Dare To Be Real

Have you ever noticed that when your online date goes south (as in, you’re so uninterested in this guy that you’re considering fleeing to Mexico just to end the night early), you find yourself looking back on the evening as not so much a date as a casual get-to-know-you, sort of like those uncomfortable icebreakers you were forced to endure as part of college freshman orientation? And being that it was a casual get-to-know-you exercise, you find yourself rationalizing the fact that when Dull Date calls the next day requesting your presence at another exercise (which he’s bizarrely referring to as a ‘second date’), you needn’t return the call as you’ve properly fulfilled the duties of the first get-to-know-you to the full extent of the online dating law (that is, you resisted the urge to flee to Mexico mid-date).

Yet when the dating tables are turned and you find yourself attracted to Dazzling Date, you have no problem referring to the act of sitting there sipping coffee with a virtual stranger as a date. You probably won’t be saying to your friend, “I am flummoxed as to why, after two delightful yet casual get-to-know-you exercises, Dazzling Date has not called to request a third friendly hang-out session,” but rather, “Our first two dates went so well, I can’t understand why he hasn’t yet called for a third date!”

Semantics aside, no matter what side of the table you’re on, the fact is you’re sitting at that table on a date. This doesn’t mean you have to pay for her meal. This doesn’t mean you have to kiss him at the end of the evening. You don’t owe your date anything but respect, which means that if you’re not only ready to end the night but also your continued contact, you need to learn how to politely convey your desire to continue looking elsewhere.

Very few online daters have mastered this skill. I took the easy way out for decades (just kidding—I haven’t been online dating for decades….it only feels that way sometimes), responding to his request at the end of the night for future dates with an overly-friendly and ultimately misleading, “Yeah, email me, we should definitely hang out again!” This served as an immediate means to avoid the uncomfortable “I’m just not that into you” conversation, but it also deceived a perfectly nice person into thinking I was interested, and likely left him wondering why I neglected to respond to future voicemail and email messages.

Additionally, I found myself unprepared for the karmic retribution that awaited me. While I live in a fairly big city, I found myself bumping into these former dates all around town; in restaurants, coffee shops, the gym, and even other singles events. I’d be subjected to narrowed unfriendly eyes, behind which probably lay the thought, “There’s that girl who acted interested and then never returned my calls.”

I finally conquered my fear of the uncomfortable conversation a few months back, when I decided to boldly go where no online dater has gone before and give good old-fashioned honesty a shot. While I assured him I’d had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed spending the evening with such an engaging person (okay, 90% honesty, 10% little white lie), I also acknowledged I wasn’t attracted to him romantically and didn’t want to waste his time or mine. And true to karma, I’ve since run into him twice, and am happy to report that due to finally having given the situation the delicate consideration it deserved, our exchanges have been pleasant and minimally awkward.

So today’s online dating tip is to dare to be real with your date, even if your message may disappoint. Good luck!

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