The 5 Stages of Deciding to No Longer Date Someone
I recently stayed on a date longer than I would have liked. The night began with dinner, a dinner that was three hours long. “That’s so great!” you the reader might be thinking to yourself. “Laurel really connected with that guy and they had so much to chat about.” I so wish that was the case. The dinner lasted three hours and then the after-dinner drinks lasted another three hours because the person I went on a date with moves/speaks/blinks at the speed of Friday afternoon. The pace is certainly friendly. But you don’t want to cruise in the speed of Friday afternoon when greater things pepper your horizon. So when he asked me if I wanted to tour art museums with him - (FYI this is a wonderful date idea. It’s classy and fun.) - I knew I had to say no. And my heart sank in my chest a little bit.
I go on a lot of dates. This is not meant to be a bragging right; it is a simple fact. As a young, social human in a vibrant city bustling with single people, dating is somewhat commonplace. And there are so many wonderful pieces of advice about how to recover from rejection or a breakup that could combine to make a world full of pies. And a world full of pies would be a better place. But what I have not heard/read/listened to on a podcast is how to let someone down and how not to feel a million emotions yourself. I feel everything all the time. So, since they (someone at some point said this) say feelings are best processed with others, I have decided to share them with you.
When I have decided I no longer want to date someone, I usually travel through 5 stages.
I deny things to myself. I replay the date(s) in my mind, and since I am an eternal optimist, I focus on the lovely moments. I replay the bewildered voice of the man who said, “You might be the most interesting woman I’ve ever met.” And I exhale a little more deeply because to be truly interesting is one desire of my heart and to be seen as a fully grown woman rather a flighty girl is another. I hear Mike Meyers as the voice of Shrek saying, “Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers.” People do have layers. Maybe I didn’t get the full picture. Maybe he was tired, and I challenged him to an unarmed battle of wits. Even Shakespeare would cut the guy some slack, I bet. Is there a term for buyer’s remorse when you decide not to buy something? Non-buyer’s remorse? Regardless, I have regret and second thoughts before I even communicate to whomever that I’m no longer interested.
And then I remember the events that I politely overlooked in the interest of having a great time. There was the guy who I met up with at a bar whose crisp button up and large, loud family just radiated with promise. I then remembered that I ended up facing him the whole time of our date, while he faced the bartender. It was incredibly flattering that he chose to fix his gaze upon a burly bearded man rather than me, the person he asked out.
Another guy’s opening conversation detailed his friend’s titillating life as a director in the porn industry. He told this charming tale within the first five minutes of our first date, after I told him the most interesting job award will always belong to my friend Mason who drove a 23-foot-long peanut-on-wheels for Planters. While I clearly have the more interesting friend, I have never felt more like a Maggie Smith character than at that peculiar moment. Because as most of her characters, I have an earnest appreciation of propriety (and tea).
I start to feel confident in my new decision. I told one guy the story of the time I ran over an industrial-sized can of paint while driving down Opelika Road and then encountered a kind stranger whom I trusted specifically because of the Hippocratic oath and said these words of advice, “THERE’S NO TIME.” My date might not have laughed at this strange and unusual turn of events, but I sure laughed telling it.
On another date I told the story of when my friend, Sadie, and I started to ride (other people’s) bikes to Taco Bell to sample the brand new and limited-time-only handheld nacho (RIP). We attempted to document our grand adventure in hopes of winning Taco Bell’s social media contest and subsequently, free tacos for life. The problem was that we only got as far as the kitchen and then broke down emotionally (because exercise) and took a car instead. I told one date this story, and he asked me what I found appealing about the handheld taco in a slightly disapproving tone. Obviously, he was not living màs.
I’m not asking for devotion to Taco Bell in every man I date, but I do need at least a sense of imagination, let alone empathy. If you’re not laughing with or even at me, and you don’t understand the hilarity of naming a balloon octopus Albert Einstein and then hiding him around your house for your roommates to find, you’re wrong and inching your way toward the same level as the people who outwardly claim they don’t like dogs.
I remember the look. The look that is Hallie James, dressed up as Annie, on the plane to meet her parent-trapped mother for the first time, gazing out the window, saying, “Oh, God, I hope she likes me. Please like me. Please.” The look is also Meredith Gray begging Derek to pick her, choose her and love her. Wistful. It’s one of my favorite words and a wonderfully delicate human characteristic. But when wistfulness is rejected one too many times, deep down (like channeling your way to China from America deep) people fear they are unlikable. The men I choose not to date will truly be fine. But the thought of perpetuating anyone’s feelings of not-enoughness haunts me a little. I don’t want the authorization to write that part of the story. So I panic and send drafts of messages to friends who will edit out any patronizing or insensitive words.
After consoling words from friends (thanks, Madeline, for convincing me time and time again that I am not a rejection monster), I am able to embrace the idea that telling someone the hard truth is not just okay but rather right and necessary. Doing everything in my power to communicate effectively and clearly helps dispel the haunting feelings. With peace comes thankfulness for the experience and stories. And more often than not, the men I date remind me that while chivalry originally stemmed from the idea that women are the weaker sex, politeness and kindness are universally appealing.
Writer Ella Dawson compared memories to snow globes to be picked up and gently shaken and that is how I like to view these dates. They might not be a part of my love story, but they’re a part of my greater life story, and I can make it snow/look back fondly on the memories without regret. And so can you, dear reader.