6 insincere dating gestures that need to go

I went to dinner last week on what I had hoped was a promising first date, but over the course of the evening proved to be anything but. My short-rib grilled cheese proved to be the high point of the evening, which is good, as I accidentally ended up paying for it. When the check arrived, I did the courtesy reach for the wallet that so many of us are familiar with, expecting my credit card to be waved away. Instead, my date said, “Sure.  I’d pay for it, but if you’re offering. . .” No, I’m not offering! I thought. I’m doing the polite thing that you’re supposed to wave off. “You’re an idiot,” one of my coworkers told me the next day. “If you don’t want to pay, stop doing the reach.” I realized she was right.

It’s time to stop doing dating gestures out of courtesy and politeness. Here are six insincere dating rituals that need to go.

1.  The wallet reach

There’s a whole discussion to be had possibly about finances and gender roles, but I think that fundamentally, this reasoning holds. If you’re on a first date and you’re not super inclined to pay for your meal or drink, why must we pretend like we want to so that the guy can pretend like he’s so generous and gracious? If you’re expecting the guy to pay, just let him pay.

2.  Fake making of plans

It’s time to stop saying “we should do this again sometime” if you never actually wish to see the person again. If, at the end of the night, they ask you what you’re doing this weekend or if you’d like to go to a concert, let’s stop with the, “Oh, let me check my schedule” or “I”ll get back to you” if you have no intention of doing any of those things. If you know you’re not feeling it, this is the time to say, “Thanks for a lovely evening, but I don’t really feel a connection here” so that they can make plans with their friends or another date and not waste their time waiting for you to respond to a text message you know you’re going to ignore.

3.  Any sort of rule of threes

I don’t know why the dating world is so obsessed with the number three, but I seem to hear a lot of these: three days to call, three dates to kiss, three months before sex. . . We’re all grownups here. Call when you want to call. Kiss when you want to kiss. Do what feels right, what you’re comfortable with, and what you know you won’t regret in the morning, don’t let well-meaning advice books tell you how to live your life.

4.  Being terrified to mention your ex

This is not open season to talk about how you just ended your three-year relationship last week and you’re just so excited to be getting back out there, only to end up having too much wine and sobbing into your dessert. No one deserves that. But I’ve had a lot of conversations where you’re swapping travel stories or whatever and you’re like, “Oh, I love Hawaii, I went there with a friend this one time. . .” Please. No one goes to Hawaii with a “friend.” Just call a spade a spade and state that you went with an ex. I’m 28, and the guys I date are around my age. At this point in our lives, I think it’s expected we’ve all had some relationships and that some of our interesting stories probably happened with people we’re no longer dating. Let’s just be honest about it.

5.  Feeling any embarrassment about online dating

It used to be that my first rule of OkCupid was that we don’t talk about OkCupid. While I still don’t think a first date is the appropriate setting to ask someone how long they’ve been online dating or how many dates they’ve been on (because you don’t ask someone how long they’ve been regular dating!), I think it’s time we stop making up fake cover stories about how we met in a bar or at a cooking class or an imaginary mutual friend named “Tinder.” We’re comfortable sharing every other aspect of our lives online, let’s embrace that our love lives are out there, too.

6.  Sticking out a terrible date out of politeness

A few months ago, a guy on the street asked me out as I was walking home from the gym. Despite my first instinct to say no, I decided I couldn’t wish my life to be a romantic comedy if I turned down a meet-cute when it was asking me to dinner. Or, at least what I thought was going to be dinner, and turned out to be three tequila shots for him and the free chips and salsa for me. The guy led the conversation with how drunk he’d gotten the night before, started calling me “babe” about two minutes into our conversation, told me he was unemployed because he’d left a job in New York where everyone was a “douchebag,” so he could move to DC for the “party scene,” and asked me virtually nothing about myself. About 15 minutes in, I should have gotten up, thanked him for his time and left; instead I wasted another 45 minutes of my life because I was too polite to ask the waitress if there was a back way out when I went to go to the bathroom. There are a finite number of hours in a day, so when people are clearly a waste of our time, let’s not give them any more of it than we need to.

I get that we have manners for a reason, which is usually to prevent hurt feelings. The fact is though, that following these rules doesn’t really prevent people from getting hurt, it just prolongs the time it takes to happen, and wastes everyone’s time in the process. Let’s stop wasting our energy in the name of politeness and let everyone move on to people better suited for us.

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