Several years ago I had what I like to think of as my last online dating experience. I was matched with and went out with a seemingly very nice man, we had a seemingly very nice first date, and two days later I got the nastiest email of my life from him. It was, in essence, a two-page dissertation on all the flaws he perceived in me throughout the course of the date.
Now (warning: understatement ahead) — I am far from perfect. I know this. I’m not particularly happy about it, but I am aware of it. Still, this message was off the charts. It was very upsetting, not just because of what it said (in point of fact, he seemed to take exception to everything I said or did that wasn’t a direct and overt compliment of him personally) but because it was terrible to think that I could have inadvertently hurt someone so much that they would feel compelled to send me such a message.
I didn’t save that email, but when I talked to close friends about it at the time, one angrily asked whether he thought he was being helpful by “correcting” me this way (the email I got from him months later implied that this had been precisely the case; thankyousoverymuch). Another wondered aloud what kind of person would bother to write such a message to someone… Why not just quietly disappear, as men so often do?
Oh no, I assured her. This was a case of be-careful-what-you-wish-for at its best.
At the time I had had such an unattractive chip on my shoulder about men who just abruptly vanish. And because I recognized that, I was actually glad that this one didn’t. After all, because he was so clear about it, I did not waste one moment of my life wondering if he was going to call, or why he hadn’t called, or what I could have done differently, or what it was about me that he didn’t like.
I knew the answer already: he didn’t like anything about me. I was, in short, the worst person he’d ever met.
He may, in fact, have actually said that.
That’s not a pleasant thought, of course, but one that’s incredibly liberating. I really didn’t give him, or any illusion of a potential “us,” another ounce of energy. And when he emailed me 9 months later to see if I wanted to give it another shot, I was confused by the suggestion, but not about how to answer it: Kindly, but in the emphatic negative.
But I suppose I had a new appreciation after that for the vanishing act.
I really do understand why it would be easier to just stop calling than to just come out and say that whatever initial interest there may have been has dried up. We really don’t make it easy on a guy who’s telling us something we don’t want to hear.
First, we want to know Why. I suppose a “Why” makes us feel like we have some control over things, something we could fix for future reference. Though the truth is, unless it’s pretty major, the thing we would change because *this* guy didn’t like it might be the thing the *next* guy – or at least the *right* guy – would have really thought was cool about us. Hard to say.
In any case, the reality is that a lot of the time there is no clear “Why.” It’s hard enough for women to articulate their emotions and we get lots of practice; do we really expect men to be able to? And how do you articulate I wish I felt more for you than I do – you’re terrific and I should like you “that way” – but I just don’t and I don’t know how to muster it up in a way that will in any way satisfy our urge to understand? None of us knows why we feel something for one person and not another. Trying to explain it is not going to make it any clearer, and is pretty likely to hurt the person receiving that news.
Of course, they could make up a reason for us, if we really want to push the issue. (Or maybe there actually IS a reason, some flaw we should be working on.) But even if they give us a reason, there’s a risk we’re going to argue about it, as if we can reason our way back into the relationship he no longer wants. It’s not really up for debate at that point, but the inclination is there for us anyway.
Or we’ll get mad and think they’re a jerk.
Or we’ll cry which will make them feel like a jerk.
Yes, it would be nice if they could just man up and be straight with us, but what guy in his right mind wants to deal with any of the stuff we tend to put them through if they do?
Plus, some of them actually are jerks. You know those guys. They have a reason, and it’s a crappy reason. Like that although they do kinda sorta like us, they like someone else better. But they figure that if they don’t come out and say that, they can hedge their bets a bit. Hey, it might not work out with that other girl. Maybe if they don’t come right out and burn the bridge, but just leave us hanging around, they can come back and cross it again later, if they want to. Which, by the way, doesn’t indicate a very high opinion of us or where we’ll be when their first choice doesn’t pan out.
It’s a wonder that anybody dates anybody.
And now, for all that… Suddenly I find myself with the shoe on the other foot.
Oh, I like the guy. I really do. He’s terrific. He’s sweet, and kind, and thoughtful. He’s attractive, and funny, and he likes me (which is a clear sign of good taste). I have a nice time when I’m with him, I enjoy his company…
But he feels it, and I just don’t. We’ve been out a few times, and I keep hoping something inside me will wake up and feel more for him than I do. I should. I wish I did. But I don’t. And because he’s such a great guy, and I don’t ever want to hurt him – and the longer I leave it, the greater the chance of that – I have to do something about it. I have to say something about it. And soon. And that’s going to hurt him too, and that sucks.
I have no idea how to go about it. Suggestions are so very welcome.
Of course, I’m not a guy. So I can’t just vanish on him. Bummer.