When you were 16 or 17, you started dating an older guy – he was probably 19 or 20 with spiky blonde hair and a shitty car and a too-cool-for-school attitude, and you knew it worried your mother (which, of course, made him even more appealing).
You had a number of boyfriends before him, but they were mostly just pass-notes-in-the-hallway, awkward-first-kiss types and nothing more, so there were certainly red flags when this guy came into the picture – the pressures of being a teenage girl multiplying instantly in his presence. And you remember one afternoon that summer, your mom sat you down and said a lot of things you already knew about boys and dating and sex, and you’re sure you rolled your eyes so hard out of your head that you pulled a muscle, but there was one little pearl of wisdom that stuck with you for years and years, and that was when she said: Honey, it’s hard to say no to things that feel good. At the time, it seemed like such a hollow and meaningless message. Okay, mom. Whatever you say. You could totally say no to something that was tempting or gratifying. Of course you could. But as you got older, you wondered, Why would I want to?
This is a concept you often discuss with your single friends – there’s always lots of over-analysis about giving into temptation, whatever it may be, coloring outside the lines of dating protocols or sleeping with someone “too soon” and then regretting it when the outcome isn’t desirable or exactly how you imagined – especially when there’s little or no follow-up from the dude. But there’s a reason we fall whatever-body-part-first into tempting situations, and that’s because we wanted it, because in that moment, or even before, it felt right, because your heart and your head and every inch of your body said, go for it. And we often forget that.
And you can’t blame yourself for giving into those desires – come on, you’re only human. More often than not, you say yes to things that feel good because, yes, your mother was right, it is quite hard to say no. And you’re not just talking about sexual circumstances – buying something you deserve or don’t deserve or getting a massage or eating a big fucking piece of cake, any of it, anything you did in a moment of relatively reasonable impulsiveness. You, personally, have little guilt for those decisions because they were ones, despite any potential consequences, that brought satisfaction or pleasure, even if it was fleeting. And why would you go around kicking yourself in the ass for that all the time? This life is short. YOLO and whatnot.
Recently, you went on a Tinder date with a guy who you were already consumed by and invested in based on his resume and your text banter and just the overall idea of him, and the idea of the two of you together, which is a silly thing to admit, but perhaps not a silly thing to feel. And you made the mistake of sharing your excitement about your first date with everyone who wanted to hear about it. And you should know better by now, never to divulge the deets until all is said and done, because everyone will always want a follow-up report, and that report is not always as juicy and electrifying as you or they assumed it would be based on all the build up.
And, sadly, your blog can’t be all sunshine and rainbows and Jamaican getaways all the time, and so you will say that the first date went flawlessly. And then you will sigh and say, Or so I thought. The in-person banter was on point and you got all kinds of tingly and fuzzy when he smiled and made sincere eye contact and he sat close to you on the tiny couch at the dim cocktail bar and he put his arm around you and together you invented how-they-met scenarios about the odd couple sitting across the way and he told you he was happy you didn’t “catfish” him and you laughed and laughed and you finished your 6th or 7th or 8thdrink, and then he kissed you on that tiny couch.
And then he kissed you in the cab. And then you kissed in your apartment. And then, lights out. End scene. It was all quite perfect, really, and very PG, an evening full of things that felt good – another cocktail, another kiss. And you were certain the next day he would text and say, I had a really great time last night and I can’t wait to see you again. And as Tuesday went on and on and on, your hangover began to wear off and the reality of the situation set in, and you started to believe you had taken missteps somewhere along the way. Maybe you remembered the evening all wrong? You did, in fact, drink much more than you had intended, making saying no, thanks, I’m good harder and harder with every sip,and there were small blips of the evening missing, but nothing stuck out as a serious mood-killer, nothing that would keep him from confirming what you believed to be true about your connection.
And so around 7pm, after deafening silence and much deliberation, you prepared for the worst with a hopeful text: Last night’s a little blurry – remind me: did we like each other? You thought it was playful and funny and a little true, and you cringed with every second that passed without any pings. And about an hour or so later – and several did-he-respond-yet?? texts from friends, which did not help the situation – you received this: Hey, I had fun but I don’t know if I’m up for round 2. But I did have a good time and did enjoy meeting you.
You had so many questions, ones you knew you couldn’t ask. You set your phone down and ordered sushi and cheesecake and took a moment to take it all in, to make yourself feel this hurt, this petty heartbreak and not just brush it off like you usually do with a bruised ego. Rejection is not for the weak, and it’s something you have tried avoiding for most of your life by moving out of the way before the R train could hit head-on, so it was difficult to be face-to-face with it in this moment. But almost immediately, you appreciated his honesty. You have often just not returned texts or been vague or short with those you were not interested in after a date, and his bluntness was truly a breath of fresh air. Even if it wasn’t exactly fresh.
It was also odd to you that he said things like, I had fun and I had a good time and I enjoyed meeting you, because if all those things were true, then what are we missing? The attraction was certainly there, you don’t just cozy up next to someone in a dark bar and kiss them like that if you’re not feeling it.
But you know, that’s what dating is all about, really – you can have a good time with someone and enjoy meeting them and not want to spend more time with them romantically.
So you came to terms with the situation faster than you thought you would, but you still wondered what his hesitation was. Your best friend suggests for the thousandth time that you follow her “no-fun” dating rules if you want a relationship, or at the very least, a second date, and her advice is always spot on, despite how often you ignore it. No more than two or three drinks, go home early and by yourself, be cautiously optimistic, etc. Basically, you’re going to have to start saying no if you want boys to keep saying yes? You find it all very complicated and strategic, something about its premeditated efforts takes away from all the fun, exiting possibilities of a date, but you know there is truth behind it.
You’ve never been much of a rule-follower and many of your first dates are certainly non-traditional, because as we know, you tend to get lost in the moment and defy this so-called “protocol.” Honey, it’s hard to say no to things that feel good. And maybe your date wasn’t a fan of your indulgences, even though he played a part in them. And you’re okay with that, and you’re okay with how the evening went and your decisions and maybe you’ll even try something different next time. You ate your feelings, you tried not to feel guilty about the merry-go-round of yeses and you got 11 hours of sleep and felt like a brand new woman the next day.
And when friends arrived for their follow-up report and eagerly asked you what happened, you told them the truth and did not let them feel disappointed or sorry for you and you absolutely meant it when you said, “On to the next one.” And surprisingly, you are thankful for this silly rejection, for the things it made you feel and for the words it helped you write.
Sara is a copywriter by day & a medium-good dater by night. She hates pants and loves puns, documents most of her life on the internet, occasionally writes screenplays and is almost always in a New York state of wine. Follow her on Twitter @omgskr and visit her site sarakatherinerunnels.com
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