Opting Out

I have an upcoming post about how I decide who to go out with or not and how that decision is sometimes arbitrary and sometimes very much not. This post is related to that idea, though it is about the kinds of red flags that go up between saying ‘yes’ to a date, and going on the actual date, and how if you decide to cancel, for whatever reason, that is very very okay.

I had decided to go on a date a few weeks ago with a woman who messaged me on a dating site. My reasons were vague and varied – I haven’t dated that many women and I would like to just do that more, and she messaged me, she took the initiative, she seems like she has an interesting job (arts programming) that she is passionate about, and she asked me on a date. So, I said yes. (In retrospect, I don’t think we’d have been much of a match – she was a bit liberal with her use of exclamation points, and she didn’t seem to have much to say in her messages apart from just being ‘very excited’ about her job when I asked for details. Then again, sometimes certain people read much better in ‘real life’ than they do online. I am sometimes one of these people. So I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and err on the side of generous interpretations. Sometimes this means I go on dates with inappropriate people. This is a balance I am still trying to get right.)

Then we started organizing. She suggested the following Saturday. I said okay, and asked for more details (where she’s coming from in the city etc). She never got back to me. I messaged her on the Friday and said that we’d have to postpone, because leaving it so last minute wasn’t working for me. She replied and apologized, said she’s not on the site often, and could we do it the following Saturday. I said sure.

That happened two or three times. Finally, after I returned from a holiday, it seemed like we were nailing something down. We were going to go out the following Wednesday. She suggested walking around a park, which I was less than enthused about (I often prefer the social lubrication of alcohol on first dates. I also prefer facing the person to get a better sense of how I feel about them.) But I said sure (trying to not be too difficult at this point). I asked more details, including her name, which I never actually got from her despite having asked her (the fact that she wasn’t reading my messages for detail was also another bad sign). She got back to me fairly quickly (okay, better) but then sent two or three messages in a row suggesting that we go to an art show instead, where you make your own digital art.

I sagged inwardly. Digital art is not something I know much about. If a friend had asked me then maybe it would be the sort of thing I’d go for, but not a first date. First dates, for me, are about actually chatting with the person you’re on a date with. I said that I would prefer just that, talking, and maybe we could grab a coffee and walk around Trinity Bellwoods since I also have a party to attend later that evening (giving myself a serious exit strategy at this point).

She wrote back, saying that was totally cool, maybe we could meet at Queen and Bathurst? Then she wrote another message saying how great this art show is, and how a cool artist would be there, and wouldn’t that be fun though?

At this point I realized this was no longer worth my time. I cancelled our date, and she immediately started backpedalling, but it was too late.

Because she’d not only wasted my time for three weeks by bailing constantly at the last minute, but she was now not respecting my boundaries, nor actually treating her proposal as a proposal but as a directive. I may not have known enough to judge at first, but now I did.

The process of dating is, as I’ve said in previous posts, partly an exercise in exhibiting good judgement. And this is a precarious thing, especially at first, because the other person does not have a large sample size of your behaviour which means that an error in judgement can sometimes be given too much weight. I try to take that into account and interpret generously, but I have limits.

I felt really bad about cancelling at first, but since I did, I’ve felt so, so much better. And the thing is, anyone can decide to opt out of dating someone else at any point, for any reason, and that is really really okay. That’s part of what dating IS. And I think it’s especially hard as a woman to not feel guilty, or like you should give someone another chance, or that you are somehow being a ‘jerk’ by doing this, but it isn’t. Sometimes it’s an excellent act of self-care.