Monday, 7 January 2013

1. Don't Anticipate, 2. Love and Do What You Will

Poppets, today I am so busy, I do not have time to answer letters--just to read them. I will get to them in a more leisurely hour. And I have only a few words to say here.

The first is "Don't Anticipate." I get so many emails about leading a guy on by going out with him, when the guy hasn't actually asked out the reader yet.

I wonder what it is that readers think they are leading a guy to? "So you want to have coffee sometime?" is never ever a marriage proposal. Nor is it a request that you become known as his girlfriend. Nor it it a suggestion you snog on the couch. Or worse. Unless the "sometime" is 1 AM after he has walked you home from wherever and baby, it's cold outside. In that case, inviting him up for a coffee may indeed be construed as leading him on, so don't.

The second is "Love, and Do What You Will." In this context, it means to respond to an invitation exactly according to your feelings, while keeping in mind the immediate (not future, not imaginary) feelings of the person across from you. So if you would like to have a coffee with a man and he asks you if you do, say "Yes, I would. When?" But if you would not like to have a coffee with a man and he asks you if you do, which is unlikely if you have been scowling at him, etc., say "No, thank you."

That's it. No excuse. No "I'm really busy right now" because men are so darned literal they might ask you when you will stop being busy. It really is not the end of his world if you do not want to have coffee with some guy. And it will not be the end of his world if you have coffee with him and then, if (IF) he asks if you'd like to go out for dinner, you truthfully say "No, thank you."

If pressed for a reason, I have it on the authority of the great living novelist Julian Barnes that men cannot argue with "It just doesn't feel right." This may be because men are a bit helpless before feelings. They love tough, hard things like opinions, which they can wrestle with. But they can't really argue with feelings, so there you go.


Sarah said...

I don't understand why it's so hard for women to say no. One of my guy friends was complaining about this last night-- how much guys hate it when they ask a girl out and she says something like, "Uhh, actually, I have to walk my dog Friday night."

"All you have to say is 'NO.' It won't kill me!" he said.

And I had to admit I'm a pretty bad offender when it comes to this. I had some Yugoslavian guy stop me on the street to ask me for directions the other day, and then decided that since we were both expats that we "should get together sometime, and can I have your number?" and I just kind of stood there, stammering, and said I don't know my host family's house phone number and don't have a working cell phone of my own. "Well, email, skype, anything?" he asked. I agreed to give him my email address, but it turns out he didn't have a pen or a piece of paper. Whew.

I've been propositioned in as ridiculous ways as, "Want to come over to my place? My mom's working tonight..." and of course I said no to that, but it was a pretty weak one compared to the "HELL no" that I was feeling.

I told my complaining friend this, and he, aggravated with me and Woman-kind asked, "But why DON'T you just say 'No'?!"

And truthfully, I don't know.

But the reason this conversation came up is because we were watching 'Rocky,' and Rocky Balboa is just NOT taking no for an answer from that pet shop girl, even when she doesn't want to go to his apartment, even when she says she's not comfortable and wants to call her brother, Rocky instead literally corners her. The guys I was with thought she needed the "push" out of her shell, I thought it was creepy. Why do guys still seem to think that when a girl is saying "no," what she really means is "Yes, but I want you to think I'm saying no" or, "Yes, but I'm shy and I need a "push.""

Jam said...

Mea culpa: once upon a time, I played the "ooo, I'm busy" card in response to a guy who wanted a second date. We were both persistent :( It was not very nice of me, and when he tried to work around my "schedule" I should have just 'fessed up.

That said, I think the reason it's hard to "just say NO" is because you know that if you had to give an honest reason, that reason would be "I don't like your looks" or "you're a momma's boy" or "every time I talk to you I'm bored". All of which are pretty brutal. So then you try to come up with a non-brutal reason... and non-brutal reasons by their nature don't involve "NO"... so then you're caught saying, "uh, I'm super busy".

And then to build on Sarah's comment: the thought of persistence is fairly terrifying when you're also thinking how uncomfortably brutal your reason is. I guess I want guys to be persistent when my schedule actually is crazy, but not when they're trying to get me to give them a reason why I don't want to go out with them; or when they're a total stranger walking three blocks alongside me telling me I look like a model, and what's your name huh, huh, come on, I'm being nice, what's your name, you must live around here, I see you all the time walking to work.

Hmm, both of those objections to telling the truth are variations on Anticipating. I suppose the way of a simple Child of the Truth is to just deal honestly with the immediate question. "Hey, I enjoyed our chat yesterday, can I buy you dinner?" "Aww, I'm sorry, but no thank you."

Seraphic said...

Well, I think it is because we are used to communicating like girls to girls. If a girl asks us to do something we don't want to with her, we are more likely to say "Oh, gosh, I'd love to but..." than to turn her down flat.

Sarah said...

I think Jam might be on to something about not wanting to be too brutal... All I could think about was that I couldn't think of a "why not" that wasn't "you're too old for me" (he was at least 12 years older than me) or "Looks-wise, you're just not the type of guy I hoped would approach me on the street asking for a date, and who do you think you are, anyway? I'm prettier than you!"

Your paragraph at the end about men not being able to argue with feelings reminded me of an insight that my high school science teacher, a priest, had:

"Men's emotions are like a ten-pack box of crayons. They're real crayons, and they're good, and they work... But women's emotions are like the 64 pack of crayons. They don't just have "red" and "yellow," they have colors like "eggshell blue" and "puce."

It's not totally related to what we're talking about now, but I always think about it when I think of men and women feeling emotions differently, and it makes me laugh.

Urszula said...

I love the crayons analogy!

I'll admit to being in the "too busy but actually I really just want to say no" camp. Partly because a text message saying "No, I'm not really interested" seems harsh to me - although maybe it wouldn't to a guy. I don't know. I've certainly had a siuation where a guy kept asking me out (to different things - I have to admit he was creative) until I just stopped responding to his messages completely.

As to an invitation to coffee not being a marriage proposal, I've actually had men (I barely knew) propose marriage on the 2nd or 3rd date. But those are the ones you'd want to run far, far away from anyway, as mostly they were still licking their wounds from some past relationship and thought I'd be the magic cure.

Maria said...

I agree with Jam and Sarah: I guess I am also a little worried that someone will ask me why. What do I say then? "I find you really boring. In fact, the only reason I'm talking to you is to be polite to everyone I meet at this once-in-a-blue-moon young Catholic event in town. I want to make a good impression in case I actually do meet someone I find attractive."
What are everyone else's thoughts on this? I feel bad dismissing someone I find uninteresting when he is obviously attracted. On the other hand, going out with him seems incredibly icky and a total waste of time. I wonder if I'm too picky - but the couple of times I've forced myself to go out with someone I didn't care for, I was uncomfortable and annoyed the whole time. I don't seem able to cultivate the attitude necessary to let men grow on me during a date.

Antigone in NYC said...

I also disagree that--for some men, and I'd even narrow it down to some Traditional Catholic men with Little Dating Experience--"So you want to have coffee sometime?" is NOT a request to become known as his girlfriend.

While I've never had this experience with a secular guy, it's unfortunately happened several times with the type described above.

After declining a second date, I remember once being asked to explain why I was "breaking up" with the guy in question.

Seraphic said...

Oh, bizarre. Breaking up, indeed! Well, let's face it. Some people are socially awkward, weird, and simply not rooted in reality. Not all traddie guys are the same, either.

Everyone repeat after me, "Because it doesn't FEEL right."

"Wanna have coffee with me?"

"No, thank you."

"Why not?"

"Because it doesn't FEEL right."

Sarah said...

But what about when, after the guy notices that you're kind of reluctant, he says, "Okay, just as friends!" and you're still like, "Ummm..." and he says, "We'll get together, but just friends, just friends."

And you know that what he really means is, "I'm saying 'just friends' so I can get your number; I'll deal with the real wooing part later."

This has been used on me so many times, I've started to resent it and--maybe unfairly-- see it as cynical and manipulative. It's like the guy knows that it's even harder to say no to friendship, because why not? Who would actually say to someone who's being friendly enough, "I have enough friends, thanks." or even "it doesn't FEEL right to be your friend." And then also because any other more blunt reason would sound even worse then, too, like "Sorry, you're too bald to be my friend."

I'm not trying to cling to the subject or anything, but I've dealt with pushy guys who can't just take a hint that you're uncomfortable and want to be left alone without you having to be rude or more blunt and outspoken to a stranger than comes natural to you.

Seraphic said...

You can keep saying "No, thank you." And then walk away.

"Want to have coffee with me?"

"No, thank you."

"Why not?"

"It doesn't feel right."

"What about as friends?"

"No, thank you."

"Why not?"

"It wouldn't feel right."

And then GOOD-BYE.

It would be lovely if at this point a handsome stranger stepped in and said, "Is this man bothering you, ma'am?" but I think that happens only in the movies, and then you might end up having the same conversation with the handsome stranger.

I don't mind talking out this subject because I think it is an important one. It is awful to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed and once upon a time parents, teachers, priests and ministers taught boys to respect a girl's No, but now of course "No means No" is used solely in anti-rape campaigns, and the majority of young men we are likely to meet socially do not think of themselves as potential rapists.

The important thing is not to get drawn into an argument or to just throw in the towel and give in. I have gotten into the most awful trouble by telling young men I didn't want to go out with them because I only wanted to date Catholics. Although true, it would have been a million times better to say nothing more than "No, thank you" and "It's doesn't feel right. Good-bye."

MaryJane said...

I love this discussion. I'm kind of torn about it, though, in terms of being straight forward- some guys would really prefer brutal honesty/ rejection, but some have worked so hard to get up the courage to ask you out, and then to just stomp on it feels so sad! But then again, it is really interesting that we women are the ones taking on the emotional burden of "will I hurt his feelings" - I doubt guys who DON'T ask out girls who like them sit around thinking, "well, my not asking her is probably kind of brutal considering how much she likes me." - I could be wrong about that, but I just don't think guys sit around thinking about all this the way we do.

The feelings answer seems to be the most fool-proof, though. That way he knows that you mean no, but can go home and console himself that you are a girl and therefore have weird feelings and it's not him, blah blah.

Seraphic said...

Well, yes. And "No, thank you" is not by any stretch of the imagination a stomping. It is a polite statement of fact. It is the shortest and could be the most truthful answer to "Would you like to have a coffee with me."

I mean, he asked. So what if he had to overcome 20 years of distilled socially-enforced cowardice to do it? He's a man. It's his glory and his job to take risks. If a man can't take hearing "No, thank you" when he asks a girl out for coffee, how he supposed to deal with job interviews?

But, anyway, I suspect that kind-hearted girls are way over-estimating how badly men feel when they hear "No, thank you."

Seraphic said...

Well, yes. And "No, thank you" is not by any stretch of the imagination a stomping. It is a polite statement of fact. It is the shortest and could be the most truthful answer to "Would you like to have a coffee with me."

I mean, he asked. So what if he had to overcome 20 years of distilled socially-enforced cowardice to do it? He's a man. It's his glory and his job to take risks. If a man can't take hearing "No, thank you" when he asks a girl out for coffee, how he supposed to deal with job interviews?

But, anyway, I suspect that kind-hearted girls are way over-estimating how badly men feel when they hear "No, thank you."

April said...

I have also had the "just as friends" strategy deployed on me. In fact, I dealt with it at work two times yesterday (definitely in preparation for reading this post :-D). The first guy in question, who has been loitering about my area trying to flirt with me and smiling for about a week,showed up and chatted me up before suggesting that "we should really hang out sometime" to know each other better. He is actually a pleasant guy I enjoy our occasional banter in the breakroom, but I am pretty sure that his idea of "hanging out" would involve sitting on a sofa in his apartment and getting high together. (Maybe not, but he didn't give me anything more specific to go on, so that is what I envisioned. NOTE TO GUYS: This is why you ask us to do specific things with you and not suggest that we "hang out sometime")

The second guy, a former coworker and sort of friend, appeared at the end of my workday to ask why he hadn't heard from me and make pitiful faces about how we hadn't hung out in a while. "When are we going to hang out?," he demanded insistently, eyebrows furrowed, leaning over the counter.

I realize these may not be expressions of romantic interest (in the case of the first guy, I am pretty it was; the second I think is just weird and clingy) but either way I have no interest in "hanging out" with either of these guys in any one-on-one setting. How do you decline such a nebulous, general, and non-threatening idea as "hanging out sometime"? "No, thank you" doesn't quite work, since no definite invitation has been issued.

For the first guy I ended up saying, "Oh, that's nice, but I'm going to have to say no because I'm seeing someone right now." This is not untrue-- I am seeing someone right now-- but it is not the real reason since we are not dating exclusively and I would conceivably still accept coffee dates with someone I was interested in.

With the second guy, who I think is just strange and lonely has problems (and God bless him, but I am not going to be his therapist-- and I happen to know he has a real therapist) it was late and I was tired so (for shame) I fell back on the typical "Oh, I don't know, we'll see, you know I'm so busy right now".

Urgh, so unsatisfying. I would like to be direct and honest, but I am not sure how to phrase it in situations like this that demand some sort of response but there is no definite invitation on offer to accept or refuse.

Seraphic, help??

Seraphic said...

Oh gosh. Men today, eh?

(Sometimes that's all I can say.)

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that a vague request to "hang out" is simply asking for a vague answer of "Oh, but I'm so busy!" If a man specifies an activity, time and date, he deserves a more concrete answer.


Anastasia said...

This is an ancient chain of comments I know, but I was reading them as I have just broken up with the guy I was dating, who is wonderful, but who I really don't fancy! This is the first time I've even looked at this blog, which I was recommended by a friend, so I wonder if you have any advice!
My problem now is another guy, who right on the day we met 3 years ago, tried to kiss me (after Mass on Sunday! In retrospect that was funny!) but now calls non-stop (I never pick up) and hangs around when I'm with other people, eg. after Mass, and buts in to conversations to talk to me, invite me to football games etc. Rigt now I also suspect he wants a place to stay as he is not in stable employment, and a mutual friend whose floor he has been sleeping on for months is sick of him leaving the place in a mess and not seeking to participate in the running costs of the flat etc. I have never been interested in him, but he has pursued me on and off for the past 3 years, and now I am beginning to find it creepy, and a little frightening. Sadly, he is also prone to depression, which makes me reluctant to come straight out and tell him to back off. I never accepted his FB invite, so I can only really call or text, and it really do not want to go even for coffee with him! Do you have any advice as to how to go about that? I really want to cut off all contact, but I will inevitably bump into him at church or friends houses for as long as his visa lasts (another year to go! Help!) thank you Seraphic!

Seraphic said...

I think you should come right out and tell him to back off. At very least, you should ask him--at once--to wait until you are finished a conversation and you'll talk to him then, and to stop asking you on dates as it is making you feel uncomfortable. Telling him flat out you're not interested should cause him no more pain than your consistent refusal of his invitations. And right now he might not know his behaviour is creepy; he might think it is romantic.

As for church and friends' houses, if you really want to avoid him, you might consider going to another church and to other friends' from time to time, not only to get away with him, but to shake up your schedule, expand your horizons and meet new people.