Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rules of disentanglement: Is it possible to let him down easy?

To dump or not to dump, that is the question.

And once you decide to give him the old heave ho, how do you go about it?

My friend and I had a lively debate the other night, trying to determine the best way to let someone know that you're just not that into them. I've always done unto others as I'd have them do unto me, and in my break-up book, there's no line worse than "Hey, I'm not really feeling you. Can we just be friends?" -- or some variation on that basic get-lost theme.

It's actually the polite thing to do, come clean with the person who's constantly texting or calling or emailing or sending instant messages. (Damn, there are so many ways to be stalked these days!) Fortunately, I've rarely been on the receiving end of such brutal honesty. I field rejection as often as anybody else, but I'm a smart guy, and I pick up on disinterest easily. One unreturned text, or phone call, or email, and I'm outta there. Moving right along. If you seem bored on a date, it's because you probably are. I won't ask, and please don't tell. Have a nice life!

Unfortunately, many of the guys I have met in Buenos Aires haven't seemed to see things the same way. Either they don't take hints very well, or they are hopeless masochists who thrive on the sting of flat-out rejection. Whichever it is, something about my friend's argument -- that the only honorable way to make a good, clean break is to be as straightforward as possible -- swayed me. I decided I would have to tell Mario how I really felt.

Mario and I hadn't even been dating. We'd gone out exactly one time, and never made it to first base. I'm not really sure what he saw in me. I wasn't particularly "on" the night we'd hung out. I'd been tired, and I had a lot on my mind. And yeah, I'll admit it, he bored me a little. A lot. He asked so many questions, none of them particularly original, that the date felt more like work than play. He was one of those people who is uncomfortable with silence and tries to fill it with chit chat. I was surprised when he asked me flat out the next day what I thought about him. He sensed my disinterest, and called me on the fact that I'd occasionally get very quiet and stare off into space as if I wanted to be somewhere else.

I gave him points for his intuitiveness. I should have been honest with him and told him that I wasn't interested, but I'd been down that road before. Guys here don't know what to do with rejection, and I wasn't in the mood for battle. So I used that old tired "I was tired" excuse. He bought it, and in the days that followed, began to pursue me with total abandon -- or what passes for total abandon in Buenos Aires. Every time I turned on my computer and logged into MSN Messenger, there he was. Sometimes I responded, but usually I didn't. He started to get the hint, and even asked why I was ignoring him. I didn't answer, but he was not about to go gently into that good night. It was as if he was daring me to man up and dump him.

So I practiced my kindest rejection line. I told him that because I will be leaving Buenos Aires in a couple of months, I didn't want to start anything new with anyone, which is actually the truth. Unfortunately, Mario was undeterred. He was okay not starting anything serious, if only he could get to first base, and possibly beyond. My skin crawled at the thought of being bored to tears by another round with him, or having him spend hours looking at me, expectantly, as if he had paid top-ticket price to the greatest show on earth. Who needs that kind of pressure?

Was he doing all this just for the nookie anyway? If so, why was he acting like I was his only hope? Surely a smart, nice-looking guy like him had other options. I probably would have indulged him had I been even slightly attracted to him, but I wasn't. And the whiff of desperation wasn't doing him any favors.

As I stood my ground, he stood his. He called me selfish, wished he had had never met me, and threatened to delete me from his MSN. It was all very Days of Our Lives! I thought he was overreacting (and overacting), but I'd been down this road many times with guys in BA. Part of me felt badly, because I don't like for anyone to think the worst of me. Another part of me, the one that realizes that life is not a popularity contest, felt relieved. He was justifying my desire not to have anything further to do with him.

Before I said something cruel that I might regret, I beat him to the punch and deleted him. A few hours later, he sent me a text message reiterating that he wished he'd never met me. I was tempted to tell him that the feeling was mutual, but I figured why start responding to his theatrics now? Sometimes the best rule of disentanglement is to simply press delete and never look back.

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