Last year I found myself in a situation that I’m sure many people who have dated more than one person can attest to — I’d gone on a few dates with a guy who was really nice, really sweet, clearly liked me and explicitly said he wanted to court me, and damn it, I felt absolutely no connection with him.
And I tried to — trust me.
Every time we went out and I had no desire to kiss him, I chided myself when I got home. “Hello,” I would say. “THIS is what you’ve been saying you wanted! A guy who’s respectful, who treats you nicely, who lives in your city, who has drive and ambition, and who even loves music as much as you do. What is the problem?”
The problem, I determined, was that as much as he checked off my criteria list, I just didn’t feel anything between us other than friendship. So after three dates, I decided I could no longer put off the inevitable. I needed to end things with him.
Now, I could have done this in several different ways. Some of my girls offered the suggestion of simply no longer responding to his calls and texts, making it clear through the process of Fading Out (or going ghost) that I was no longer interested. We’d only been on 3 dates, they said. So I didn’t really owe him anything. (And before you get on them for offering that suggestion, please note that both men and women engage in this practice.)
Still others suggested that I tell him something to the effect of “you know I’m just not in a place to date right now” or “I’m not really looking for anything serious right now.”
I could have even continued texting him but never making good on any plans, thus letting him know without ever saying it, that I wasn’t all that interested in seeing him again.
In the end, I chose to do neither of those. I picked up the phone and engaged in what I like to call a “hard conversation” — one of those uncomfortable talks no one really wants to have with someone else. I chose to tell him the truth. That as much as I wanted to like him because of how great of a guy he seemed to be, I wasn’t nearly as interested in him as I felt I should be for someone I was dating.
To his immense credit, he took the conversation in stride, and by the end of the call, we found ourselves laughing about something silly. But when I relayed the story to some of my friends, many of them felt that I was being mean or rude by saying what I said.
In fact some of them called me things like “bold” and “cold-hearted.”
I was caught off-guard by their responses, mostly because I’d grown up believing that most women felt like honesty was always the best policy. “Sure the truth may hurt now,” we’d say. “But I’d rather know the truth now than to become invested only to know it was based off a lie later.”
And so, if we expected honesty from others, then I assumed that meant we always engaged in the truth ourselves.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wasn’t all that different from my friends in my past approaches to dating. Hadn’t I given the excuse of “not having time to date” before when really I meant “I just don’t want to date you”? Hadn’t I excused myself out of relationships with people rather than ask the hard questions that I was afraid to get truthful responses to? Hadn’t I chosen to let a guy down “nicely” in the past as opposed to telling him that I just had no interest in being with him?
Heck, I still have a hard time telling the nice, but not cute guy on the street that I’m not interested in giving him my phone number — so instead, I say that I have a boyfriend. A lie.
I choose on a consistent basis to lie to someone when I walk down U Street as opposed to saying, actually sir — I’m not attracted to you. And I do that because I’m concerned about the same thing my friends chided me on about my conversation with the guy last year — that I will come off as rude or mean. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.
Which begs the question — while we say that honesty is the best policy, do we actually believe it? Or is it more accurate to say that honesty is the best policy unless it will make either of us uncomfortable?