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Please Don’t Ask Me Out. June 24, 2010

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Dating, Food for Thought, Just Saying..
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No really, I mean it. It’s not only because I don’t find you attractive, or because you’re 15 years (or more?) older than me, or because starting a relationship is nowhere on my to-do list.

It’s because, when I signed up to be a member of this public hiking group, I did so specifically because it was not geared toward singles, nor did it seem to be grounded on the premise that “meeting people” really meant “finding someone to date.” I signed up because the group already had 800+ members on its roster, so I thought I would enjoy relative anonymity and wouldn’t stand out as “fresh meat.” I looked forward to meeting new and interesting people at each hike (one of whom turned out to be you), but I also liked knowing that I wouldn’t feel pressure to attend every event or make friends unless I wanted to. More than anything, all I really wanted was to enjoy the Great Outdoors with like-minded people.

I definitely wasn’t looking for a date.

So why did you ruin it by asking me out? You were not even on my radar. I mean, I had fun chatting about your solo adventures in Montana during our last hike, but I also enjoyed talking with Patricia about her attempts to grow squash and with Ryan about his career as a pathologist. I also loved the hilltop views, the setting sun, and chasing my dog down the trail when she spotted a squirrel in the distance.

But you misinterpreted my amicability for “interest,” and I must now exert valuable emotional and intellectual energy composing a difficult reply. In it, I must strike a precarious rhetorical balance that respects you and your “feelings,” keeps me from feeling uncomfortable if we hike together again, and makes it clear I’m not interested. And now the next time I see you, I will begrudge you for putting me in this position instead of laughing at your jokes.

Maybe when I met you I should have shaken your hand and said, “Hi, my name is Lisa. Please don’t ask me out.” But I didn’t, because I assumed your attention was on the forest, not on me.

— L


1. April - June 24, 2010

You’re a better person than me. I’d totally ignore it. Maybe a simple “no, thank you” will suffice? I hope so, anyway!

2. Onely - June 24, 2010

Mistaking “amicability for interest” is a great way to put it. This is a pet peeve of mine. Just because I exhibited interest in your vintage sock collection doesn’t mean I want to move in with you and wash them.

He (I assume it was a he!) should have waited until you all had had several interactions before asking you out. Or, he could have asked you out the first time if it had been an event specifically geared toward “singles” and “hooking up”. As it is, he tainted the aura of a fun outing with the haze of couplemania, a haze which is already code-orange level in too many aspects of our lives anyway.


3. Contented Single - June 25, 2010

Had to laugh, not because it was funny for you, but I have so been there too. Sometimes, you almost have to be aloof to avoid unwanted attention, which is not really a good way to be, but I have noticed that a lot of guys take friendliness as a come on.

I have also had the problem with male friends who insist we would make a good couple when the thought of getting horizontal with them makes me want to puke. I know that sounds harsh but when you’ve insisted many times that you only have platonic feelings and they say they understand, but keep bringing it up, then it does make you feel icky being around them.

As usual, love your blog.

4. Lauri - June 25, 2010

Lisa, I find this post very interesting, having myself been a member of hiking clubs, biking clubs, and similar organizations in the past. Personally, I join these types of things so I don’t have to engage in the dangerous practice of hiking or biking alone. I honestly think it would be cool to incidentally meet a guy I like in the process, but I’m not holding my breath! My experience has been that these groups attract a majority of younger single women, couples, and men my dad’s age. Joining these things to find a date would be futile.

HOWEVER on most outings there is always that ONE guy. He’s always of indeterminate age (30s? 40s?) and of course, lives in some remote suburb no one would ever venture to just for a date. He usually works in IT at a large office park off the highway. He might be always-single, but usually divorced. His mother is nagging him to find a nice girl, so join the hiking club he will. At each event, he sizes up the crowd at the trail head. Married couple. Older man. Two younger women who came together– too intimidating. Then he spots you. Younger. Pretty. Active. Apparently single. Obviously you’re there to meet men. Awkwardness ensues.

Onely - June 25, 2010

Lauri — SO TRUE!!!!! Thank you for making me laugh!

— L

5. Jessica Bal - June 26, 2010

Oh please. He just asked you out. He didn’t try to rape you.

This man did NOTHING wrong, period. If you aren’t interested, simply tell him so. It is not as hard as you claim it is. It doesn’t require “exerting valuable intellectual and emotional energy” to turn down a request for a date. All it takes is a backbone.

Onely - June 27, 2010

Hi Jessica,

I’m sorry that you seem to have to missed the intentional hyperbole of my post — I meant it to be funny, not taken too seriously. But I am also sorry that you feel it’s appropriate to call me spineless for composing an honest response here, on a blog, to a situation that you are not in, from a perspective that you obviously do not share.

— Lisa

Mark - July 1, 2010

Hi Jessica and Lisa,

Firstly, Lisa, thanks for clarifying that you “meant it to be funny, not taken too seriously.” Like Jessica, I missed that. Maybe the more obvious humour has been sub-edited out!

But as you also say it is your “honest response” to the situation, it’s fair enough to allow readers their honest responses too. Please don’t take general comments as personal insults. Jessica did not call you spineless, she said “all it takes is a backbone” to apply her solution to the situation you described.

Jessica, for situations similar to those Lisa described, I agree with your solution. Regardless of gender or relationship intentions, most of us humans are social beings. Many humans will initiate social interactions with others at some stage. Some move slowly, others more quickly. We each need to have confidence in our own lives, our own style, our own intentions, to politely decline invitations we are not interested in.

In general, I was hugely confused by Lisa’s post, because, as a single man interested in meeting someone to share my life with, my friends’ advice, and that of many counsellors I’ve read over the years, is to “join a group” of people with similar interests! A shared interest in hiking is a much healthier basis for a relationship than a shared interest in hanging out in bars.

But I’m new to this site, and maybe the posts here are only for people who are determined to be single?

Onely - July 2, 2010

Hi Mark (and Jessica),

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I’m sorry that I’ve been so confusing. The point I intended to make in this post is that it can be very stressful (for someone like me — obviously not for everyone) to receive unwanted attention when joining a group where I would rather just participate in the activities, not meet someone to share my life with. In this particular situation, the man who asked me out is a group organizer/leader, and at least 15 years older than me (I am 31)…. I had been participating in the group for no more than a month before he asked me out. Besides his age and leadership position, the thing that I found especially frustrating was that I did not project any direct or obvious interest — we just happened to have one or two casual conversations on the trail, and he apparently interpreted that as sexual interest, which made me very uncomfortable. Since he organizes many of the group’s hikes, my discomfort may lead me to not participate in some of the group’s activities, which is also frustrating. I recognize that participation is ultimately up to me, but I wish his actions had not put me in this position — now I feel self-conscious and strange around him. Technically, Jessica is right: The man didn’t do anything “wrong.” But I would have assumed that he would have at least waited for a clearer signal of interest from me before making a move — it freaks me out that he didn’t. Hopefully the situation — and my reaction to it — makes a little more sense now.

To further clarify: Although Onely isn’t necessarily directed at “people determined to be single,” we do hope to upturn normative expectations, such as the idea that socializing with people with similar interests correlates directly with finding a romantic partner, coupling or marriage. With this post, I wanted to make the point that sometimes, people do not want sexual or romantic attention — perhaps this is a shocker, but that was my point.

For the record, I did find writing a clear but kind response to the man in question to be both emotionally and intellectually challenging. I’m sure others are more adept at rejecting others than me, but the reason I struggled with it was because 1) I didn’t want to have this kind of interaction in the first place; 2) I didn’t want to hurt the man’s feelings or — worse — make him angry by my rejection; and 3) I wanted to keep it un-awkward as possible so that I wouldn’t have to remove myself from the group.

Hope that clarifies things a bit. Again, my apologies for any misunderstandings.

— L

6. autonomous - July 2, 2010

Hi Lisa,

I haven’t checked in for awhile but I always check to see what is lately posted. I have to say first and last, for the past year this blog has helped me tremendously in terms of validating that I’m wonderful and fine if not coupled or married; but in truth, this post prompted the gut level response of, WHOA, really? The humor was completely lost on me and it feels, well, just angry and militant. You, Lisa, in all your fabulousness, whether single or coupled, are apparently quite attractive to this particular person looking for something possibly more. That is so cool- not offensive, in my view. I have had many such encounters and my regrets are always surrounding how I handled them, not the fact of them.

I’m trying to be delicate here, so please don’t take offense, but why should a man wait for a “clear sign” when most of us don’t know what the hell any of those signs mean in the first place? Isn’t this crux of the confusion between the sexes and part of the dance? One assumes A, and the other assumes B, and the next thing you know it’s drama soup, unless it’s a complete match and then it’s tasty-savory soup. That you didn’t want the advance is your business; that he did, well, that’s his. Dance over.

Have a great weekend.

7. Mark - July 3, 2010

Hi again Lisa,

Thanks for the extra info – yes, some things are a lot clearer now. I feel the fact that the man in question is a group leader makes a huge difference. In his position of greater power he has a resulting responsibility not to abuse it, but what you now describe is, I feel, a mild form of abuse, creepy and “wrong”, and your distress and anxiety about possible repercussions is quite understandable.

In that light too, it’s not funny, so it’s understandable the humour didn’t come through for some of us, and the anger did.

However, it is on the milder end of the inappropriate scale, so respond firmly but mildly at first – no need to escalate. I suggest Jessica’s matter-of-fact solution is still a good first response. See how he reacts before taking more dramatic steps. But if you’ve already sent that letter instead, that’s OK, because a written reply may make it clear to him that you did not perceive his request as being “normal” or casual. But if he’s that unaware to start with, beware of getting into any vulnerable situations with him, like being alone with him or accepting a ride with him.

Overall though, I would encourage you to feel your own power, to not let others intimidate you. The public education work you’re doing with the website is great, but changing attitudes can be done on a personal, face-to-face level too. You can normalise singleness by treating your own singleness as normal. Your actions and words can be kind and considerate, but you don’t need to hide or apologise for how you are or how you feel, or what you want or don’t want. Don’t let him stop you from enjoying the group in the way you want.

But be practical too. To be prepared in case he persists, think about other women in the group – how do they relate to him? Do any show signs of being treated this way too? As he’s 45-plus, he will probably have established behaviour patterns – you may not be his first target. Talk with others, discretely at first of course – sound them out for their experiences. Or just hang around them to ensure he has no further opportunity!

On the other hand he’s innocent until proven guilty. He may just be over-eager! He may be mature enough to take no for an answer and be happy to be a hiking-only occasional chatter.

You say you “didn’t want to have this kind of interaction in the first place”, but (and this may be a shocker) life is full of stuff we don’t want – we can only control how we respond. I can guarantee that in your future, whatever group you’re in, someone is going to suggest doing something you are not interested in. Don’t let it distract you from what you want.

Best wishes!

8. Mark - July 3, 2010

Hi again,

Another point you raise twice now is the age difference. This obviously has unpleasant implications for you, but I feel it’s just another socialised norm! Maybe I should start a website called “Ageless.org” to help normalise relationships with big age gaps!

But seriously, so many lifestyle options, like being single by choice, are now becoming acceptable, but we can’t assume our particular liberation dynamic is the only worthy one. We need to understand what is actually helpful and harmful in human society, rather than blindly following traditional rules and expectations, whether they be about gender, race, number of partners, sexuality, age, or other issues.

9. Onely - July 3, 2010

Hi everyone — I don’t have much else to add to this discussion, except to remark that it’s clear we all have a wide range of perspectives on this issue. But thank you so much for the enlivening discussion!

— L

10. Contented Single - July 3, 2010

It’s been interesting reading the comments, but I did see the humour in the piece and I could also relate to it. I didn’t find the man’s actions overly inapprorpriate, but I too would be creeped out. For one, I am not into men that are that much older than me, and whilst there may be women around that are into older men, the ones I know aren’t. The internet dating site that I used to belong to also showed that most women were not looking for an overly older man.

It used to piss me off when I was internet dating that when my profile clearly stated the age range I wanted that I would get heaps of responses from men 15 or 20 years older (the max I’m into is 5).
So, some people may say well, these guys were just having a go, but out of respect for the men I approached on the net, I did not do so with those that wanted kids (I don’t) or those that wanted a different age from mine. I don’t want to have the arrogance to suggest that if these guys just met me they would change their mind about the kids or age thing.

Now, I might cop some flack here, but don’t people know when someone is out of their league? Shit, I don’t like that expression, let me put it differently, I undertand that the hunky 20something outdoors boy, might not be into this 41 year old couch potato. He might, and I think it comes down to values, attraction and all of that, but on a hiking trip, I’d chat with hunky 25 yr old action man, but I wouldn’t ask him out, unless as Lisa said, there was a clear signal.

Now, what Mark said about joining groups, I really think unless it’s some kind of singles group, just join a group because of the activity and not because you might meet a partner. Because, if you go with those expectations, you might find that everyone in the group is married, or dare I say it, out of you age range.

When did looking for a partner become so calculated? I am happy alone, but to me it should be about falling in love anyway if anything a la quirky alone.

11. Rem Anon - July 5, 2010

I LOVED reading this!

This line: “So why did you ruin it by asking me out?” voices so well what frustrates me so often. I tend to get along better with guys than girls (as friends), but so often a budding friendship gets destroyed because he wants romance and/or sex. (I’m a girl, btw.) Sometimes I wish I could not worry about guys becoming interested in me “that way” so I could just enjoy platonic relationships, casual or serious, without worrying about all that getting in the way.

12. Trauma Queen - July 15, 2010

sometimes I really, really think, one just has to be remotely female to get attention.

but then that’s just being mean to the few seemingly normal people out there.

oh wait, aren’t we the abnormal ones? the ones who do not see that you join a hiking group to get hitched, not to hike!

they should start a new group for such people called “hitch”hikers 😉


13. Stephanie - August 4, 2010

The misunderstanding by Mark, Jessica and Autonomous is baffling to me. Your post hit the night RIGHT on the head. I am put in this position quite often and it frustrates me to no end. Thank you!!! for posting it.

14. Onely - August 24, 2010

Update: Apparently I’m not the only one who gets annoyed with unwanted sexual attention: http://jezebel.com/5618074/stop-hitting-on-me

Enjoy! — L

15. Courtney - August 10, 2013

WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for can you
get your ex boyfriend back

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