DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a question regarding the manners (and safety) of when to end a date when you met the person online. I’m a woman in my late 20s, and I’ve had enough experience with online dating to be relatively savvy with it. I typically find it a fun way to meet new people and go on some fun dates. I feel comfortable navigating most situations, except for this: when I want to end the date before it’s over.
I’ve experienced this scenario in two categories: one, when I’m simply not attracted to the person and don’t want to waste anyone’s time, and two, when I feel uncomfortable. It’s this second version I need the most help with. I have not figured out how to end the date early without relying on a transparent lie (I have other plans, a family member or friend needs help, I have to go study, etc.) or just sticking it out and then driving home shuddering. The issue with lying is that sometimes they try to convince me to put off whatever I say I need to do, or they push really hard for an answer about when we will be hanging out again.
My biggest concern comes from my knowledge of what certain men do to women when those women reject them. From news stories about women getting stalked and killed to my own and my friends’ experiences, it’s genuinely threatening and alarming. I’ve had guys eavesdrop on my conversations and then follow me and my friends to bars, had them demand an explanation into why my boundaries are what they are, had them stick their hands (and mine) into places they had no business being, had strangers insist on buying me drinks I don’t want and then get aggressive when I refuse the drink, and on and on. Men have also yelled at me and my friends via online dating apps when we wouldn’t share our phone numbers or meet up after a few lines of chatting.
My strategy for meeting with someone new is to go for a chat over coffee in the afternoon at a busy coffee shop, so I’m doing my best to minimize any possibility that I’m in an uncomfortable situation. I’m also trying to prevent us wasting our time if we aren’t attracted to each other. The fact remains, some people just make me uncomfortable for various reasons, like the men who can’t stop talking about sex or the guys who repeatedly push physical boundaries. Unfortunately, it’s not easy figuring out what someone will be like in real life when you meet them online. Honestly, I’m often afraid to bring attention to the problem because the outcome feels like a game of Russian Roulette. Will they respectfully back off? Will they keep pushing harder? Will I start getting yelled at, insulted, or gaslighted? Will something worse happen?
I’m happy to say this scenario doesn’t happen to me often. Usually, even if I’m not romantically interested in someone I meet online, I have a fun time hanging out with someone who has mutual interests. The majority of guys I meet are not creepy boundary pushers who make me want to run away home. But I want to be able to get out of a date without being afraid of the consequences. Even when I simply don’t see a friendship or a relationship coming out of a meeting, I’m still a little wary to cut it short and leave because of the reasons I already stated. If continuing to lie is the best option, that’s fine. I’m a Slytherin, I can handle that. If there’s another more effective way, though, I would love to hear it.
Thanks for listening.
-Afraid of the End
DEAR AFRAID OF THE END: Let’s start with the obvious: your worries are legitimate and real. Women who date men do face risks when it comes to dating that men don’t. A casual Google search will bring up literally dozens of stories of women who’ve been harassed, assaulted or even murdered for rejecting men. And while yes, not all men are like that, just about every woman has either experienced this first-hand or has someone in their immediate lives who has.
Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about how to handle situations where either you aren’t feeling it or where you feel that you need to leave. Because these are two different situations that require different strategies.
The first thing I would say is that you’re already doing something I would advise: you’re going on a pre-date date. That is, you’re going on a short date in a public place to do your due diligence and see if it’s worth both of your time to go on a proper date. If you’ve got chemistry and they seem like someone worth seeing again then hey, you have something to look forward to. If not… well, the worst that’s happened is that you’re out fifteen to thirty minutes and the price of a cup of coffee.
Another possible option, especially if your schedules don’t allow for an afternoon meet-up is to borrow a page from the PUA manual and establish what’s known as a “false time constraint”. That is: you meet up for a drink (singular) but you can’t stay because you have an engagement later that evening that you’re already committed to – a friend’s birthday, dinner with the family, something where it wouldn’t be appropriate to bring along a relative stranger. This way, if things aren’t going well, then you have your socially acceptable out: you have another commitment, such a shame, etc. Once again, you’re only out a small amount of time and the cost of a drink without the expectation (or pressure) of staying for longer than you would actually want to. And if things are going well, then you have the option of sticking around – wouldn’t you know it, your friends cancelled, Dad’s got the ick, whatever.
(Now, whether it’s better to stick to that false time constraint or not is an argument for another time. On the one hand: if you trust your instincts, then you don’t need to end the date right then. On the other, one of the measures of a man is how he handles disappointment.)
But let’s say that you’re dealing with a situation where you feel profoundly uncomfortable. That’s one where one’s choices will depend on just what’s making you uncomfortable. Is it someone being boorish – the guy who won’t stop turning every conversation to sex, for example – or someone who’s indicating that they don’t like being told “no” or that boundaries are something that happen to other people?
If it’s the former and you don’t feel comfortable calling him on his crap, then this is a time when that false time constraint comes in handy: oh hey, would you look at that, gotta go and don’t think it hasn’t been a little slice of heaven.
‘cuz it hasn’t.
The latter requires a little more nuance and depends a lot on how safe you feel. Do you feel that you can make it to the end of the date and leave, never to talk to him again? Or do you feel that it would be safer for you to leave now? If you feel that you need to go right the hell now – and that is totally within your rights – then do so. Make up an excuse, even if it’s just that you need to use the bathroom, then go. Disappear so fast that you leave a human-shaped cloud in your wake. If you’re feeling especially guilty, Venmo him the cost of your drinks/meal/ticket and call it the Escape The Asshat tax.
(Side note: despite the virality of the story, there really isn’t any evidence that things like “ordering an Angel Shot” is a reliable way to leave a bad or dangerous date. Better to drive yourself to the venue or have a taxi or ride-share app ready to go if you need to make a swift exit.)
Keep in mind: you don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you aren’t interested in another date. You aren’t obligated to give them a reason or even a response, especially if they’ve set off your Spidey-sense. It’s nice to say “thanks but this isn’t working for me, good luck in your search”, but it’s not required. Whether they actively creeped you out or you just weren’t into them, all that they need to know is that you don’t want to see them again.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: One of my goals right now is to work on my physical fitness; I’m not super unfit, but I’m on the skinny side with a bit of belly fat developed from sitting at a work desk so much, and I’d like to get to a point where I’m maintaining good physical health and decent looks (some muscle tone, etc). My goal isn’t to become a bodybuilder or get ripped or anything that extreme.
The issue is… whenever I engage in weightlifting or running or any other really strenuous physical activity, I end up feeling tired and nauseous for a while (a couple of hours) right after, and often sore for days. This isn’t necessarily an issue on its own, but I’m a college student with a more-than-full course load and part-time work, and I can’t afford the hit to my productivity from these side-effects. I’m already struggling just to get a decent night’s sleep as-is.
I would really appreciate it if you could direct me to some resources on how I can maintain a good fitness level without giving my body such a beating that it seriously hampers my productivity. As I said, I don’t want to get ripped, just be healthy and look decent.
98 Pound Weakling
DEAR 98 POUND WEAKLING: Something tells me you’re biting off more than you can chew, NPW. Some soreness the next day is to be expected; you’re using muscles in ways that they’re unused to, which means that you’re going to be feeling the effects later. As you work out and improve your fitness, you’ll find the soreness eases until you start pushing yourself again. But if you’re working out to the point where you want to puke… well, that’s a reliable indicator you’re doing it wrong. Despite all the maxims like “no pain, no gain”, you aren’t supposed to work out to to the point of incapacitating yourself. Pain isn’t weakness leaving the body, pain is your body’s way of telling you something’s wrong.
I suspect what’s going on is that you’re trying to go from zero to balls-to-the-wall, which is a mistake. Even if you aren’t leaving yourself exhausted and ready to puke, trying to give 110% right off the bat is a recipe for burnout and ditching your newfound exercise regimen in a couple of weeks… and that’s not taking the potential for injury into account. You need to build your your basic fitness and endurance, not just leap off your couch and try to run a marathon or bench 250 pounds.
Now depending on what you’re trying to do, you have options. If you just want to up your cardio, you might try a program like Couch to 5k or get an app like Zombies, Run, which has a training mode to help get you in shape as Runner 5. Sites like NerdFitness can also help you develop a program that’ll let you get fit without killing yourself in the process. You can even find a plethora of free workouts on YouTube that you can do in your apartment, ranging from body-weight exercises to jump rope routines.
If you’re looking to lift weights, put on some muscle and get toned… well, I strongly suggest you get at least a couple of sessions with a personal trainer first. A lot of folks who just dive into weight lifting often have lousy form, which can lead to muscle sprains, tears and worse. These’ll put you out of commission faster (and longer) than some soreness that you can treat with Gatorade and a couple Advil. A trainer can teach you the basics on how to lift properly, as well as help you craft a workout plan that will let you reach your goals quickly and efficiently.
And don’t underestimate the benefits of simply going for walks. Just going out and walking for a while is a viable form of exercise, and one that’s a lot easier to fit into your schedule than multiple hours in the gym every day. No it’s not going to turn you into a sculpted Adonis, but it’ll improve your cardiovascular fitness and overall health.
One thing to keep in mind: fitness is going to look different to different people. Being fit and in shape doesn’t mean that you’re going to be built like a Greek statue. Your physical shape is going to be affected by things like your overall build and genetics; some folks aren’t going to have Thor-perfect superhero abs, no matter how much they work out and diet. Focus on overall health and wellbeing over “looks like a Men’s Health cover model” and you’ll do better than trying to force yourself into a next-to-impossible lifestyle.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)