One time, a guy I had been dating for more than a month canceled our Saturday night date, calling an hour before we were supposed to meet, telling me that he was “itching all over.” I’m putting that phrase in quotes because that is exactly what he said. I couldn’t have made it up if I tried. I followed this up with the normal questions a person would ask:
Did you see the doctor?
Are you running a fever?
Are you having an allergic reaction to something?
He couldn’t answer any of my questions. “I don’t know,” he kept saying over and over. He was allergic to something alright … dating me. But he didn’t have the guts to tell me that. So he invented this mystery itch and then ghosted forever.
Another time, a guy I was dating for over a month texted me at 5 p.m. on a Saturday night we were supposed to go on a date saying, “I’m sorry, I just can’t do this anymore.”
Like … do what? Continue to date me? Or go on living? Who knows. I responded with an “OK” and promptly deleted his phone number.
I have more cancellation stories but I don’t want to bore you. I think you’re getting my point here: I am sensitive to being canceled on. And with good reason. Because more times than not, being canceled on last minute has meant, “I don’t want to date you anymore.”
I’m sure I’m not alone in my canceling sensitivity. Given the precarious nature of dating, the slightest infraction can throw off the equilibrium of your confidence, and throw you into an awfulizing spiral.
Is he trying to dump me or does he really have the flu? Did I miss something last time we hung out? Is he getting back together with his ex?
You can’t help it, this is just where the brain goes when it doesn’t know what to think.
So, presuming that you are canceling for a perfectly good reason and not trying to pull a cowardly fade-out, it’s important to remember that canceling on someone you really care about may easily give wrong impression. If you do need to cancel for a legitimate reason (you are “itching all over” because you’ve had a bona fide allergic reaction) here are some things to keep in mind:
DO pick up the phone and call. Text and email provide so many opportunities for misinterpretations and miscommunications. Cancellations should preferably happen by phone, provided you are well enough to speak.
DO suggest another day and time. If you need to pull the plug on a date last minute, you best come prepared with other date options so your date knows not to interpret this as a blow-off. Example: “I am itching all over and will have to cancel our date tonight, but I’m hoping we can reschedule for next Wednesday.”
DO slather on the reassurance. Don’t go over the top or anything, but don’t hold back when it comes to showing your disappointment. Remember, when you cancel, if the person is smitten with you, they will be bummed. Show them that you are equally bummed that you won’t be seeing them. Example: “I am bummed that I’m having this bona fide allergic reaction tonight and can’t see you. I was really looking forward to it. I already have some fun ideas for us Wednesday night.”
DON’T give fake reasons. If the real reason you’re canceling is because you’re not feeling it, not sure if you’re feeling it, something better comes along, or you’re avoiding a tough conversation, don’t cancel with a fake reason. Lying almost always backfires. One time a guy I was dating canceled on me because he was “sick.” Then a few hours later he checked in on Foursquare at an art gallery opening and posted it on Facebook What a doofus! My point here is that if you no longer want to date this person, don’t cancel last minute with a lie, grow a pair and end it.
DON’T wait until the last minute. And speaking of the last minute … if you wake up “itching all over,” no need to wait until 7pm to let your date know. Let him or her know as soon as you do that you’re not going to be able to make it so that they have the opportunity to make other other plans. There’s nothing worse than being all dressed up with nowhere to go on a Saturday night.