We’ve all been there. You go on a few dates with a new person, you’re swaying back and forth between, “Eh,” and “Well, maybe,” before finally landing permanently on “I’d rather stay in and cut my toenails then have to go out with you again.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, toes need love, too. But when you’re that early in, what is the best way to bow out gracefully? A full-fledged break-up isn’t required but - if he’s a good guy, he deserves some explanation, doesn’t he? Or is it better to just disappear, never to be heard from again, another girl in a long string of abductions in a case that will never be solved. Believe me, by this age, I’ve done it all.
And I break it all down for you here…
5. THE VANISHING ACT – Never Calling Back
My junior year in college, I met a guy at a Halloween party at a house party in LA. He was a writer (well, an assistant trying to be a writer.) I’d never dated another writer before and I was excited about it. I shouldn’t have been. He was interesting but um, intense. He didn’t blink half as much as he should have. He told me that meeting me was like the Heather Graham moment in SWINGERS, when Jon Favreau is ready to give up on women and she walks in and he knows everything’s changed forever. Which is a terrific compliment but we were five minutes into our first date. I felt like he was going to eat me. We went out a few times, with the final one ending in us making out at his apartment. Ultimately, though, he was just too much too soon for me… or maybe too much at any point for me. I decided to do the ol’ fade-out routine and not return his phone calls. He left a couple voicemails but quickly got the picture and I figured that was it…
A month later, I check my dorm mailbox. There was a letter with no return address. I never received mail so I was mystified. I opened it and inside there was a blank index card. Glued to it was a small bow. I stared for a full minute in bewilderment, wondering, “Is it Breast Cancer Awareness Month?” before I finally placed it… it had fallen off my underwear at his place. And he mailed it to me.
WTF on so many levels. How did he even know my dorm address, for one? I didn’t even know my dorm address. And not just the building address, but my actual room? That took some serious fucking recon. Holy shit — was he watching me right now??
A year later, my friend went to that same Halloween house party and saw him again. She said that he cornered her and ranted, “Would you ever just not call a guy back?!! That is so rude! I just can’t imagine being that rude!!” She was like, “Um, can I please get some more jungle punch now?”
Okay, so apparently disappearing without an explanation is not the best route to take. In fact, I have enough other ridiculous stories along these same lines to prove this is probably the worst way to handle. But in the interest of time, we’ll move on.
4. FACE TO FACE – “I don’t think we’re right for each other.”
A few years ago, I met a guy at the gym. I know, it’s never a good idea to date someone that you’re going to have see all the time in case it doesn’t work out. And chances are, it won’t work out. But he was so cute. He also turned out to be so dull. To the point that I wanted to pluck out my own eyeballs and juggle them to amuse myself. On our third date, he took me to a mini-golf family entertainment center. An extremely fun idea, right? But did we do the batting cages? Or race in the go carts? Or play putt-putt? No. He exchanged five dollars into tokens and spent the entire date having me watch him play arcade games.
When he drove me home, he started to get out of the car, thinking he was going to come up. There was no way in fucking hell. With my fingers gripping the the escape latch and his foot dangling halfway out of the car, I hurriedly told him that I wasn’t feeling it. He was confused, “What are you saying?” I tried to be more clear, “I don’t think we’re the right match.” He was completely caught off guard, “So, you don’t want me to come up?” I refrained from saying, “ever,” and as nicely as I could, fumbled my way through a few more apologetically rejecting sentences before pushing my door open and making a run for my apartment.
I, of course, kept seeing him at the gym every week after this and tried my best to avoid eye contact… but in the end, I thought I’d done the right thing. I’d told him to his face. Isn’t that the considerate thing to do? Apparently not. A couple months later, he approached my girl friend who I exercised with and said how rude I’d been. “Who just breaks up with a guy like that – to his face?”
Seriously?? I learned in that moment, there’s no good way to “peace out” peacefully. The only NO a date wants to hear is YES.
3. EXCUSES, EXCUSES – “I’m not ready to be in a relationship right now.”
Earlier this year, I’d finally broken the cycle with my on-again, off-again ex and I went on my first date with someone new – Jeremy. Well, he wasn’t exactly new.
I’d met Jeremy once in the summer of 2002. I was just getting out of a serious relationship at that time too and was in the middle of a dating rampage. Jeremy was only in town for a wedding and we squeezed in a couple dates before he headed home to Philadelphia… or wherever he was from. He emailed me a couple times while I was in college but I didn’t really see the point in keeping in contact. Apparently, I was too busy going out with guys who mailed me bits of my underwear.
Eight years later, a marriage, two kids and a divorce later, he Facebooks me with the message, “Remember me?” The name rang a bell but I couldn’t place it. His profile was private and didn’t include a picture. I forgot to respond. So, he sends me another email a week later. This time he includes a picture of us from our date with the message, “Maybe this will jog your memory?” I recognized the photo immediately; I remember emailing it to him with my old college scanner. I was mortified, by the way, to see that I wore a mid-riff showing top and jean jacket on our date. Kelly Kapowski – a decade late.
I immediately messaged back an excited hello. Apparently, he’d recently moved to LA for his job and was looking for new friends. We went out a couple times but everything he said just reminded me how much I missed my ex-boyfriend. He talked about how he’d really like to go camping sometime or do international travel. I thought sadly about how my ex DOES go camping and does do international travel, he doesn’t just talk about it.
Whatever chemistry Jeremy and I had in 2002 was gone now. When he called to ask me out again, I told him that I realized I wasn’t ready to date. The truth was, I just didn’t want to date him, but I thought this would let him off easier. He was extremely gracious but turns out, this excuse just delays the inevitable. Because 30 days later he was back, asking if I was ready, yet.
Let me break here to say that I don’t think I’m God’s gift or super cool. I’m a giant dorkasaurus. And I’ve played the fool myself before. But I’ve dated enough to be on this side of things a few times. And I figure maybe some of my trial and error can provide assistance to someone in a situation like this. Or at least amusement.
Back to the story…
4. THE FLAKE-OUT – “I’m just sooo busy.”
At my friend’s 30th birthday in April, she introduced me to her extremely attractive, intelligent guy friend. He and I hit it off and ended up talking until the bar closed. He called me the next night and I realized I must have been ridiculously drunk the night before, because he was as boring as a pair of socks. He worked in medical sales and told me about how when he graduated ten years ago, he was offered positions at Pfizer, Merck, blah blah, eight other companies I can’t remember. I didn’t know why he was telling me this decade-old accomplishment but the next night, he calls me and TELLS ME THE SAME STORY AGAIN! I can only fake enthusiasm for the same snooze-fest tale once. This guy was way too serious for me. The clincher was the text he sent to ask me out on a date:
“Subject: Keeping It Local and Chill (yes, he wrote a f-ing Subject on a text.)
To keep it local and chill (he then repeated the subject just in case I forgot – I guess he thought texts should be written like thesis papers.) I suggest we walk around the mall or grab froyo or perhaps hang out at a park. Let me know which one you prefer. I am available between 12 and 2 and after 5pm except on Thursday when I’m available at 6pm.“
My friend, Melissa, told me that any guy that uses the word froyo was enough of a deal breaker for her. I wasn’t sure if his date budget was five dollars but I decided I didn’t want to do anything that might wind up with me hearing more about Merck and Pfizer. But I knew I needed to handle this one delicately. I was bound to see him at my friend’s wedding in a few months so I took my roommate up on her advice on how to handle: Keep rescheduling until he lost interest. This turned out to be way more work than I anticipated. And stressed me out. No matter how swamped with projects I said I was, he kept checking in and telling me to remember to have a blessed day.
Last month, I went to my friend’s wedding and we were seated next to each other. Of, fucking, course. I could have died of weirdness overload. I acted so awkward. He is such a nice guy but I didn’t know what to say. He asked if I was still busy and I said, “Yes… so busy! So many things. Man, so much craziness, you wouldn’t believe it!” He sweetly says, “Well, be sure to save the next dance for me.” I nodded and then hid in the bathroom. Why was I so awkward? I’m just awful at lying. If there’s an elephant in the room, my brain can only think, “elephant, elephant, elephant! Look everyone, there’s a giant fucking elephant!!” I wanted to blurt out, “I’m sorry I never called you back, I need a guy with a sense of humor,” so we could both move on with it. But because I said nothing, I couldn’t get over it.
1. CLOSING STATEMENTS - K.I.T. NO MO’
There is actually one way I’ve learned that does work. What is it, you ask!!
The text break-up. (Remember, this is to be used on new guys not two year relationships.) For some reason, it’s not as hurtful as doing it face-to-face but the person still gets closure, and I’ve gotten nothing but positive results from it. Since texts allow you a limited amount of words, my friends still laugh about one particular story of mine from six years ago. I met some guy in an AOL chat room. I know, that’s embarrassing enough, but we ended up chatting until 5am online. At some point in my delirious state, I gave him my number before signing off. The next day he started crazily over-texting. Like every four minutes. I didn’t have unlimited text messages and I was about to start charging him a dime for every unnecessary “Thinking about you. lol.” I knew I needed to put a stop to this asap so I wrote, “I’m sorry but I’m not interested in keeping in touch.” I was at dinner with friends at the time and they died laughing – it became an instant legend, shortening it to, “K.I.T. No Mo’.” But hey, it worked. He responded graciously that he understood, wished me the best and went away. I’ve since perfected this technique on my multitudes of sucky online dates I’ve been on. When they text me out, I reply, “You’re such a nice guy but I don’t feel the chemistry.” It works great! Or at least I think it does… but maybe one day they’ll corner my girlfriend and tell them otherwise. I’ve made sure to stop wearing underwear with bows, just in case.
Until then… that’s my thirty sense.