Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In Which We Draw Lines

Hey Datealong Gang, let's talk boundaries.

What is appropriate, and what is safe, when you're dating someone new? What is inappropriate or unsafe?

Example 1: On OKC, after a date has been agreed upon, I have had a couple of guys offer me their phone number and then ask "what's yours?" (And a couple have just given me theirs without asking for mine.) Maybe this is common practice in online dating? But I just don't feel comfortable giving my phone number to someone I've exchanged a couple messages with online. What do you think?

Example 2.
The other day I broke things off with Flavor of the Moment. I did it via Facebook chat. Yes, ha ha, let's all have a good laugh at that. But that and text has always been our primary means of communication. So fb chat, as usual, was funky and slow and it was hard to tell how well my message ("I would like a relationship, you wouldn't, so let's call the whole thing off") got across. But I know he got at least that much. He then signed off completely and texted me saying he was going out, but maybe we could talk in person later in the week? Having a face-to-face convo was what I wanted to do in the first place, actually, and I resorted to chat because I didn't know when I'd see him and things were just dragging out, so I said sure.

The next day (yesterday) he texted and said he could come over to my place for tea that evening, if I was free. I said okay but suggested a later time. Later, but still a couple hours before we were supposed to meet (and not coincidentally, as I was leaving my therapist's office), a thought occurred to me: why was this man who I just broke things off with coming to my house? Maybe I should alert a friend that this was going on so they could expect to hear from me. But something else kept nagging at me: the fact that every time he had ever walked me home (I guess four times?) he came in to use the bathroom, and I think he only asked permission that first time. The other times, he walked me to my door and then said "I'm going to come in and use your bathroom" and walked in with me.
Which could, in all fairness, be indicative of nothing but a tiny bladder. But still, it kept nagging at me---this is a guy who had gotten into my home three times now without waiting for my invitation, and now he was coming over to be in my home, alone, where I would tell him we would no longer be fooling around. Which, as memory serves, I had already TOLD him. What exactly were we going to be talking about again? And why was this a conversation we needed to have at my house?

I will reveal myself here as a Gift of Fear devotee---this is the kind of situation de Becker points out over and over in his book, and says "you knew you felt uncomfortable, but you walked into this situation anyway. Why?" He stresses *trusting* those little twinges of thought and instinct instead of dismissing them as paranoia.
So, I thought, why don't I ask him to meet me at a coffee shop instead.
Except that he would probably STILL walk me home, and probably once again gain entry to my apartment to use the bathroom.
Stop it, says brain. You and this guy have fooled around in your apartment before, and you said no to "going all the way" (do the kids still say that?), and he accepted it. If he had wanted to pressure or try to force you into sex, he could have done so, easily.
But just because he didn't try it before doesn't mean he won't try it this time.

Feeling on the spot, I did a dumb thing and made up a lie. I texted him with a story about a plumbing emergency (see? because then even if he DID walk me home, he couldn't use the bathroom, eh? eh?) and named a cafe we could meet at.
His response was that now he felt like a beer.
So, the situation had now gone from "we are done fooling around" to "we are done fooling around but he is going to come over to my house" to "we are done fooling around but he wants to take me out and get me drunk."
During this mental process stuff I had called a friend (a GOOD friend) who very bluntly pointed out that I was AGAIN making plans to go out with this person who had made me feel disrespected and objectified, and that I now felt the need to make up a lie because I did not trust him not to attempt to pressure or force me into sex. Oh, well, when you put it that way.

I canceled; I called and left him a voice mail saying I would not be going out that night, but if he wanted to talk more he should call me, but that really there were no hard feelings, we just wanted different things, and that was fine and I'd see him on the way to work Thursday. His response? He was disappointed, because he really wanted to see me that night. Call me crazy but I kind of doubt his disappointment sprung from the fact that we were not going to have a thorough debriefing on why we did not work romantically and how we were totally just gonna be friends now and not mess around anymore. Sounds more like he thought he was gonna get some.

And it really freaks me out how close I was to walking right into that situation. I LIKED the guy---which of course means I had a decent amount of trust in him, and that made it that much harder to allow myself to listen to my "paranoid" instincts. Yikes.
I'm not saying I think the guy's a rapist. But I do know that little bells were going off in my head that this person was pushing for more than the situation (post-facebook-chat-break-off-debriefing?) really warranted. And maybe he did not plan to use FORCE per se but I could certainly see him making a move, perhaps one motivated by the knowledge that this was probably his "last chance" (ahem, it was NOT a chance), and might not take no so easily this time.

Thoughts on that whole thing, I'd love to hear 'em.


  1. I've also read The Gift of Fear, and you 100% did the right thing. Even though I've read it, I still find myself making up excuses for guys and not trusting myself. So, for that, you're an inspiration lady. Heck, I just posted about showering at a guy's apartment that I had only previously met once before. Granted, he was out of the building at the time, but still, the thought crossed my mind how stupid it was of me. But... I didn't have any uneasy feelings about the guy, it's just that I don't know him very well.

    I don't know. Props to you for doing the right thing.

  2. Thanks lala.
    I want to add that I really do not think this guy is a rapist. But, I've only known him a few months... who knows? I would be shocked to learn he'd be capable of sexual assault, but I'm not willing to bet my personal safety on it either.

  3. My assumption would be that he thought he could talk you out of ending things if he saw you in person--or if you saw him. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt (when it's not obvious what they're thinking anyway). I would likely think that he wants to talk me out of my decision, not that he wants to try and get in my pants no matter what the obstacle, but that's me. I do think you made the right call though--you were concerned and that's all that matters.

    Even if it weren't for your nagging concern, why bother seeing him? He hasn't/can't/won't give you what you need and so you now need to move on. Yes, it's better to say those sorts of things in person, but you were never given that opportunity (probably because he didn't want to face you in that situation) and you have to move forward.

  4. Caroline, that probably is more likely. I really think this guy is a decent person. But yeah, there's still just no need to keep anything going with him.

  5. I think you did the right thing because, whatever his intentions, your intention was to end it with him and you didn't feel comfortable with any of the options he gave. He doesn't sound like a serious danger, but he does sound like someone who is pushy and doesn't respect boundaries. Is there anyway, if he wants to meet again, you could pick a spot outside of your neighborhood (maybe a friend's neighborhood?) and then simply take a cab home or directly to a friend's house.

    as for the phone number thing, I think it's pretty normal to give a phone number if you are going to meet a guy so that you guys can call/text if someone is late or if you can't find one another. I used to worry about that stuff too, but then I realized that I have caller id and that nothing too bad can happen if a semi-creepy loser ends up with your number. I have one guy who I went out with from OKC a couple of times in LA years ago who still texts me "Howdy" every 6-7 months, despite the fact that I have not spoken to him in years and can hardly even remember his name. It's hard though...dating forces you to open up a little while at the same time staying careful and safe...

  6. "Is there anyway, if he wants to meet again, you could pick a spot outside of your neighborhood (maybe a friend's neighborhood?) and then simply take a cab home or directly to a friend's house."

    Or... just not go out with him again. ;)

    Actually, that WAS my plan (meet him out and then get a cab), but then my friend was like "why are you seeing him at ALL?"

  7. Generally if I tell someone it's over and I haven't been seeing them for very long, that's it. I don't respond to any more communication from them. If the pester, a "bug off, I said I didn't want to see you" seems appropriate. I think caroline was right--he likely thought that you'd change your mind if you saw him in person. It's probably a good thing that you didn't.

    As for phone numbers, I'll give mine out if we're going to meet up, so if he has to cancel or is late he can contact me.

    Because I don't have a car, I have done things like get rides from dates when I probably shouldn't have. I have a tough coworker with law enforcement connections and I always keep him up to date with what's going on when I'm on a blind date.

  8. Thanks gals, I feel better! I really do not think he is a bad guy. It makes total sense that he may have wanted to try and convince me, but not in a forceful way. I'm still really glad I didn't put myself in that position. I've had some rough stuff going on lately and feeling more vulnerable than usual; I don't need someone trying to get in my pants right now, even in a relatively innocent way.
    (Clover, we work together once a week, so I knew I'd have to see him again anyway.)

    I felt a little sorry for making him sad.... but then I remembered, he doesn't want to be my boyfriend, he just wants to get laid.