Alexis on the Sexes: Excuse you

How to break off conversation at the bar.
Updated 3/25/2015

Q: I’m a single woman with a dating problem. When I’m out at a bar or some other venue where one of the primary objectives is to meet the opposite sex, I’ve never figured out a good way to signal to a guy (or tell him outright) that I’m not interested. I try not to be too shallow, and I’ll talk to anyone for a reasonable amount of time, say 15-20 minutes. But if there’s nothing there, I want to move on and not waste the whole night. I know that guys also don’t want me to waste their evening, but I still don’t have the words to gently say “go away.” It always feels kind of abrupt: We’re in the middle of small talk and then all of a sudden, “Gotta go, sorry.” I’m usually out alone so saying I have to go speak to a friend doesn’t work for me. I’m extremely shy and pretty sensitive to rejection myself, so it kills me to reject someone else. Any ideas?


A: You are under no obligation whatsoever to explain to a complete stranger why you’re ending a conversation with him, so don’t feel like you have to follow up your goodbye with a reason. You risk not being able to walk away and possibly even confrontation (more on that in a minute).

You also don’t have to fake it. If you have zero interest in discussing the architectural differences of NFL stadiums across the country, then don’t pretend just to be polite. You will indeed be wasting everyone’s time by giving the false impression that you’re into it. Not laughing at bad jokes, not agreeing or disagreeing and not really participating in the conversation are all clear signs — well, to most people — that you’re not interested. You know when one of your acquaintances pulls up a picture of their youngest on their phone and you’re obligated to smile and say things like, “Aww, so cute” even if the kid is Seinfeld-breathtaking? This is not that. Not engaging the other person is a massive hint that you have no desire to keep talking to them, and most will pick up on that.

Unfortunately, some people feel that they’re entitled to your attention and can become aggressive when you start breaking away. The really effed-up part about meeting new people in bars is that women often feel like they’re on the defensive. The reason is that there’s a small subset of men who just won’t take no for an answer and they’ve added an unwanted element of danger to the already daunting world of dating. Unfortunately, being defensive can be dangerous, too. Certain types of people take it as a cue to get hostile and say childish things. (Ladies, hands up if you can’t even count the number of times you’ve been called a bitch or a cunt for not giving a guy your name or phone number.)

These same people, however, may not bristle at a curt end to a conversation as long as it’s not followed up by an untruthful explanation delivered in an overly polite manner. Lies like “I’m meeting someone,” “I have a boyfriend” or “I’m gay” can invite even more attention and backfire. Don’t leave the door open and don’t feel bad about walking away. A guy you meet at a bar is a stranger who will undoubtedly just move along to the next girl. It’s not your responsibility to assuage any fleeting feelings of rejection that he may have.

Finally, you’re too generous with the small talk. Anyone can chat about the weather for 15 minutes. After exchanging pleasantries, move swiftly to topics that really interest you and see if he can keep up. If you think HBO is blowing the whole “Game of Thrones” thing by not staying true to GRRM’s books, then say so. On that note, if you’re the one your friends sometimes refer to as “a bit of a weirdo,” then don’t be afraid to show it. Above all, be honest and assertive. Getting good at saying no will get you closer to what you want when it comes to dating.

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