How do you tell a perfectly nice girl that it’s not going to happen? Definitely not the way I did it.
She was so pretty. Her blonde hair curled gently against her shoulders. Her glasses framed her green eyes nicely. She was thin as a whisper, kind of twitchy and serious, adorably self-conscious when she made a joke. Her eyes lit up when she spoke about her work. We flirted gently, then more urgently as the night progressed. We sat in the restaurant nearly until it closed, talking and laughing, touching hands.
Outside the restaurant, I leaned in and we kissed.
It was…well. Imagine a kiss where you’re getting all of the mechanics right, all of the movements are perfectly choreographed, but with all the sensuality of going to the dentist. Imagine a kiss that makes you feel…nothing. On its own, without desire, making out is not a particularly fun activity.
This hadn’t happened to me since I started dating women. It hadn’t even happened to me with many of the men I dated back in the day. Maybe one.
So I tried harder. I leaned in a little more urgently. I explored her mouth with mine. She ran her hand over the small of my back, and I gripped her tiny shoulder, and made a little noise. All of the elements were there.
It had to be a fluke. She was pretty, she was funny, she was smart. So as we wrapped it up, I made another date with her for later in the week. I walked to my car hunched against the cold, confused, trying to find that amazing first date feeling I’d had before we kissed.
The second date was lovely as well. Her friends, who met us at the bar, were charming and funny. A couple of hours in, my date leaned towards me and asked me if I wanted to get out of there. I hesitated.
“I’d like to take it slow,” I said. “But I mean, we could go home and talk and play games and hang out, if you want.”
She followed me home.
We did something, I can’t remember. We were having fun. We passed the time together well. So when she leaned in, I thought, sure: we should give this another chance.
I don’t want to detail the pitfalls of the kiss because it feels mean and crass to do so, but this woman didn’t read body language — not at all. I’d try to switch the direction of our faces or back up to come up for air for a moment or take a break to say something and she’d just remain, not feeling the change, her face suctioned on to mine. Finally, she paused. “I’m really worried I’m not good at this,” she said.
Oh dear. “What makes you say that?”
“Well, I mean, I’ve gotten to this point with a couple of women, and they just…they never call me back.”
Suddenly I felt incredibly guilty for not enjoying her touch. “Just relax,” I told her. “You can’t mess it up if you kind of melt into it and go with the flow and do what feels good.” It was some of my best acting ever, and to really sell the lie, I leaned in again and made out with her some more. I just felt for her so.
But we really were so terribly, terribly matched.
When she started asking me to take off her shirt, I knew we were going to have to end it there. But getting her off of me, let alone out the door, was really hard. I’d pull back and smile and say “it’s getting late, I guess you’d better go,” and she’d respond by climbing on top of me. It got to the point where it was difficult to push her off of me while remaining polite. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but she just wouldn’t stop.
With a guy, I wouldn’t have felt quite the same need to mollify his insecurities. With a guy, I would know so strongly where the line was, and push him off of me when he crossed it. With a guy, I wouldn’t do things that weren’t making me feel good.
But this poor girl, a self-confessed virgin at 29, just wanted to be a good kisser. She just wanted some romance in her life. She just wanted a good date with someone who was as into her as she was into them.
If I had been a better, more communicative person, I would have sat down with her and said: It’s true, I’m not into this. But there is a lid to every pot, and I PROMISE you that there is someone out there who thinks you’re the best kisser they’ve ever met.
Instead, I endured twenty minutes with her on my couch and then (almost literally) pushed her out the door. “I could stay and we could just cuddle,” she said at the door, in a last-ditch effort. It was pure agony. I set up a third date with her for a week later, out of pure desperation. “Do we have to wait a whole week to see each other?” she asked.
When she’d finally left, I sank down with my back against the door. “Shit,” I said. “Shit shit shit shit shit.”
I’m just so bad at hurting people’s feelings.
I’m also a hypocrite. Because when I canceled our upcoming date a few days later, citing the business of the holiday, I’m sure I did hurt her feelings. Doing it over text may have softened my guilt, but probably not the blow.
All of which is to say: I am just terrible at saying no. And I MUST get better. If I want to be in the world, if I want to go on dates and try things out, it’s something I am going to have to get comfortable with. And I’m not sure how.
The thing is, when you go into a blind first date, it’s kind of like getting trapped in an elevator. You REALLY want to like the person that you’ve ended up in that elevator with, so you both try hard to make it work. As such, I’ve discovered that almost any two nice, normal, appropriately matched people can have a good first date. But after that…
After that, even if it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings, you’ve got to do the honest thing. If your body’s saying no, you’ve got to say no too. It doesn’t matter what gender your date is. Making someone feel better about themselves is not supposed to be a reason to make out with someone you’re just not into.
Consent is sexy. Acquiescing to someone else’s passion — when you feel none yourself — is never okay.
Maybe someday I’ll learn to communicate my actual truth, with compassion. Until then…if I cancel a date, or I don’t text you back…I’m so sorry. I was trying to somehow tell you no while my mouth said yes. It’s no wonder you didn’t hear me. I’ll try to learn, and do better. I will.