A week ago I recorded an episode for a new podcast the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese is about to launch. It’s called “This Catholic Life” and I’ll post about it once it goes live. My recording will be episode 3 so watch this space for that.
Anyway, the conversation surrounded the issues I raised in my Catholic Weekly article, with each marital demographic represented: a single Catholic woman (me), a single Catholic man (another guest), a married Catholic woman and a married Catholic man (the hosts).
It was a really good chat, largely because each view was appropriately and accurately represented. However, many of the things my single male interlocutor said made me really sad. The poor guy has had some truly brutal encounters with women, including a few awful rejections, and I thought this would be a good subject for a blog post.
I’ve also been accused of directing most of my critical advice towards men, so hopefully this can be considered as at least somewhat evening the playing field.
So ladies, every now and then you will be asked out by someone you have absolutely no attraction to, or interest in. Sometimes the guy asking may even be a bit of a creep. However, no matter how creepy the guy, or how little you have conversed or even interacted with the asker, or how unexpected the question, nothing warrants rudeness or unkindness in response, and especially not personal comments or attacks on the guy asking.
The man I spoke with on the podcast told us of some of his less pleasant encounters. For example, he’d been told by a few women that they didn’t care to date him because he was “too short”. He’d also been told by several women how much they’d love to be with someone “like him”.
Admittedly, I don’t know any of the circumstances of these interactions. From our recording he seemed like a nice, approachable, normal dude. It’s possible he just hasn’t met the right girl yet, or hasn’t been given enough of a chance by some of those he has asked out. I don’t really know, and it’s not necessarily relevant to this post, either.
The point is, none of these comments were gracious or kind. Commenting on someone’s personal appearance in this way is not only extremely rude, it can be really hurtful – especially when accompanied by an already-hurtful rejection. Even if you’re not attracted to men who are shorter than you, for example, there is no need to tell the man in question this. No doubt he’s already keenly aware of his height and, since he is absolutely unable to do anything about it, it’s unnecessary and unkind to tell him so.
Personally, I think both men and women should be more open to giving a chance to members of the opposite sex who might not fit what they’re looking for. In fact one of the hosts, Peter, told us that when he was dating his wife, he nearly broke up with her because she didn’t exactly fit his image of what he wanted in a Christian spouse. Six months earlier, she almost broke up with him for the same reason!
I’m not going to be naive and tell women they should say yes to every man who asks them out, or that men should ask out women even when they’re not attracted to them. Sometimes, you really do just know whether there’s a chance or not. It might take a couple of encounters to know for sure, but when you know, you know.
However, simply being open to going on dates with people who might not appear to fulfil every last thing you want in a spouse is an attitude I believe more people should adopt. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard men and women say this about the person they ended up marrying. But I digress..
It can be easy to forget just how hard it is for some guys to ask a girl out. Given that they’ve made themselves vulnerable, there can be nothing worse than to take that open wound and shove salt in it by making personal attacks or comments (I can personally attest to how awful this feels).
Ladies, please be gracious to the men who’ve asked you out, even if they’ve asked you in an ungracious or insulting manner. We are all called to be Christ-like, after all.
So, here are some tips for how to graciously let a fella down:
- If you’ve never dated him: smile and thank him for being kind enough to ask, and tell him politely, but firmly, that you’re not interested.
E.g. “that’s really sweet of you to ask, but I’d rather just remain friends” or “I think you’re an awesome guy but I just don’t feel that way [about our relationship]. Thank you for asking, though. It’s a real compliment and I appreciate it”.
Obviously it doesn’t have to be worded exactly like this, as long as the sentiment is there: I’m just not interested. But rather than lead you down the garden path, I’m going to treat you with respect by being honest with you here and now, while appreciating the fact that it took guts to ask.
- If you’ve dated him but you can see it’s going nowhere: you need to tell him how you feel honestly and gently, and as soon as possible!
E.g. “I’ve had a lot of fun with you but I don’t think I’m the right person for you” or “you’ve been an amazing date and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you but I’m just not feeling it” or “I’ve enjoyed our time together, but I don’t think this relationship is right and I’d prefer to continue getting to know each other as friends”. Don’t lie, obviously. Perhaps it’s been crap. But you can generally find something nice to say about the guy. And if you can, you should (unless he’s been a total jerk or two-timed you, etc, in which case you should tell him honestly why you don’t think this relationship has a future, and leave).
- If a guy won’t take no for an answer, or is stalking you or just being generally creepy: you need to take a polite but firm stance. Don’t be unkind, but also don’t let your concerns about hurting his feelings prevent you from making your point clear. (Think Lizzie when she turned down Mr Collins’s repeated proposals.)
E.g. “I appreciate that it probably wasn’t easy to ask me out, but I’m just not interested in you in that way. If you really care about me, I’d ask that you please respect my wishes”. If things get serious, or if there’s a history with the guy, it might be best to ask a close male relative or friend to politely but firmly tell the guy to leave you alone. Or, if it’s really bad, you can actually ask the police to call the guy and tell him.
One of the biggest blunders we women can make is not being clear in our refusal or lack of interest, often from a misplaced fear of hurting the guy’s feelings. But it’s far more insulting to string a guy along because you’re too scared to break up with him, rather than telling him at the outset, or once you know, that you’re not interested. A deliberate failure to do this is not only disrespectful, it’s a form of emotional manipulation, not to mention a waste of his time (and yours). The important point here is to break up or say no with graciousness and charity.
Of course, there are some men who will continue to pursue you in the face of rejection. Occasionally this can be flattering, but often it’s just downright creepy. See the last dot point.
For those women who have further additions to make, or who even disagree with what I’ve said, I’d love to hear from you. For the men, I hope I haven’t enraged any of you, and I ask you to see this post for what it is: advice to women in what we all know can be an uncomfortable and tricky situation.
Update: some feedback from men on my tips…
This is exactly right:
– tell him politely, but firmly, that you’re not interested
– I’m just not interested
– I’m just not feeling it
This is horribly wrong:
– that’s really sweet of you
– I’d rather just remain friends
– I’d prefer to continue getting to know each other as friends
The key points are :
– Tell him no
– Do not emasculate him
Beyond such concerns, however, his point about soft letdowns holds. They’re deeply insulting and painful and emasculating. Not only does she not want to date us, she doesn’t even believe we’re an equal—instead, she’s speaking to us like a child.
“Oh, I’m so sorry dear, but…” and
“Oh, aren’t you the sweetest thing! But…”
“Oh, you’re adorable for asking! But…”
feels almost identical to
“Oh how pitifully naive you are, innocent and clueless to even think I’d say yes. Let me explain to you the truth of things here…”
I’ve commented under Anna’s previous posts that men need to have the courage and inner strength to go clearly after what they’d like and propose a date, clearly and congenially. Now I say the same to women—have the courage and inner strength to respond in kind. Yes, with kindness—but kindness evidenced in facial expressions and eye contact and clarity, not kindness evidenced in lots of extra words of the sort that you might give to children asking if you know any leprechauns.
“I’m sorry, and thank you—but no.”
“I’m flattered—but no.”
“Points for asking me—but no.”
So, apparently saying it’s “sweet of you to ask” is a no-no (according to these men, anyway)… Point taken. I’ll reserve my “sweet” compliments for my girlfriends 😉