Dating Don’ts: How To Say No!

Last weekend at a party, I noticed a toad-like man attaching himself to a beautiful, talented friend of mine. Not only was she way out of his league, looks-wise, but as I eavesdropped I discovered he was one of those dudes who delivers endless monologues instead of engaging in actual conversations.

Ladies, I think we’ve all been stuck with that guy. This time it was my friend’s turn.I could tell by her stunned look of horror that she wanted nothing to do with him, but she seemed frozen. My pal Ivan and I tried to intervene. “Let’s go get some cake,” we suggested, physically pulling her from his side. Her relief was short-lived, as he tracked her down and reattached himself to her hip.

Watching her go through this made me think back on how many times I’ve been afraid to say no. Maybe “afraid” is the wrong word, but I’ve spent hours worrying about offending men who would’ve had no problem offending me if the situation were reversed. So I was thrilled when a copy of the hilarious book The Power of NO: How to Keep Blowhards and Bozos at Bay (Rodale) landed on my doorstep.

As the title suggests, TPON is about learning to not only say no, but to embrace no, something women seem to have an inexplicably harder time doing than men. I shot off an email to author Beth Wareham asking her why we womenfolk find it so painful to blow off a troll. “The psycho-sexual-societal bullshit that makes women be such wimps in the face of an odious man is in our DNA. And young women often make the dreadful mistake of thinking everyone has to like them,” she fired back.

“I believe that some dumb guy bugging you is a great moment to really march out a lie,” she continues. “I mean, really, who goes around harassing strangers? Say, ‘I have herpes.’ Say, ‘I am a hermaphrodite.’ Say any damn thing you want to say but get him out of your face. You have ONE LIFE. Don’t give chunks of it to this kind of dude!”

But for some guys—and, let’s face it, girls, too—the word “no” can have an opposite effect, acting as an aphrodisiac. Wareham says, “Human beings want what they do not and cannot have.” But sometimes you mean it! In that case, a persistent leghumper should be ignored, or reported to the cops if he gets stalky. “Don’t answer. It’s your door, your cell. And, if it gets too bad, try 911,” she advises. “You wouldn’t let anyone else harass you like that, would you?”

OK, so how about the Ambiguous Dater—the cute guy who wants to “hang out,” but never seems to make any plans. “No hanging out, ever,” Wareham insists. “If the guy can’t think up an interesting date and find $40.00 bucks for a burrito and movie, no go. Dating should never be ‘hanging out.’ Save that for marriage.”

How about dumping someone, I asked. How do you do that nicely? “I am not the woman to ask if you want kindly,” Wareham replied. “But, I do know this: keep the tone friendly. The less you imbue language with strong emotion, the better. I once said, ‘Dude, it was way fun and I learned lots, but you yelled “Mommy!” during sex.’ That happened to me, by the way.” Hey, wait a minute … I once said yes to that guy too!