The Art of Saying No

How much bad sex has been the result of a fear of making it “awkward”?

It’s not the first time I’ve heard the story, but it’s the first time I’ve heard one this bad.

You know the one? When you best friend starts a date with high hopes and by the end of it, hopes are crushed, but for some reason, she still has sex with the guy anyway?

I’m not talking about a situation where she’s afraid to say “no.” I’m not talking about crazy men who take you away to a secluded area and give you no easy options to leave, or block your modes of entry.

No, I’m talking about a completely different situation — one we make for our selves, and makes absolutely no sense. It’s a situation defined by how we think others view us, and how that influences how we see ourselves.

My favorite version of this story is told by Annie Lederman in her stand up spot on Comedy Central.

In a cringe-driven moment of comedic brilliance, she describes how she meets her childhood crush from camp and has the chance to have sex with him many years later.

Of course, the downside of nostalgia is that the people we knew from one period of our lives is not nearly the same person we meet later. While Annie Lederman is ready to consummate her adolescent mental affair with camp counselor Mark Parker, once she sees him in the flesh as an adult she immediately regrets her decision, but is unable to turn him down.

More than any other sector of society, women are taught and encouraged to see their value and self-image as being likable, nice, and most of all, kind. Saintly, in fact. And telling someone no, especially if you feel like you might owe them something in the first place, can start to get you into murky territory about what qualifies as “nice”.

It doesn’t help that there’s a sector of men who think buying a drink and a plate of food is enough to secure a “yes” — but a beer and bar food has never obligated anyone to let them inside of their body. Can you imagine if a doctor gave a man a burger and then said, “I’m glad you enjoyed it, I’d like to open up a part of you and shove something foreign inside. Will only take a minute.”

And women say yes. Many women say yes. Because it’s more than just about saying no — it’s about how saying no means we have to abandon our Good Girl status. The cost of our honesty is to no longer be kind, to be loving, to be caring, to be a saint. We’re pushed into a space where the choice is a hard one: do what you want to do and be perceived as heartless, or do what you don’t want to do and preserve your ideal version of yourself as perfect.

Not long ago, I went on a date with a guy I liked. We never made it as far as the bedroom, but I could see how easily we could have landed there. By the time we got to the end of the night, I knew already that I wasn’t attracted to him.

How was I going to tell him that?

I knew the terms we left on were going to depend on which reason I chose to give him.

The fact is, most people hate rejection — whether receiving or giving it — and most people are so incapable of dealing with it that “ghosting” has become a cultural norm, the path of invisibility we choose rather than face ourselves.

I knew it would be crueler to end the night as though everything were fine and give him false hopes when he tried to contact me next and instead hear nothing back.

The feeling wasn’t there, I told him. I felt more like a mother than a lover.

Were there other reasons? Certainly. I broke it to him gently. He was hurt but understood, and we parted ways as friends.

It wasn’t easy. I certainly had an ideal image of myself as a Good Girl. But the truth was, I would rather be a Bad Girl and have the sex I wanted with the guy I wanted, then lead someone on because I had too much of an investment in a persona that was never real anyway.

6 Rules For Online Dating

Rules are not always the most exciting part of life, but they make contact sports and fine dining infinitely less messy. This is also true when applied to online dating. If you’ve been out in the wilds of the single safari, you may have your doubts that rules exist, but they do, and we really, really need them.

Here are some basic rules you should take under consideration as you venture into the wide world of singles, and best of all, you can carry them with you beyond the virtual world of swipe apps.

Keep Your Photos Up To Date

Ten years out of college but you’re still displaying the picture that gives you hope and enthusiasm about your future? That spare tire you’ve been honing as a result of too many dinners at the sandwich shop doesn’t need to be front and center, but the fact that you’re molecularly a different person does. Honesty needs to be a part of your first impressions. Enlist your friends, a stranger on the street, make the duck face you’ve been dreading, but whatever you do, make the effort.

However, if Photoshop is required for the end result, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Have A Fetish? Start Off On The Right Foot.

Some people like feet. A lot more than other people. And some people like to visit Furry Conventions. Some people read an E.L. James novel, and others live an E.L. James novel.

In our day to day lives, we generally tend to keep that stuff in the background, because it’s not really appropriate in a workplace or while we’re giving our little brother a purple nurple. The internet has changed how we negotiate our preferences, fetishes, our just the fact that we knock three times on the door before we leave the building because deep down inside, we know calamity will befall us.

You asked, and the internet has provided. This is what profiles were made for. Now, you don’t have to wait until five dates or a pregnancy in to discover that your diaper fetish is a deal breaker.

Not comfortable with putting your vulnerable bits in a profile? It could be a better time to discuss or message your special requests/fantasies/restraining orders in the lead up to the date. Judge each situation accordingly.

Oh, The Honesty, It Burns

Peacocks are gorgeous creatures. Those beautiful feathers when the tail is completely unfurled make the bird itself seem six feet bigger than it is. The peacock is gorgeous, and once the tail feathers deflate you’re left with a slightly more colorful turkey.

And that’s the point. We know on some level, that we could always appear to be more attractive than we actually are. To some extent, embellishment is expected.

However, outright bald-faced lies is venturing into the world of fraud, especially when you consider how deep a lie can affect those involved. No one’s saying that your DUI from ten years ago is necessarily relevant now, but pretending you are the chief financial executive of Secretly Living With My Parents, Inc., is eventually going to end in tears.

Show people who you are by having the conviction to be honest but the charm to know when not to spill your guts about that incident in high school when your tongue got frozen to the street pole in subzero temperatures.

To Ghost, Or Not To Ghost?

Everyone decries ghosting, but here is where definitions are helpful. If you know within the first several messages that the person isn’t right for you, and you get busy talking to someone else, ghosting happens. It makes people angry, it makes people upset. 

The problem is, even if you bluntly tell someone, “this isn’t working for me,” they usually want reasons and some people even get frighteningly aggressive. Ghosting suddenly seems like a much better alternative, and if you’re at a point where you know this isn’t going anywhere, it’s the best way to move on quickly and with less injury to either person.

Ghosting that occurs after a relationship is established is usually universally regarded as cruel and irresponsible, even though we hear more and more anecdotes about the event taking place. If you’re at a physical stage early in, or late term, the other party should at least take the time to text or message and admit it’s not working out. Leaving without a trace certainly sends a different message, and not a good one.

Shut Your Pie Hole

The art of conversation is something some people never discover, and you’ll find this out for yourself when you finally meet them and date them in person. Some people dominate conversations with endless topics about their favorite, but least riveting subject (themselves) and never take a moment to ask the other person a question or inquire about their own lives.

Don’t be that person.

If you struggle with being able to listen to another person, practice with your friends and even make a list of questions you should ask the other person to show that you are engaged and interested. A person who only talks about themselves and can’t have a dialogue is showcasing that there is no room in their lives for another person — they’ve already filled that space up with themselves.

Who Pays?

No one ever wants to have the conversation, and in some cases this is where you’ll see the clear demarcation between one generation and another. Many still hold that the man should pay. Nowadays it is more common to see couples split the bill, or if one pays, the other sends money via app to make up their half.

Set your expectation early. If you expect it to be a shared proposition, bring it up. If you always pay, or never pay, mentioning this is worthwhile. This establishes an important relationship dynamic early on in terms of how capable you are when it comes to negotiating uncomfortable topics. The ability of both parties to communicate what they want will be a key component to actually getting what you want. Start now! Not when you tell the waiter you’re going to the bathroom just so you can crawl out the window to avoid the check on the table.

Featured photo credit: Asad Photo Maldives from Pexels