Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A FORMAL INVITE TO THE BENCH & THE PROBLEM WITH "JUST DON'T REPLY"


{ Look it's me! On a bench! Get it? }

In the week following our first date, Jake* kept in touch with sporadic texts, most notably one that asked for my forgiveness, as he had forgotten to tell me how pretty I looked the other night. I didn't think about him much unless his unsaved phone number popped up on my screen. When it did, I vaguely wondered why he hadn't yet asked for a second date.

Then it came: A message formally addressed to me, Taylor, which explained that though he found me "very fun and really attractive" he couldn't ask me out on a second date because he had been invited on a weekend trip with someone else he was casually dating.

***

When I was in Montauk last month, I gave my number to a cute, tall guy I met at a bar called Memory Motel. It's a cheesy place for cheesy people, and I suppose that in hindsight, you might consider this a clue to what was to be the story of me and this cute, tall guy.

I haven't written about dating here on the blog for quite a few months, not since the Drake Guide to Dating back in February. I had every intention of putting together an article about Bumble—a dating app where women make the first move to start a conversation with a match. In a that would have been such a cute story if it had worked out way, I ended up dating a guy whom I had originally set out to interview for said story, and the whole thing sort of evaporated. (Ironically, I think that could make for a more interesting post someday.) After that relationship ended, I found myself achieving what can feel almost impossible these days: I got a date with a guy I met while just being out in the world.

// CLICK THROUGH TO READ ABOUT HOW THAT WENT FOR ME //


Per my request, I met Jake at a sports bar one Tuesday night so we could watch the Olympics. Over pints of beer and a basket of chicken wings we discussed work and family, and debated which Summer Games sport we'd compete in if we could. The conversation was easy and warm, but lacked real heat, if you know what I mean. My most recent flames seemed to have burned a bit too fast and hot to have any real sustainability, so I figured the slow, tempered heartbeat I felt as we said goodbye at the Bleeker Street subway station could be a good thing.

About a week later, the text about his weekend trip with another girl arrived in my inbox.

I'll be honest with you guys, I loved this text. He lead with a compliment and delivered the honest truth, which is kind both to me and this person with whom he's going away for the weekend. It is far easier to ghost after only one date—this is the sort of behavior I championed in my dating manifesto last year! And so, I promptly replied telling him not to worry about it, and that I totally understood.

This is the point when he probably should have just wished me well and signed off. We would have gone amicably on our merry ways—him to a romantic getaway weekend and me to a Stranger Things marathon on my couch. Instead he egged the conversation on, saying that he wasn't "one of those guys" who was cool enough to date multiple women. He then course-correctly slightly, saying he wanted to be "open and honest" and apologized for the "bad timing I guess."

It's not bad timing, though! This is just the nature of dating in its most prolific form, which involves courting multiple people until you find one to focus on. He had found his one, and I was not it. Fair enough! As I typed back to him with calm clarity and a slight shrug, I realized I didn't care at all that we weren't going out again, and I was grateful to know exactly why. I replied to his text with a simple, "I appreciate it for sure."

This, too, is the point at which he should have wished me well and signed off. It was not to be. And so we arrive at the nut of the story; the reason I feel the need to write a long essay about this short affair. His next message read as follows:

Okay. Well if it's cool I'd like to hang onto your number if you think that's alright. I don't meet people like you all that often and would like to stay in touch.

Here's how that sounds to me: If it doesn't work out with this girl I've chosen over you, I'd like to circle back and pick this up again. Do you mind waiting here on this bench in the meantime?

Upon receiving this message, I consulted multiple sources who assured me that while poorly executed, his heart was in the right place. I'm inclined to agree, to a point. As this article from The Cut explains, benching is superficially polite but mostly just a way for the person doing it to feel good about themselves and avoid the drama or guilt of ghosting. I think it's condescending—especially when you formally invite someone to take a seat, rather than just putting them there in your mind and going about your business.

I was advised not to reply to his text, to just let it lie. Pardon my French but—no fucking way

I'm all too familiar with the tactic of employing radio silence to get a message across. Radio silence says I won't dignify this with a response. It says I'm aiming to make you feel crazy. Radio silence says "whatever" by saying nothing at all. While I have felt the (very effective) burn of a text left unanswered, I didn't believe this was an occasion to use that particular type of vague power move.

Here's why: I like myself. I respect myself. Despite plenty of romantic experiences that left me feeling like I wasn't worth trying for, like I wasn't datable for more than a fleeting few months, I hold onto the belief that actually, I'm pretty great. Someday someone is going to come breezing into my life and we're going to fall madly and mutually in love for an extended amount of time and it will be awesome. But until that day comes, I have made a pact with myself not to put up with behavior that makes me feel less than worthy of said mad and mutual love.

In this moment I felt like radio silence would make me complicit in this proposal, a proposal that implied I have nothing better to do than wait around for the opportunity to come in second. No, actually, after expressly choosing someone else, this guy could not "hang onto my number." Call me crazy, but I felt like it was important for him to hear—from me—that I was explicitly rejecting his offer. An offer that was, you know, insulting. My pulse starting to race for the first time since we met, I sent back:

In the spirit of being open and honest, this sounds like you're asking if you can keep me on the bench "just in case." I am not even a little bit interested in that but I wish you well and I hope it works out with this girl.

Okay so it's not the scathing, put-you-in-your-place message that I could have sent. Like I said, I think his heart was in the right place, even if his words were not. I wanted to be heard, to make my displeasure known—but in a reasonable tone that felt appropriate considering there had only been one date and he wasn't a monster.

It should come to no surprise to you at this point that this was not the end of the conversation. Jake quickly replied—again stiffly addressing me as Taylor—apologizing for the miscommunication. He would have no expectation of me "doing that." He added minutes later that he didn't have a bench because he wasn't "nearly that charming." Forty minutes after that he concluded by saying his intention was just to avoid ghosting and maybe be friends, and assured me that he "wasn't scamming."

This time, I let his wordy and unnecessary last messages hang in texting limbo. I didn't want to argue over implications, nor did I feel the need to confirm that indeed, he was not nearly that charming.

The lesson in all this is two-fold: First, don't bench people. Second, if you do, don't tell them you're doing it! Just come winging back into their life randomly as if no time has passed and hope for the best. The worst that can happen? They won't reply.

What do you think about benching?
Are you a fan of radio silence to send a message?
Tell me in the comments!

*Names have been changed to protect this random guy in case you're the one currently on a weekend getaway with him.

3 comments:

  1. I agree with your last sentiment -- everyone occasionally benches people, but you have to have the tact not to say it outright! It's like when you apply for a job and don't hear from them for a long time. Maybe they hired someone else and it didn't work out, so a few months later they reach out to you! But there's no need for them to say "Hey, we're hiring this other person, but if she fucks up we'll give you a call." It's better to just not know. (Also, I love your dating posts. Please keep them coming!)

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    1. You're so right, it is just like a hiring situation! Thank you for your thoughtful coming... I'm going to do my best to keep the dating posts coming in HOT :)

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  2. First I have to say I love your outfit, cute! Secondly, I have been married for many (many) years and can't believe that this kind of stuff, benching, still occurs! Nothing changes. I wish you well on your search for Prince Charming! xx Rox-Anne, Celebratingthislife.ca

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