The other day, I was regaling a group of friends with the story of a horrible first date I had been on. From beginning to end, the date had gone all wrong. One friend asked me, "Why didn't you just leave?"
After I thought about it for a moment I replied, "I don't know. I guess I didn't want to be rude."
My friend then described a scene in the very first episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Four women have just been rescued from an underground apocalypse cult; they'd spent 15 years living in a bunker and the "Mole Women" are being interviewed by Matt Lauer on The Today Show. One woman describes how she came to be a part of the cult: she was a waitress at a steakhouse and had waited on the cult leader several times; one night, he invited her out to his car to see some baby rabbits, and she went because she didn't want to be rude.
Lauer responds, "I'm always amazed at what women will do because they're afraid of being rude."
It's a funny line, sure, but it's also incredibly true.
I've heard countless stories from friends about horrible first dates that they suffered through because they felt bad about hurting the other person's feelings.In my case, I had just broken up with my boyfriend of 10 years. I decided to orchestrate a fling for myself — a bit of a palate cleanse, if you will. On the advice of a friend, I turned to a popular dating app and started swiping.
Jeff* and I connected and sent a few messages back and forth. He gave me the impression he was recently divorced and feeling a bit lonely. I could relate. We met up late that evening around 9 p.m., me on foot and him in his truck. I should have known it would be bad when he suggested we meet in the parking lot of a nearby mall. I made sure to screenshot his picture and send it to my friend with the line, "If you don't hear from me in an hour, tell the police to look for this guy."
As soon as our eyes met, I knew this was not the fling I was seeking. Call it a gut feeling — a feeling that was reaffirmed when he suggested we go to a park (at night, in the dark). When I suggested we go to a nearby bar, he could not have looked more disappointed.
At this point I should have walked away, but I didn't want to be rude.
We sat down and ordered drinks. I gave him an abbreviated version of my life story and asked him to tell me his. He proceeded to launch into an endless tirade about his life story, all centered around "crazy bitches" he'd had to put up with: the older woman he dated as a teenager, the manager who wouldn't promote him despite the fact that he was the best damn pizza delivery man the world had ever seen, and so on. He made it all the way up to his current wife (not ex) who, since the birth of their daughter five years ago, was no longer interested in sleeping with him.
Yep, this is the second point at which I should have left, but I still didn't want to be rude.
He then continued to describe in detail how he would sit his wife down every year and have "the talk," the gist of which (I think) was basically put out or get out. Since that tactic shockingly didn't get the wife all hot and bothered, he had decided to have an affair. Apparently that got too serious, so he broke it off.
I know, I should have politely excused myself and gotten the hell out of there.
Thankfully, he could sense the night was not going to end with sex in his truck in the park. When the server asked if we wanted another round, he couldn't say no fast enough. After we parted ways, he texted me and apologized for talking too much. I made some polite excuse why I didn't think this would work out, putting the blame on me instead of letting him know he was an asshole.
Even after all of that, I still didn't want to seem rude or hurt his feelings.
After that encounter, I was a lot less worried if some guy I didn't know thought I was rude. I continued with the online dating and wasn't afraid to shut things down when the guy acted like an ass. Unsolicited dick pic? Nope, next. The guy who stood me up and tried play it off like a joke? Blocking that number.
I think it's time we let go of the worry that we'll appear rude for standing up for ourselves. Or for choosing not to spend time with assholes. Or for advocating for what we want and deserve. Otherwise, we'll continue to suffer through endless bad dates with guys who are jerks, or worse, end up in an underground apocalyptic cult.