Hinting.

“Thank you, but I’m busy that day.”

“I appreciate the invite, but I have a lot going on right now. Let me get in touch with you when I have some free time.”

“No, thank you.”

“I’m really not interested in dating right now.”

“This is a really busy time for me, so I’ll pass, but thanks.”

I’m sick of hinting. I’m sick of saying no, I’m sick of saying I’m busy, I’m sick of saying I’m working. I am just sick and tired of having to justify why I don’t want to hang out with a guy. Being firm and gentle, and even just polite, has gotten me absolutely nowhere. So, I am revolutionizing for myself what I deem as appropriate social conduct when interacting with men: be nice the first time, then pull the bitch card.

I’ve come to finally acknowledge that about 90% of men are absolute twinkies when it comes to women. (As for the other 10%, maybe half are men who are confident and noble, and the other half are probably just clueless.) Poor men. I get it, rejection sucks, and trust me, I do know. But here is where my sympathy comes to a complete and screeching halt: when after being rejected, they deny they were interested in the first place. Do not play me for a fool.

I will give an example of the kind of behavior I’m talking about. I met a guy we’ll call Frank through a mutual friend at a dinner party. We had a lovely discussion, which revolved mostly around the charity organization he runs for children in Africa. I was intrigued by it, as I’d been looking for an organization to donate to and possibly volunteer for, but I left before remembering to ask him for the website. Our mutual friend later texted me, asking if it was alright for her to give Frank my email address so he could send me more info on the charity, and I told her she could.

The next day his email was waiting for me in my inbox, with a link to the website of his foundation and other bits of information about it. Then in the last paragraph, he said, “I really enjoyed meeting you last night, and would like to spend more time getting to know you. I have never been to Disneyland and wondered if you would like to accompany me there anytime this week, day or night.” While he sounded gracious and was an attractive man, I had just gotten out of a relationship and wasn’t ready to start dating yet. I wrote him back, thanking him for the charity information, and added, “As for Disneyland, I really appreciate the invitation, but I’m not interested in dating anyone right now. Thank you, though.” I even added a smiley face — :) — just to soften the blow. Well, imagine how my feathers were ruffled later on that day when I read his reply…

“Whoa tiger!” he wrote. “Who said anything about dating? I don’t want to date anyone either, and I only meant to go as a group of friends. I thought we’d invite Meg and Jon along, I wasn’t asking you out.”

Whoa tiger indeed! I was laughing by the end of his indignant email. Gone was his former graciousness, now his writing reeked of bruised ego and accusatory temperment. I didn’t even bother writing back. He and I both knew that if he really didn’t mean his invitation to be considered as a date, he should have clarified that in the first email, saying something along the lines of “I’m going to Disneyland for the first time this Saturday with a bunch of friends. Meg and Jon are coming, too, and if you’d like, you’re welcome to join us and I’d be happy to tell you more information on the charity.” But why would a single, straight male invite me anywhere with him, no matter who else was going, unless he was interested? Would a single, straight man really just want to be my friend? The very idea makes me chuckle, and I know this sounds vain, but let’s all just be honest.

Other examples?

Man: “So a friend of mine is promoting a new club opening on Friday. It should be fun, wanna go?”

Me: “Oh thanks, but I don’t really like clubs and I have a friend’s birthday party to go to that night.”

Man: “Ok, well are you free Saturday? There’s a restaurant up in Malibu that I think you’d really enjoy, we should go.”

Me: “Thanks, but I have plans on Saturday as well.”

Man: “Ok. Maybe sometime when you’re free, we can grab coffee or something?”

(Now here’s the part where I decide to be gently honest, just to make sure he doesn’t eventually accuse me of leading him on, and I try to be as sweet as possible.)

Me: “Thank you, I appreciate it, but you know, to be honest, I’m just not really interested in dating anybody right now.”

Man: “What? I didn’t mean as a date! I just meant to hang out! Wow, somebody thinks pretty highly of herself, huh?”

He will say this with a smile as he fidgets and backs away from me, obviously using sarcasm to try and cover his embarrassment of being turned down. Caught, rejected, and too cowardly to admit it. Here’s what a gentleman would have said, in my opinion: “I understand. You seem like an interesting girl. If you change your mind, let me know.” In my imagination, this gracious man would then smile and excuse himself.

What if he had said, “How about we not call it a date? Can we just hang out as friends?” Sure, seems polite and non-threatening, but I would still know that he was interested in me as more than just friends. I would be constantly on guard until the next time he tries to bring it up, or tries to hold my hand on a “not-a-date” excursion, or until he gets drunk and tries to kiss me or profess his love for me, the way almost all of my guy friends have at one point or another. The only exceptions I can think of are guys who were either gay or who already had girlfriends when I met them, usually through work, and who I usually didn’t hang out with outside of work.

A gracious acceptance of my non-willingness to go on a date with a man is extremely rare. In fact, the only time I can recall it happening is once, when a guy I’d met at an event with friends expressed via Facebook his interest in seeing me again. I replied my thanks and explained that I’d just gotten out of a relationship and wasn’t interested in dating anyone yet. No “whoa tiger!” here, he graciously said that he understood my position. It was a shame when later, after repeatedly turning down invites to hang out with him and ignoring his phone calls, he sent me another Facebook email to inform me that he was done investing in our relationship after he realized it was all at his initiative. Fine by me. Again, it makes me chuckle.

I know my laughter at all these responses I get from men after I turn them down is just a cover up. I laugh, partly because sometimes the responses are amusing to me, and partly because my feelings are hurt and I’d rather not cry. It’s hurtful when a guy insinuates that I must be stupid, to think that he was interested in me. It’s hurtful when a guy has to accuse me of being “on a high horse”, “uppity”, or “full of myself”, to cover up his sense of disappointment and shame that he was rejected. Especially when I’ve tried to go out of my way to be kind about it, and it’s already daunting enough for me to have to say no in the first place. I’m just as scared as he is. He’s nervous to ask, and I’m nervous to say no. I genuinely don’t like disappointing people or hurting their feelings, but I’ve at least gotten to the point where I realized I needed to take care of myself first and that I don’t have to say yes to everything.

I especially have learned to aviod giving the benefit of the doubt that a man was not asking me on a date. Until about the age of 20, I was very naive, insecure in my ability to read people, and I hadn’t yet learned to trust my instincts. Trusting your instincts is important. So far, my gut has never been wrong, that is when I’ve bothered to really pay attention to it. Our instincts are our most crucial gift as human beings. From the most primal of situations to the most modern conundrums we face in work, in our environment, and in our relationships, our instincts are invaluable. If we have a weird feeling that we’re being followed, we take it seriously and err on the side that yes, we are. If we have the feeling that we are being asked out, we need to err on the side that yes, we are. Not doing so often results in misunderstandings, blue balls, and broken hearts. Yes, you will be called presumputous many times, and arrogant, full of yourself, and all sorts of variations thereof. But at least you’ll know and you’ll save yourself a lot of awkward confusion later.

Trusting my instincts, and being brave enough to clarify if a guy was asking me out or not (mostly by assuming that he is), has stirred many a hornet’s nest. I look at it as a shortcut into seeing a man’s true character when I observe how he handles rejection. Does he become flippant? Angry? Scoffing? Bitter? Name-calling? Crushed? Or does he take it in stride, with an amiable smile and a considerate understanding? Is he confident and accepting? Being upfront– yes, Presumptuous with a capital P!– has saved me a lot of trouble and confusion. I used to be in denial of my attractiveness (not to be confused with now being full of myself), and I’d believe that a guy wasn’t asking me out on a date or he would have said so. I was so naive, I actually thought guys would be man enough to flat out tell a girl, “Hey, I’m really into you, and I’d like to take you on a date this weekend.” No. I learned they do the Coffee Trick…