"I really want to go out on a date with you. How about the third of Never?"
October 28, 2012 6:01 PM Subscribe
Since I've hit my mid-late 20s, a pattern has developed: A woman and I express mutual interest; I ask for her number or she gives it to me on her own; a first date is arranged; at the last minute, she cancels it. I know this isn't unheard of, but it's happening so often and so consistently that it's making me paranoid and demoralized, and I'm not sure how to proceed.
By way of an example: Most recently, I had a couple of short but very engaging conversations with a friend of a friend, and as she was about to leave, she presented me with her phone number and the words "I'm a modern girl, so here's my number." We then arranged to spend an afternoon engaged in a hobby we have in common. The day beforehand I get a text message, "sorry, can't make it." When I suggested an alternate day, she said she couldn't do that either - with no counter-suggestion for when she could meet up. Which, as far as I know, is as unambiguous a "I do not want to date" as I'm going to get. (Or, alternately, I really don't think I do want to date someone who's not interested in me enough to simply look at her calendar and say "How about next Sunday?")
Since I know this often comes up in answers to dating questions: All of these were women I'd met through friends or activities, not dating sites - in fact, I stopped doing online dating because the level of flakiness was getting to me, and I was hoping - as, in fact, several people on the Green have said - that people you meet in real life, with social connections to your friends, are more likely to be straightforward when it comes to dating.
Now, I know damn well that women are often socialized to not say "no" to men, and I'm certainly used to "scheduling conflicts" as a polite fiction to turn down undesired dates. But this has now happened on five of the last six First Dates I was supposed to go on, and it's making me feel incredibly undesirable and creepy. I've googled myself and verified that there's no obvious "anon is a creeper" stuff out there. I've shown (trusted, straight, female) friends chat logs and text conversations, and they've confirmed I'm not coming on too strong or otherwise Doing Something Definitely Wrong.
Logically, I should just chalk this up to Bad Luck. Dating is a numbers game; rejection is going to happen; early rejection is going to happen; rejection-by-cancellation is going to happen. But this pattern of being essentially told that I'm not even desirable/interesting enough to waste an evening on for a first date is really getting to me, and it's compounded by the fact that I can't even take "there is a set time and place" as actually meaning anything. I used to enjoy looking forward to spending time with someone new and interesting - no longer. I'm getting paranoid that there's something horribly wrong with me that I don't know about, or that someone's spreading rumors about me, or... I don't even know what. But I'm rapidly losing all confidence in myself, which is not a good thing for dating. I find myself nostalgic for the "good old days" of terse "let's just be friends" texts after a date - because I at least felt like I'd had a chance, and was rejected based on the actual evidence of the date, rather than having an abrupt change-of-mind after a totally sober woman gave me her number unprompted.
Is this just a factor in dating now that I'm out of my early 20s? Do I just need to get used to the notion that I can't actually rely on stated desire to go out with me, and accept that every single date, even when it's scheduled for a specific time and place, has a very high chance of being canceled at the last minute? How can I regear my brain to accept/cope with this new reality and still remain open to actually meeting someone, when I find myself slipping into pessimism?