Ladies, when it comes to dating, we’ve got to stop being nice.
That’s not to say you should be rude. Quite the opposite. The problem is that being nice can cause more harm than good.
We all remember the initial awkwardness of hitting the dating phase. Insecurities reign supreme: Am I popular? Is she prettier than I am? Does he think I’m cute? Everyone wants to be asked out, but no one wants to be rejected.
And adults are all full of advice trying to help us navigate our way through the hormonal nightmares. My mother used to tell me I should always say “yes” to a first date. She said, “It takes guts to ask a girl out, and young men need that sort of encouragement.”
So when a rather odd fellow – you know the type: tall, gangly, with that uncomfortably wispy, would-be mustache he just can’t bear to shave off – awkwardly asked me out in the church parking lot, I was obliged to say “yes.”
This boy – let’s call him Paul – arrived at my house wearing a fedora and his parents drove us to the movie theater. Small talk was quickly shut down when we argued about history – men, please take note that the proper way to end an argument with a lady is never, “Well, you have to be nice to me because I’m paying for this.”
When we finally took our seats to watch “Man of Steel,” my only thought was, “Thank God for Henry Cavill.”
But the crowning moment occurred on the drive home. He and I were in the back seat of the minivan while I chatted with his father about musicals. “The Pirates of Penzance” came up. Paul thought this the perfect opportunity to look at me and ask, “So, if you were a pirate, would you keep your parrot on this shoulder, or on this one?” and proceeded to slip his arm around my shoulders.
I told him I didn’t like birds.
When he said “goodnight” without mentioning a second date I thought I was safe.
But I thought too soon.
The next time I ran into Paul at church I was faced with hopeful eyes, a cheerful greeting, and forced to give the dreaded let-him-down-easy speech.
It wasn’t fun, but I told myself that I’d done the “nice” thing, given him a chance as I’d been taught, and been as kind but direct as I could at the end. At least it was all over.
15 love letters proved that wasn’t the case.
Much as I love my mother, this time I should have stuck with Meghan Trainor’s advice: “Girl, all you’ve gotta say is ‘no.’”
When I said “yes,” I was just trying to follow my mother’s advice, “be nice.” I was giving him a chance and building his confidence to ask girls out in the future without the fear of being rejected outright.
If I’m honest, I was nervous too. No one wants to be the “bad guy” in these situations. And he knew a lot of my friends. What if he said something to them? A simple “yes,” one short date simply had to be the right move.
But he took that simple “yes” and ran with it.
A firm “no” from the very start would have saved me a lot of trouble and prevented his newfound, letter-induced carpal tunnel.
I’m not here to scare you off of dating. If you’re unsure of your interest in someone, by all means take a chance and go on that first date. Figure out what you like and what you don’t and try to have fun with it.
Not every date will be a winner, but not every date needs to be a parrot-on-this-shoulder disaster. Forget diamonds, “no” is your new best friend.
And if you feel guilty for saying it, just remember: Teenage crushes are the COVID-19 of the heart — a false positive will ruin at least two weeks of your life. It may not feel nice in the moment, but failed hope is better than false hope.
To quote Flannery O’Connor, “The life you save could be your own.”
Sandra Kirby is pursuing a master’s degree in the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship.