throw me in the pile of folks who prefer a longer online communication before meeting in person.

            And it really does come down to preference, in a lot of ways. I can be cripplyingly shy in person, and, yeah, the keyboard means that there is this comfortable space between us. And I’ve known people who wouldn’t move out from that comforting space, and that’s not great either.

            But there’s rarely any one-size-fits-all advice that actually fits all sizes. You have to do what’s right for you, not what’s right for the average or for most or for somebody else.

          • SM said:

            Thanks to everyone who pointed out that it’s not one-size fits all – my bad. I guess it’s what’s been right for me.

          • monologue said:

            this has been my experience too. I have no problem with messaging a bit to get to know each other, but it’s annoying when you’ve had a few conversations with someone and finally set up a date and then they flake like 3x and you never meet. I have trouble keeping track of more than 2 or 3 people at once, so the conversation space that person who didn’t really want to meet was filling could have been going towards someone else. It’s fine if that person didn’t want to meet me, but I’d rather try to schedule the in person meeting a little sooner to find that out before I waste like a month of texting people I don’t know energy on them.

        • Mel Reams said:

          I tend a bit more toward the long email discussions side, which is largely because I dread actually meeting someone in person and then discovering that we have absolutely nothing to talk about. I don’t like to get super personal, though. Generally I’ll discuss stuff like an interesting blog post I read lately or a new movie, not my deepest hopes and fears or anything.

          My guess is this is just a difference in our respective thresholds of willingness to put on pants and leave the house to meet somebody. I will freely admit that I’m lazy and anti-social and need a pretty compelling reason to actually leave my house 🙂

          • RiverSongTam said:

            It does seem like a personal preference thing. I prefer some communication online before setting a date, just to establish the fact that we do have something to talk about, and some bad, very bad, not at all good, experience taught me that a phone call is a MUST before committing to a date. Several caveats: a) I prefer the phone call to last 5-10 min. tops. That’s enough for me to get a gist, but sometimes the conversation just flows and we’re both enjoying it. Other times dude just won’t shut up and I find myself waiting for him to take a breath so that I can say the talk is over. b) I personally found phone calls a great time saver. A call is almost always shorter than an actual date, it does not require any prep, other than a quiet place to talk, and it gives me a much better idea of the person than online communication, be it as long as it may. I have saved myself so many MANY bad dates by screening after the call! Plus, it’s much easier to reject by phone than face to face. That said, I do hate too much buildup before a date. Ideally we’d exchange some online messages (like fewer than 10), talk shortly on the phone and set up a date, all in the space of a week or so, as soon as both our schedules allow. Long online missives seldom lead to anything with me… but maybe it’s because I just not have the patience for it. In short, it boils down to a matter of taste 🙂

          • Esti said:

            That’s funny to me, because I prefer very little email/text discussion before dates for exactly the same reason: I want to make sure we have something to talk about in person! I’m generally good to get through an hour or two of conversation with pretty much anyone, but if we’ve used up all of the easy topics before we meet in person then it can get a lot more difficult to keep a conversation going long enough to finish my drink and get out of there.

          • Ha, wow, I have pretty much the exact opposite approach. I like to feel I know someone a *bit* before meeting (I’ve weeded out a lot of potential creepers that way; I found I had 10+ guys messaging me at once) and if we then find we’ve exhausted all our conversation, well, then I feel we’re not compatible anyway, if we can just run out of conversation like that. With the best ones (for me), I’ve found, conversation breeds conversation; discussion leads to further discussion.

            I’m finding it really fascinating reading about all the different approaches people have.

          • TO_Ont said:

            I had a guy want to talk to me on the phone before meeting once, and it almost made me bail on the whole thing. It’s awkward enough talking on the phone with close friends! I always kind of figured phones are a bit like fax machines — an odd in-between technology that will eventually go extinct as better ones come along and make them redundant. I.e., there is meeting in person, and there is email and text. So with both those options, now we no longer really need phones ;). They are the worst of all communications options, somehow simultaneously weirdly intimate yet also alienating. Hearing someone’s voice without seeing being able to see their face is just all wrong.

          • I’m 100% with you on hating phones, but I reckon people who can’t read or are partially sighted or can’t get out of the house and plain love talking might be pretty horrified to read that!

          • Mel Reams said:

            @TO_Ont I so hear you on phones. If you’re relaying information, text (email or texting, I don’t care which) is massively superior to trying to decipher someone’s rushed mumbling in my voicemail. If I could find a non-hostile way to phrase it, I would change my voicemail message to a nicer version of “It’s 2016. Send me an email like a civilized human being.” If you want the intimacy of hearing someone’s voice, I’m with you, that’s what meeting in person is for.

            And for the reasons so many people have mentioned already, I hate giving out my phone number. I haven’t been harassed by phone so far, but I’m always painfully aware it’s a possibility.

          • Jane said:

            Oh yeah — I dread talking on the phone mostly for social anxiety reasons, but I also have a couple friends whose voices I find incredibly difficult to decipher on the phone (mostly they speak softly and quickly.) It’s just frustrating to spend a lot of time going WHAT, WHAT, WHAT DID YOU SAY, ARRRRGH.

          • I am SO picky, and SO turned off by random stuff at that stage that I discovered that long email/text chats were more likely to make me nope right the hell out of a date than make me feel more comfortable meeting someone. So I stopped allowing long chats in the interest of actually meeting people.

      • Queen of Scarves said:

        That’s pretty much my approach too. The online part is about finding someone I think I might be interested in, but I won’t know for sure if I’m interested until I meet them in person (sometimes more than once). And I’m not going to give too many details about myself before we meet. Similar to what SM outlined. Also some of them want to know where I live. I’m in a large city (commute times of 1 to 2 hours) so it sort of makes sense but I never disclose any more than the general area. I try to avoid saying the specific neighbourhood.

  8. Don’t fall for the trap of “but why not?” If you give them a reason, they will try to argue their way back into your life. Just repeat “I’m no longer interested.” “I changed my mind.”

    That’s all they need to know. They don’t need any more information than that.

    Protecting yourself from creepy people is much more important than their feelings. If they can’t handle it, that’s on them.

    I have never regretted canceling a date. And how the person reacts to that very often confirms that I made the correct decision. I don’t want to waste my time on someone who starts name calling as soon as they don’t get their way or who tries to manipulate me into changing my mind.

    • SM said:

      My friend fell into a weird relationship with a guy who kept convincing her to give him a second chance (even though they turned into third/fourth/fifth chances). And she gave in because he wasn’t a bad guy, she just wasn’t sure she wanted to continue dating him. But he played off of that (“I think we get along/have things in common”) and she ended up in a relationship with a guy she was never excited about. She almost dreaded each date.

      And at some point she finally realized, why date a guy who has to *convince* you to stick with it every time? If you need to be convinced, your heart isn’t in it and it’s time to let go for both your sakes.

      The mystery for me was why the guy wanted to keep dating a woman he had to argue with just to keep her with him. Why not date someone who actually wants to date you?

      • Cleo said:

      • aebhel said:

        I had a weird version of that with my ex–he would break up with me in the middle of a Dramatic!! Fight!!! and one or the other of us would storm out. And then when I came back to get my stuff, he would start apologizing and acting like we were still a couple. This happened like six times. I finally moved out, eventually asked him why the hell he’d kept doing that, and he said ‘well, you’d always get so upset, I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, so I took you back.’ 😡

        We don’t talk anymore.

    • Same. When I get a bad feeling and turn down a date, their reaction ALWAYS vindicates my decision.

    • Hostapasta said:

      I used to have a semi-boyfriend who would text me out of the blue if he got hurt:

      Him: Ow!

      Me: ???

      Him: I hit my knee on my desk!

      Me: Oh, no! You should get some ice!

      At first it seemed kind of quirky and cute. Then it seemed childish. Then it annoyed the hell out of me. It wasn’t popped in the middle if an ongoing conversation as an explanation for a pause, it was a ploy for sympathy and attention. ‘Ow’ is a noise you make spontaneously, not something you take the time to type out when you’re looking for a response.

      And I think ‘but whyyyyyy?’ is the same thing. It’s the noise you make at your computer chair when the Internet has disappointed you. If you take the time to type it out, you’ve gone from a spontaneous expression of disappointment to a request for attention and sympathy from someone who’s just told you that they’re not interested in giving you that. I politely ignore it, or maybe, possibly, if they have already impressed me as someone of decency, give them ONE restatement of ‘Because I am no longer interested, wish you the best’ before I block them.

      • Ask Cara said:

        That would annoy me too. lol Was he a “momma’s boy?”

        • Hosta said:

          No, he was a boy in search of a momma.

          The best part about being older is realizing I am just too damn cranky for this shit.

        • This phrase used as a pejorative really bothers me for some reason, and I’m trying to figure out why. I think it’s partially because it’s so gendered. It seems to put the onus for men growing up to be functioning, emotionally mature adults disproportionately onto their mothers, and maybe that’s part of it. Regardless, thank you for the food for thought.

          • storyranger said:

            I think for me it’s also because there’s a double standard for boy children and girl children. A boy who listens to his mother too much and depends on her for things is a “momma’s boy”, but a girl who solves her own problems and selectively takes her mother’s advice is usually at best “independent” (not always meant as a compliment) and at worst “an ungrateful b*tch”.

          • I think it’s because it suggests that it’s emasculating for a man to have a close relationship with his mother, because REAL MEN don’t need a mere woman to help them, even when they are in fact little boys and the woman is their freaking mother. Note also how “daddy’s girl” isn’t used as an insult.

          • Must be a cultural thing, whinge, because “daddy’s girl” is absolutely used as an insult where I live. The main difference to me is that the insult is primarily aimed at the woman in both cases; a daddy’s girl is at fault for being a spoilt little princess, but a momma’s boy, while a pathetic specimen, is really the victim of an overbearing mother.

          • Yeah, that double standard is a lot of it. Daddy’s girl==daughter is helpless whiner, mama’s boy==mother is domineering harridan. Basically, regardless of your position in a family, if you’re female you’re doing it wrong.

          • johann7 said:

            “Momma’s boy” as a pejoritive comes from the insidious, sexist psychological hypothesis of Momism, which pretty much tried to blame all of the problems in the country on men who were prevented from being REAL men by suffocating mothers in the 1940s or 50s (I don’t remember exactly when, and my phone doesn’t handle multiple tabs well). It’s some sexist bullshit, and people should ditch it. Men having close relationships with their mothers is not in itself a bad thing, and men who have problematic relationships woth their mothers have problems not due to the closeness of the relationship but because of abusive dynamics.

        • Chessie said:

          Can we please stop shaming guys who are close to their mothers? It’s gross.

          • owenmontbrun said:

            Maybe it is a regional or generational thing, but I don’t hear “momma’s boy” as “overbearing mother” or even as someone who has a close relationship with their mother. I hear it as “unhealthily dependent manchild who wants a woman to be at his beck and call. It fits right in with all the conversations lately about men expecting women (mothers or lovers) to do all the emotional heavy lifting.

            For something we all rely on, language sure is an imprecise medium!

      • RiverSongTam said:

        Excellent analogy! Thank you!

    • Palliser said:

      You are 100% correct. Recently I had a terrible experience with a guy I hooked up with perhaps a year ago. Despite my saying many times that I was unsure if I wanted to see him again (for a multitude of reasons), he wouldn’t quite let go. Recently he had been pressing me to see him and I finally gave him a firm no. He promptly began to harangue me for ‘leading him on’, called me names and told me I deserved it because I had wasted so much of his time.

      I had sensed that doing a slow fade would be the least traumatic for me but I felt I owed him an outright statement of disinterest. My only regret is that I did not block his number without explanation as he acted like the cliche of entitled masculinity. Instincts about people rarely fail, and this guy had been showing little red flags of manipulation for a while.

    • TootsNYC said:

      I’m a mom. Maybe I suggest you use the same tactic lots of us moms use when our toddlers ask, “But why? But why can’t I have a cookie? But why do I have to go to bed now?”

      “Because I said so.”

      Oh, and this: “Protecting yourself from creepy people is much more important than their feelings. If they can’t handle it, that’s on them.”

      I live in NYC, and when I have people visit from out of town, this is one of the subway-safety things I coach them on.

      “Your PERCEPTION, even, of your safety is way more important than anybody else’s feelings. If someone on the subway creeps you out, even the tiniest, move away from them. If someone’s approaching the building while you’re getting your key out, step away from the door and let them figure out how to get it. If they approach while you’re opening the door, shut it in their faces and say, ‘You’ll have to get yourself in.’
      “Don’t worry if they think you’re rude. It doesn’t matter. You’ll never see them again.
      “And hey– If they’re a reasonable NYer, they’ll think, ‘Oh, right, she doesn’t know me, I just buzz my friend/get out my key.’ ”

      “It doesn’t matter whether you are ACTUALLY unsafe. It only matters whether you THINK you are unsafe. If you think it, act as though it’s true. Because you deserve to feel comfortable in the subway/this city, and you can just move away from them.”

      • espritdecorps said:

        I love this!

      • SassQueen said:

        I am so glad that I am not the Last Mother on Earth who still uses that phrase. I count each day in which at least one of my children doesn’t yell at me for being mean as a day wasted.

  9. Lisa said:

    We only owe civility. A text saying thanks but no thanks more than meets that.

    • Ask Cara said:

      Absolutely agree.

  10. Handled_that said:

    I canceled a date not because I didn’t want to meet them because they did something annoying but because I was feeling low on spoons and I couldn’t spare the spoons to meet a new person at a place at a time and also get my laundry done, keep my apartment manageable and get groceries, etc. My reason was that I did not have the energy. I didn’t want to meet them ENOUGH to spend those spoons. I then disabled my OkCupid account and am now on a break from the site. I still feel a bit guilty about it but I think I did the right thing. I am here to say that’s okay too.

    • SM said:

      Are you OK with a random internet person absolving you of that guilt? You probably didn’t have the energy to be a great date anyway, so you could think about it as sparing the other person a low-energy, less-than-committed first date.

      I had a guy show up to a first date who kept stepping away – it turned out, he was stepping out/to the bathroom for coughing fits. It was all a little weird, and lo and behold, I got a text from him after saying it turned out he had a fever, & he was sorry to show up sick… he just didn’t want to cancel the date last minute. He almost gave me the flu because he felt guilty/nervous about cancelling!

      So imho it’s better to be someone you’d actually want to date yourself – take care of yourself and your spoons – than force yourself to uphold tenuous online commitments.

    • Penny said:

      Heck yeah! Preach it! I use OkC sporadically. It’s nice, sometimes to meet other people. I like it. Other times I just want to hang out with my cat after work. I’m at a point in my life where I’m even debating whether or not I want to EVER be in a relationship. I tend to find them tedious, not fulfilling. (Which may mean that I haven’t found ~The One~ yet, but I honestly DGAF.)

    • Anonymous said:

      Yep, I just did that exact same thing, Handled.

    • SM said:

      I vote let go of the guilt 🙂 I had a guy show up to a first date with the flu because he was afraid to cancel at the last minute/felt guilty. It was just so misplaced – why did he not feel guilt over spreading his flu germs??
      If you don’t have the spoons/energy to be a great date anyway, then you can see cancelling as a favor to the other person.

      • KellyK said:

        That’s a good way to look at it.

    • MuddieMae said:

      I think the “disable” feature is one of the best parts of OKC. When I was using the site I used to pause my account on the regular, when I was sick, when I was super busy at work, when I was dating a few people and didn’t have any more room on my dance card, when I was moving… feel no guilt at all!

  11. Mousey said:

    I canceled on a second date a while back, due to some little things here and there that signaled to me that he wasn’t respecting boundaries. The person in question reacted… poorly. In fact, everything he did in response perfectly confirmed all of my reasons for canceling in the first place.

    The thing is – it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re overreacting when someone does something small that sketches you out, but if someone is willing to ignore small boundaries, they’re certainly more likely to ignore the big ones. It’s ok to listen to your gut. Sometimes it’s actually *essential* to listen to your gut.

    And honestly? Even if the reason you want to cancel has nothing to do with anything WRONG the other person did… if it’s just you’re not feeling it… THAT’S OK TOO. You’re allowed to cancel for any reason at all, including, “I just don’t want to.”

    • stellanor said:

      I actually feel slightly vindicated when someone has a horrible reaction to me giving myself some space. It’s like they’ve chosen to prove to me that I made the right decision.

  12. Jackalope said:

    I have been fortunate in that all of the people that I’ve gone out with a time or two and then had to cancel on were all fine with it, and said things along the lines of, “Good luck!” or “I wish you the best then!” I will say, having been on the other side validates my feelings even more. I had one date that I REALLY liked, but he did a quick fizzle after the date (although he never said anything specific). I kept emailing him as long as he seemed interested and writing back, but when he stopped I let it go. I never talked to him about it, I had a sad talk with my cats and then with my sister and then moved on. (Okay, a couple sad talks with my sister.) THAT’S a better way of dealing with it; figuring it out with someone I’m already close to (esp. the cats, who don’t care as long as I’m petting them at the same time), not trying to force someone I barely know to tell me what’s going on. So since then I’ve felt even less discomfort at just saying, “No thanks!” and moving on.

  13. TO_Ont said:

    Another way of looking at it: It usually takes effort to go to a meeting. It means I am probably travelling to another part of time, probably skipping some other activity I enjoy, or skipping the chance to have a free afternoon to read at home. And I always know that it takes a lot of first meetings before you meet someone you want a second meeting with, so I’m willing to do it, but it’s a hassle I’m putting myself through because there’s some chance, however small, that we will really hit it off.

    If I found out someone already knew _before_ we even met that they didn’t want to meet, and didn’t say anything? But let me drag myself out to skip my fun class/quiet evening/go halfway across town/etc?

    I’d find that kind of annoying! Maybe even kind of rude… I mean I could forgive it, and understand that it might be due to anxiety and not intentionally inconsiderate, and I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad who’s done that, but it absolutely really would be easier for me in that scenario if they just sent a quick text saying there’s a change of plan.

    Not knowing if you like someone but wanting to meet in person to see is one thing – it’s pretty much the point, and that’s what I signed up for. But I don’t think anyone’s doing me a favour if they know they don’t like me yet agree to meet anyway.

    • Manattee said:

      Yes! I didn’t want to say this as a script for cancelling because I think the idea that ‘I changed my mind, thanks’ is enough is hella important, but in case it helps people quell their inner anxieties about cancelling, I totally agree you are doing them a favour by not wasting their time/money/energy.

    • TO_Ont said:

      I meant travelling to another part of town. Though also time, I guess ;).

      • I wondered what you meant by that. A date with the Doctor would be beyond awesome though…

        • owenmontbrun said:

          Depends on which Doctor. You couldn’t pay me to hang out with Third, Sixth, or Eleventh. 😉

  14. Gallantqueer said:

    Two things…
    – In general letting some one know as soon as is safe that you want to not be romanticly involved with them is the polite and caring thing to do. You’re respecting their agency. You’re giving them information that’s going to be relevant to their lives in a timely, non emotionally involved way so they can decide what to do given how things are.

    One of the first times I was rejected romanticly/sexually the dude who did so was a total mensch about it. He sat with me in the college dining hall a couple days after me sleeping over and basically said “I don’t want to do that again because my feelings have changed.” I cut my meal short and ran to a friend for comfort. It sucked a bit but even at the time I was thankful bc that dude saved me precious time and energy.

    -I’ve actually been given reasons some of the times I was rejected w/o asking that were helpful, but all of them basically boiled down to “we aren’t a good fit.” It was helpful bc I learned things about relationships.

    Then there was the dude that when I asked if he wanted to have sex again told me that the sex we had had wasn’t good enough to justify the energy of having sex with me again so no. Just saying no would’ve been a way kinder answer. 😉

  15. MuddieMae said:

    If you’re feeling at all anxious about their response or lack of response or begging or questions or whatever, just block them preemptively, seconds after you send your message. The way most of these services work, in my experience, you won’t see them in your message list or matches list or anything to give you that swooping anxiety feeling. You won’t worry what they said when you get a new message notification. They’ll just disappear into the ether.

  16. RSVP said:

    It’s kind of sad that girls are still being brought up to think that they are responsible for the feelings of men that they don’t want to have a connection with. Waaay back in the late 70s I read a self defence book in which the author told of meeting women who said, of not wanting to having sex with someone they’d recently met: “The only reason I have is that I don’t want to and that doesn’t seem like reason enough.” The author had to convince them that that was the best possible reason and they didn’t have to justify it.

    • Jenna said:

      Women in our society still hear a lot of, “why don’t you give him a chance?” and/or “you’re being too picky!”
      Plus, we are often expected to do the emotional heavy lifting and processing. Sometimes pushing back against all that takes a huge amount of cultural awareness and energy.

  17. Polychrome said:

    Back in the day when I was young, cute, and far too polite, I said yes to a coffee date I didn’t want and then when I clearly must have had a “bailing! bailing! bailing!” look on my face when I ran into the dude in question shortly before it he told me all about all the bad things that had happened to him in the immediately preceding days / hours so that I had “better” not be cancelling on him on top of it all. So I went and during the awkward horrible coffee-imbibing he regaled me with a tale of a former girlfriend of his who, according to him, closely resembled the lovely Jaye Davidson of _The Crying Game_ (yeah, this was many moons ago). He then said (you have to imagine this in the creepiest Englishman accent possible):

    “you can be sure I inspected her VERY CAREFULLY when we got home from the movie”

    my flesh crawled so hard that I am surprised that I didn’t shed it like a snake right there on the coffeeshop floor.

    On the up side: this phrase now, in all its full sceptr’d isle glory, now occasionally spontaneously pops into my head and gives me a brief shivery moment of horrified giggles. So maybe that’s one vote in favour of going on and surviving uncomfortable dates? Basically, though, I think the Captain’s advice is wiser.

    • I’m having horrified giggles just reading this. I have also had a date where my skin felt like the bravest part of me because it was actively trying to leave. A great story a few years later, but at the time, aaarrrrrgghhh!

      • Bunie said:

        “my skin felt like the bravest part of me because it was actively trying to leave”

        Tea, tea right out my nose, it buuuuurns!

        • Polychrome said:

          *always* listen to your skin 🙂

  18. Alianne said:

    One date, over a decade ago was with a gentleman several years older than me that I’d met taking a ballroom dancing class. Despite my nagging feeling that this guy wasn’t my type (the guy could dance, but he was kind of a cipher otherwise), I decided to give it a go. After all, I had to meet people *somehow*. We walked into the restaurant, sat down, he leaned in confidingly, took my hand, and said “This is my first date since my bitch of an ex-wife finally decided she’d ruined enough of me.”

    Annnnnnnd it all went downhill from there. Long discussion of evil ex. Long *pointed* discussion of how much he longed for children. Suggesting that we drive through a local subdivision and point out houses we liked. I stuck it out bravely, but round about the time we went dancing and he left me in a room full of strangers to take the aforementioned ex-wife’s call, I knew there was not going to be a second date. And I kept saying “no” when he called, and when he emailed, and when he tried to dance me into a dark corner during the final class and make his case, because he thought we’d really clicked!

    Courtesy is not worth being forced into spending time with someone you don’t want to spend time with. If spending the night at home with Season 1 of Outlander and a tub of ice cream sounds more fun than going out with somebody you’ve texted a few times, it probably will be. Trust your instincts.

    • Fishmongers' daughters said:

      Oh God, house hunting on a first date?!?! Shoulders. Ears. Not supposed to meet in this unnatural manner.

  19. zaracat said:

    ooh yeah, I’ve never regretted the time I cancelled a date after my first ever internet-search-before-a-date and did not reply to the subsequent text messages. I’m a pretty vanilla sex kind of girl, and finding out that the guy with a serious interest in martial arts who’d already told me that having a broken leg doesn’t really hurt also ran an online bondage equipment shop was a bit scary, but not as much as discovering the internet warnings about his previous financial dealings – apparently his failed mortgage brokerage and subsequent bankruptcy had only affected other people, allowing him to maintain a house in an expensive beachside suburb and a collection of artworks by a famous and slightly pornographic artist.

  20. Lulu said:

    I really needed this thread tonight 😛 I just turned someone down from an online site and his response was

    ‘ 32 and lives with roommates…not sure why I expected much. Lame personality, disrespectful and rude.’

    Of course me living with roommates was fine before I rejected him, as was my personality.

    • Uses ableist language to insult your ENTIRE personality and in the same breath calls YOU disrespectful and rude? Wow, what a catch. You must really regret turning that one down.

  21. Lulu said:

    I know! I’m still seething a little at the insults he threw. But he really did prove why I shouldn’t go out with him with his response.

    Deep breaths……deep breaths

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