How to Let a Guy Down

Sorry I can’t hang, my neighbor’s grandmother is having a birthday party for her cat.

We’ve all read about “How to Dress for a First Date,” “How to Procure a Second Date,” and “How to Keep Him by Your Side for the Rest of Your Life.” Something not addressed in the myriad of women’s magazines, though: “How To Back the Hell Out.” Is it so hard to believe that on less than a rare occasion we do not want a second date? I mean, sure, a woman’s greatest achievement in life is to meet the perfect man and bear his children, but can’t we be a little choosy about it? (Just kidding. We all know a woman’s actual greatest achievement in life is getting over a fifty percent discount at Victoria’s Secret.)

How to Let a Guy Down

It happens when you first kiss, while you’re stalking his Instagram, halfway through a second date listening to him ramble about the new Call of Duty when you realize: this is not going anywhere.

If you’re like me, your instincts tell you to make a mad dash for the door or to slide down in your chair so you become one with it and he forgets you’re there at all. But you and I both know he won’t forget. As sure as the sun will rise, he will text you the next day and probably more than once.

What’s up?

Hey what’s up?

Wanna grab a beer at my friend’s arcade?

How do I get out of this? My mind jumps from excuse to poorly-fabricated excuse:

I just remembered I have a dentist appointment tonight.

Sorry my apartment is currently on fire!

My dog just ate a bowl of double fudge brownie batter and might be dying (No no, I don’t need any help, thanks!)”

I have a boyfriend overseas.

I’m having a herpes outbreak! Is next week okay?

I figure if I use the Dying Dog Excuse a few times, he’ll take the hint. Either that, or I hit him with The Cold Shoulder.

The Cold Shoulder. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. If you aren’t, I applaud you. That means you’re a kind person (or you just have really good luck with dates). But most of us have, at one point, wanted to avoid letting a guy down so badly that we fell off the face of the earth entirely. They never heard from us again.

(My version of avoidance.) VIA

(My version of avoidance.) VIA

Now, The Cold Shoulder has a ninety-nine percent success rate. But be warned: you’ll have bad Karma. Also, you will run into that guy again, and it will be somewhere weird, like a Forever 21 fitting room or the deli line at the grocery store.

So why do we get so worked up about letting a guy down? The Cold Shoulder, the excuses—they’re just ways of avoiding conflict. And maybe our emotions. But it’s dishonest and unfair.

The best advice I can offer you is something my mom told me a few weeks ago. I had been out with this guy just enough times to have had a conversation with my mom about him. When I told her I wanted to stop seeing him, her reaction startled me.

She said, “Don’t do what you always do!”

I was thinking, like, does everyone know about my Dying Dog Excuse?

She said, “You can’t just keep ignoring things until they go away!”

Cue sounds of glass shattering. I can’t just close my eyes and hope things go away.

In this situation, the thing is a person who put themselves out there. She said I need to have a genuine conversation, be honest, and treat him how I would want to be treated. (Because, for as much as I complain and binge on pasta when a guy rejects me, I guess I don’t consider how a guy may feel when roles are reversed. I’m a flawed, slightly self-absorbed individual—maybe you can relate.)

If you need a cheat sheet, feel free to use some of these lines to get dialogue going:

“This isn’t fair for you. My heart’s not in this.”

“I think you’re great, but, to be completely honest, I’m not trying to date right now.”

“I’m too busy to be thinking romantically right now. I hope you understand.”

“I’d love to go to your friends arcade, but can we please go as friends?”

“It’s just that I really don’t have time for a dog and a boyfriend right now. And I already have a dog.”

So the next time you’re involved with a guy and you start to feel like you want to crawl under a rock and die, take this advice from my mom. Be thoughtful and honest. Don’t patronize. Speak to them as if you were speaking to one of your good friends. Because who knows, they might just become one.