When I ask some­one out, I give them the chance to re­ject me

I was tired of the limbo pe­riod that comes af­ter a good first date

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - ZACHARY ZANE

I used to play games. I’d wait to text back.

I’d pre­tend I was busier than I ac­tu­ally was. I made it seem like I wasn’t that in­ter­ested, when the truth was, I had al­ready con­jured up a dozen ro­man­tic ways I wanted to pro­pose.

It re­quired a lot of work. A lot of white (or flat-out) lies. I doubt it was in any way help­ing my self-es­teem, and it def­i­nitely wasn’t help­ing with my anx­i­ety. It worked — some­times — but never long-term.

The thing is, when you play hard to get, there’s no fu­ture when you’re fi­nally got. Your al­lure wasn’t your per­son­al­ity or your charm but that you were unattain­able. Peo­ple like at­tain­ing the unattain­able. Peo­ple like work­ing hard for some­thing and then get­ting it. But once you’re got, they’re done. So I stopped play­ing games. In­stead, I tried the op­po­site. In­stead of ini­tially re­ject­ing other folks, mak­ing them work to see, date or sleep with me, I gave them the op­por­tu­nity to re­ject me eas­ily and with­out any guilt.

This wasn’t a pre­med­i­tated plan, per se. I didn’t think to my­self be­fore my first Tin­der date: “Let me tell him if he doesn’t like me, I won’t be up­set, and he should carry on his merry way.”

But I was tired of the limbo pe­riod that comes af­ter a good first date. I was tired of hav­ing to wait to see whether he wanted to hang out again. I was tired of get­ting my hopes up, only for them to be dashed a week later.

While I, of course, couldn’t de­mand com­mit­ment, I think it is fair to ask for at least some level of clar­ity. That’s ex­actly what I did.

This one date wasn’t par­tic­u­larly me­morable. At the time, I re­mem­ber lik­ing him and want­ing to see him again.

I vaguely re­mem­ber his Harry Pot­ter glasses and the way he boy­ishly combed his cherry-blond hair to the side. I also re­mem­ber that I couldn’t de­ter­mine whether he was into me or be­ing po­lite.

The date lasted only 60 min­utes. Given all the medi­ocre duds I had met via dat­ing apps, I fig­ured an OK first date ab­so­lutely de­served a sec­ond.

As he was leav­ing, we were do­ing the usual rou­tine: “This was fun — I’d like to do this again some­time.”

I couldn’t tell whether he meant it or was sim­ply go­ing through the mo­tions. I wanted to have a tad more clar­ity be­fore leav­ing. So af­ter we said good­bye, I fol­lowed up with: “I also re­al­ize you have a lot on your plate with grad­u­ate school right now, so if you can’t hang out, no wor­ries.”

He thanked me for un­der­stand­ing and said he’d let me know. Not ex­actly the clar­ity I had hoped to achieve, but I was still glad I said some­thing.

A cou­ple days later, when I hadn’t heard any­thing, I texted him, ask­ing if he wanted to grab drinks later that week.

His re­sponse was quick: “Hey, I think you were right and I have a lot on my plate right now. I’m su­per swamped this week with school work, and don’t think I can hang out for a while. It was great meet­ing you!”

I wasn’t sure I be­lieved him. He re­al­ized, con­ve­niently af­ter our first date, that he ac­tu­ally was too swamped? It seemed more likely that he wasn’t into me at all.

I went back and forth, ar­gu­ing with my­self as to whether he was gen­uinely too busy or sim­ply didn’t like me. Fi­nally, af­ter be­ing caught in an ob­ses­sive loop for what felt like hours, I told my­self he was too busy.

Was it delu­sional? Some­what, but I was OK with that. If that’s what I needed to do to pro­tect my ego, so be it.

So that’s what I started to do. Now, when­ever I give some­one my num­ber, ask some­one out on a date or talk af­ter a first date, I al­ways give the per­son an easy way to re­ject me.

Ev­ery­one has a lot go­ing on in their lives, so it’s al­ways easy to come up with some rea­son they can’t hang out. Some­times it’s spe­cific: “I know you men­tioned you just got out of a se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship, so I com­pletely un­der­stand if this is too soon.”

And other times, it’s more generic. “I know you’re busy with work so ...”

Say­ing this has treated me pretty well. It not only gives them an easy way out and pro­tects my ego, but it also lets the other per­son know that I’m in­ter­ested with­out com­ing on too strong. It lets them know I’m not will­ing to wait around for them. It’s hon­est on my be­half and puts the ball in their court.

How­ever, be­cause of the way I opened my­self up to re­jec­tion, they’re not pe­nal­ized for not tak­ing the shot. They can put the ball down and sim­ply walk off the court.

It has made dat­ing a tad bit more tol­er­a­ble, too. And any­thing to ac­com­plish that is solid gold in my book.

If that’s what I needed to do to pro­tect my ego, so be it.

GMAST3R, GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

It not only gives them an easy way out, it also lets the other per­son know that I’m in­ter­ested with­out com­ing on too strong.

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