I don't want to see your etchings.
November 29, 2011 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Help me graciously decline an invitation to a guy's apartment in advance of our date.

I’m a straight woman in my thirties. A man I recently met, with whom I’ve only had a couple of short conversations about film, asked me if I’d like to go out for drinks with him and maybe watch a movie. I said sure, and we agreed to figure out our schedules for this Friday. He just texted me: “Let’s go to such-and-such bar at X time. We can have a couple of drinks and then, if you’d like, we can go back to mine to watch a DVD. We’ll see if we feel like it. [Then a couple of sentences about his DVD collection.]”

I’m uncomfortable with the suggestion that we go to his apartment. I already know I won’t want anything physical to happen on this date, and I dread the idea of sitting awkwardly on a sofa with this guy, trying to act friendly while maintaining my distance and hoping he doesn’t test my boundaries. Not to mention the fact that I haven’t spent enough time with this guy to assess whether there’s a safety risk.

I can’t tell whether his suggestion was intended as a hint that he’s looking for a casual hookup. If so, we’re looking for different things in a date. I’m American and he’s English, so maybe that plays into things as well?

Since he made the suggestion in advance of the date, I think I should let him know in advance that I won’t be going to his apartment. For one thing, if I appear to make the decision based on “how I feel” at the last minute, he’ll wonder if he said something wrong during the date. Secondly, it would be considerate to let him know he won’t need to run around cleaning up his apartment.

But I see all kinds of potential for causing offense. If I write back, “The bar sounds great, but I’m uncomfortable going to your place so soon” or even “The bar sounds great, but let’s do such-and-such activity in a public place afterwards,” I can’t avoid implying that he was implying … something. And I’ll send the message, “I DON’T TRUST YOU NOT TO BE A SERIAL KILLER, AND/OR I KNOW YOU’RE ANGLING FOR CASUAL SEX, WHICH I REFUSE!”

I won’t have the chance to see him in person before the date, so I have to respond by text, email, or phone. How do I graciously but unequivocally let him know that we won’t be going to his apartment?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just make a counter-suggestion.
posted by valkyryn at 11:27 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

"I've got an early appointment on Saturday, but looking forward to meeting you for a couple of drinks at the bar."
posted by modernnomad at 11:27 AM on November 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

"The bar sounds great! Why don't we go to FOO instead afterwards?"
posted by jquinby at 11:28 AM on November 29, 2011

"Drinks would be great. DVD's another time, maybe. Looking forward to it!"
posted by R. Schlock at 11:28 AM on November 29, 2011 [19 favorites]

You could always simply reply that you would rather go see a movie in the theater. This is another suggestion, and it both avoids the need to say anything about going back to his apartment, and gives you some information about how he reads social cues. He should easily get that you are also saying that you do not want to go back to his place.
posted by OmieWise at 11:29 AM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

But I see all kinds of potential for causing offense. If I write back, “The bar sounds great, but I’m uncomfortable going to your place so soon”

You have actually answered your own question. What you need to do is stop unnecessarily worrying about causing offense because of a perfectly honest and reasonable response.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:29 AM on November 29, 2011 [28 favorites]

Why don't you suggest seeing a movie in public at the theater instead? Say, "Cool, but I've been really wanting to see X at the cinema. What do you think?" Suggest another public activity. Or be honest and say, "I don't do apartments on the first date, sorry. How about we do x, y, or Z instead?" He might be offended, and then you'll know you should never go anywhere with him.
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:29 AM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

All you have to say is, "I was thinking this would be a great excuse to see a movie in a theater! I've been meaning to see ____, does that sound good to you?" You don't have to explicitly tell him you don't want to go to his apartment unless he pushes the matter, which he probably won't.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:29 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Or say, "Oh, I really wanted to see The Descendants/Arthur Christmas/Muppets/[currently-in-theaters-film-of-your-choice]!"
posted by mskyle at 11:30 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Agree with amodelcitizen and Narrative Priorities- suggest seeing a movie in the theater.

By the way, I can't say for sure, but the fact that he's British increases the likelihood that this would be a hookup situation exponentially. I'm not saying he may not want more, but I'm saying that very often British courtship consists of a hookup first (like the night you meet) and deciding to date/be in a relationship later. It's nice that he's telling you in advance though!
posted by superfille at 11:33 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seriously, if he gets offended, he is a jerk and you should not go anywhere with him. As long as you are polite in your decline, you should not be worried about offending him. Worry about making yourself comfortable before anything else. This isn't selfish, it's sense.
posted by amodelcitizen at 11:41 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

To me, that sounds like he's angling for the hookup. It's totally fine for you to suggest another activity without explaining why. I like the suggestion of preemptively noting that you have to get up early the next morning since it give you an out if things get uncomfortable at any point in the evening. Also, suggesting a movie in a theater or some other post-drink, public activity is fine.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:45 AM on November 29, 2011

I can’t tell whether his suggestion was intended as a hint that he’s looking for a casual hookup.

Drinks and then watching a DVD at his place? I feel like it doesn't get more obvious than that without coming out and saying it.

I think this is just fine:

“The bar sounds great, but I’m uncomfortable going to your place so soon”

Honest, straightforward, and rational. Any reasonable person would understand completely. IMO, anyone who would have a problem with this either just is after sex, or isn't date material.
posted by cairdeas at 11:46 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nthing the "I want to see this in theaters" response.
posted by arniec at 11:48 AM on November 29, 2011

You say that you talked about drinks and a movie. Obviously you were thinking of "a movie in a theater" while he may well be one of those people (like myself) who has pretty much given up on movies in theaters. I think all you need to say is that you really feel like going out to see something on the big screen and what does he think about Film A, Film B or Film C?

If he says "but I'd really prefer to watch such and such a DVD I own" then he's amazingly incapable of taking a hint and also uninterested in your feelings/opinions and it's time to say "well, maybe we should just call the whole thing off." Far more likely, though, he'll just say "sure, why don't you choose" and you can go from there.

Remember that nice guys don't think of themselves as potential rapists/predators, so the offer to come back to his place need not have had the slightest "come up and see my etchings" overtones. Maybe he has a cool big-screen TV that he loves to show off and a really amazing DVD collection that he hoped would impress the hell out of a fellow cinephile.
posted by yoink at 11:50 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

and hoping he doesn’t test my boundaries.

Good for you for realizing that this is a possibility. However, my dear, I am sorry to tell you that he already is testing your boundaries. Whether he realizes it or not. And you, you are about to show him where they are, that you know where they are, and that you are going to stick to your guns on them. So, "Hey, I've been meaning to check out that bar, because I've heard they have this delicious drink special (whatever). There's a movie theater/comedy club/some other fun thing that's not an apartment near that bar. Let's do that instead of going back to your place. I'm just not comfortable with that on a first date."

Any response from him other than, "Oh, hey, that's cool, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable" and I suggest you proceed with extreme caution.

I'm specifically thinking of him trying to convince you that he is harmless, or that you are crazy for being uncomfortable, or him mocking fear, or him being a snot, or him complaining about theater movies being so damn expensive these days. But there are other reactions that would be just as bad.

And I agree 10,000 times with PoetLariat. It's going to be hard to let go of the very effective American Training that you've received with regard to making those around you "feel comfortable." But let it drop and shatter on the ground when your personal (feelings of) safety is at stake. A few lightly bruised egos beats the hell out of some of the consequences of playing nice.
posted by bilabial at 11:50 AM on November 29, 2011 [51 favorites]

Bilabial is so right.

And IMO if you want someone who doesn't push your boundaries, and you want a relationship where you are comfortable expressing your boundaries, it starts here with you being comfortable being straightforward about this.
posted by cairdeas at 12:03 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sometimes people say half of what they are thinking and it doesn't come out right.

If you still want to meet with him on a date, tell him that you think meeting at X bar for a drink sounds fantastic and you were looking forward to seeing "XYZ" movie. Tell him if he isn't up for the movie, then just drinks for you.

You don't have to give an explanation to him about coming over to his place. He should get the idea that you are not comfortable with going to hang out at his apartment. If he asks "you why, are you not comfortable coming over?" you say "thank you for being sensitive, I am not comfortable going to someone's home until I know that person (woman or man) better."

If he doesn't say that, maybe you should not meet up with him at all. I am not comfortable with you going to his place and I don't even know you!
posted by Yellow at 12:03 PM on November 29, 2011

Just wanted to chime in that the suggestions for "let's see something at the theater" or "I have an early appt" are both good ways to get the message across without putting a damper on the situation. I don't think there is any need to state directly that you are uncomfortable with going to his apartment, both are pretty clear code for that anyway.

Personally, I'd say that I'd love to see Movie A or Movie B at the theater, with an offer to treat. Offering to pay can be a great way to reclaim power and comfort over the situation while still signalling that you are excited about hanging out for longer than a drink (and is the polite thing to do anyway, since it is your invitation).
posted by susanvance at 12:21 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would just say there's a movie in the theater you've been really wanting to see, and suggest you guys go to that one.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:34 PM on November 29, 2011

You don't need to give him any rationale for not doing it. Just agree to drinks. He qualified the DVD thing by saying it'd only happen if you both happened to be in the mood at the time. So, after drinks, simply decline the DVD. I would much rather hear a plain "maybe another time" than some contrived excuse.
posted by John Cohen at 12:39 PM on November 29, 2011

I agree with susanvance that you should offer to treat, especially if there's any chance his drinks-and-DVDs-at-home suggestion is a merely a way to enjoy a few more hours of your time while containing the cost of the evening.
posted by carmicha at 12:48 PM on November 29, 2011

...that is, if you suggesting an alternative activity that costs money, like a movie at the theatre.
posted by carmicha at 12:49 PM on November 29, 2011

I'd suggest that you are doing him a favor by being politely frank about not wanting to go back to his place yet. Less uncertainty about how you expect the date to go and what the likely parameters are.

You're doing yourself a favor too. If his reaction to that is to cancel then you know up front he's not interested in a relationship of the type you are, or at least not on the same pattern.

As far as "oh no he might get the idea I don't trust him," so what? You don't know him that well yet and have every right to take cautions. Learning not to take affront at women taking care of themselves is part of being a grown-up man in society.
posted by phearlez at 1:05 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

Nthing the movie in a theater suggestion, with a touch of "back off" by being assertive saying something like, "Let's have a drink and see a movie in the theater instead."
posted by cnc at 1:09 PM on November 29, 2011

I can’t avoid implying that he was implying … something. And I’ll send the message, “I DON’T TRUST YOU NOT TO BE A SERIAL KILLER

This conversation is happening entirely inside your head.

For all you know, if you send a counter-suggestion of "let's go do this other thing," he's thinking, "SWEET! I LOVE THIS OTHER THING! I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M SO LUCKY TO HAVE FOUND SOMEONE THAT'S INTO DOING THIS OTHER THING. HOLY SHIT THIS IS MAGIC HAPPENING RIGHT HERE."

Think I'm silly?

More silly than "serial killer?" ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:50 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

You don't need to give reasons to set boundaries and say no. No is not rude. "Psyched to do drinks, can't do DVDs after, see you at 7!"
posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

He just sounds eager. Maybe he's been lonely and wants to show you his collection of XYZ films. Most men just want a cuddly woman, and they want to make that woman happy. Unfortunately, it's up to us to tell them what makes us happy without getting into a snit about it. Of course he's hoping to score, you must be pretty nice! And some of us have gone home and hooked up with the guy on the first date. Despite Looking for Mr. Goodbar warnings.

But no, don't go home with him on the first date if that's not your instinct. In fact, it may make him want to date you more (so be warned). I think he's just trying to plan The Perfect First Date with you, and thinking you like films, wanting to show you all those things he's got and hasn't been able to share with anyone for a while. I had a taste of Beta video back in the day. "It's the best!" And no serial killer involved. Just politely decline and above all, never worry about offending a man! They want you to be happy! You just have to tell them what makes you happy. "Nice talking to you, but I need to go home now. Call me for coffee or something." Unless you hate him and then don't offer for him to call you. But at least give him a chance before you overthink this!

And then if he doesn't listen and gets pushy, buh-bye now.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:03 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with bilabial. He is testing your boundaries. It may be commonplace, but it isn't particularly nice. If he'd said as the drinks date was drawing to a close "fancy watching the Muppets DVD over at mine, it's such a mood-setter" I'd feel much better about saying some version of "nice try"; others might say "yes"; but it's all in a spirit of "can't blame a guy for trying."

Bringing this up before the date - it's so in-your-face. I am a real Aspie about taking people at their word, and if there were any ambiguity about whether this was a date or not, I'd say sure, maybe he just really wants to watch DVDs with you. But it is a date. I mean, come on. [1]

The reason it's pressure is not only because you don't want to cause "offence" - a concern which is completely misplaced, by the way, just say "drinks great, DVDs maybe another time" - but for a reason which seems not to have occurred to you. Some women, if they said no to DVDs/etchings upfront, might worry not that they would "offend" but that he would simply cancel you and take his business elsewhere. However, regardless of the form it takes, you are right to perceive pressure and to feel uncomfortable at being put in this position.

No matter what the supposed cultural norm might be about expecting hookups first, I would find this really offputting. I have grown to loathe domination games dearly over the lifetime that people have been trying them with me, and I personally find the best way to deal is a swift stake to the heart - plunge and move on (which coincidentally is probably the exact same thing he has planned for you). You may want to give this guy a go; whatevs.

[1] It is typical of my luck that I was once invited into the home of one of London's most enthusiastic collectors of etchings. That's the kind of thing that usually happens to me. Walls of them. Framed. Of course, I slapped his face.
posted by tel3path at 2:39 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

Considering that you connected over film and made a point of mentioning his DVD collection, I don't think he's trying to get you to have casual sex--he gave you an out with "if we feel like it".

Find a great independent movie that you've been wanting to see and ask him if he'd mind going to that instead.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:17 PM on November 29, 2011

Since he couched the "come in and see my extensive collection of Tibetan flutes" part in an ambivalent way, as a suggestion that he isn't sure if he really wants to do -- "if you'd like... We'll see if we feel like it." -- turning it down as if it were a positive invitation could only be interpreted as "Let's just be friends." So if you want to send that message, then do that, but then why go on the date at all?

I think texting back with "The bar sounds great, and we'll see how the rest of the night goes" -- i.e. repeating back the original ambivalence of his suggestion and confirming that you might decline -- would be interpreted as "No, I'm not ready for that." You are effectively confirming that he shouldn't get his expectations up. He still might ask again at the bar, and exactly how he asks is a good gauge for how respectful he is of your boundaries.
posted by AlsoMike at 3:46 PM on November 29, 2011

He totally gave you an out, right there after "drinks". Just have the drinks and decline going back to his place. I don't think he's testing anything. He's told you he'll wait and see how you both feel. No big deal.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:48 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

You shouldn't trust him not to be a serial killer/ weirdo /rapist, and you don't have to feel bad about it. He's pushing things a bit, and I'll bet he feels just fine. You originally agreed to drinks and a movie, and replying with an alternate suggestion does not obligate you to pay.

I'd love to meet you for a drink Friday. I was thinking of seeing Some movie at Some Cinema; it starts at 7. If we meet at Some Cafe Near Some Cinema at 6, we'll have options.
posted by theora55 at 4:15 PM on November 29, 2011

If you don't set this as a boundary, he doesn't know there's anything there to respect. It's kind of like an unmarked no fly zone that way. Once you put the markers up, or cal on the radio, or whatever, then he's a jerk if he keeps pressing.

Men, like women, are not mind-readers. True, there are some standards of conduct, such as, no ass grabbing of strangers. But there are plenty of women in the world who are ok with being a first date booty call. Or who at least will get talked into being a first date booty call. Or whose inhibitions will fall away enough after one or two drinks to think that "maybe that boxed set of Scooby Doo is just what I'm in the mood for!" Maybe that Scooby Doo laugh fest will be totally innocent. Who the fuck cares? Anonymous isn't interested, and date man can handle being told, "I'm not interested in that particular thing."

He wants to know where the boundaries are. We all want to know where the boundaries are. Whether it's fair that he "gets to" do this exploration because he's got the back pack full of (probably)white dude privilege isn't up at for debate. Whether it's prissy or rude or presumptuous of a woman to say, "Here is the line I'm not ready to cross. I'd like to walk with you, but let's turn in another direction," is also not relevant.

Our anonymous has stated that she does not feel comfortable with going upstairs on the first date. For those of you who might be comfortable visiting the apartment on that timeline, great! For you! But not great for the OP! So why should she leave herself open to him suggesting it again? Why should she demur and play "oh, mayyyyybe, we'll see how we feeeeeeeel," when she knows that she's not into it? Why make him waste his breath in asking again? Let the poor guy have a chance at picking a conversation topic or after drinks activity that she might enjoy! Let the poor woman not have to entertain an option she will not choose.
posted by bilabial at 4:16 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

He didn't actually ask you to do this. He suggested it. You don't have to say anything about it until he says "do you want to come over to my place?" And you say "sorry, no" for whatever reason you like. It's totally okay for you to not be comfortable with this, but I think you're really putting the cart before the horse here.

(And, I would avoid saying "can't watch DVDS, just drinks" because if you like him and find you'd like to spend a bit more time with him that night, you've screwed that pooch a bit.)

But if you are really well and determined to set your boundaries, and you really feel that you need to, then do so prior to the date. A simple, "drinks would be lovely, and I'd look forward to viewing that DVD with you after we've gotten to know each other a bit better" is fine. Anyone who takes that as presumptuous or offensive is probably someone you wouldn't get along with anyway.

But, I wouldn't go to a movie for a first date. Even if you're a cinephile, to me sitting in the dark next to a stranger not talking sounds ... odd, and if you're doing drinks first you probably won't have time to talk about it after (unless it's early, in which case, nevermind.)
posted by sm1tten at 4:56 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

A few thoughts:

(1) It sounds (to me) like you're ambivalent about this guy. Are you sure you want to go through with this date? You've got a lot of anxiety about this guy's character and intentions already. Lots of guys will be more on the same page with you about boundaries going into things.

(2) A couple of sentences about a DVD collection in a short text message to set up a date is a disproportionate amount of justification. He's treating it like something that needs defending, and I'm surprised someone that into film doesn't stream Netflix.

(3) The giving you an out with "if we both feel like it" is, in my view, far, far, far less significant than the fact that he tested the boundary.

You know what else you can do after drinks if you both feel like it? Anything. Going back to his place's being dependent on how you feel then is inconsistent with him having to broach the subject now.

(4) You don't mention him asking for your input about the place, the time, or the DVDs.

(5) How close is the bar he wants to meet you at from his place?

(6) Since he made the suggestion in advance of the date, I think I should let him know in advance that I won’t be going to his apartment.

His actions don't obligate you to do anything here.

(7) For one thing, if I appear to make the decision based on “how I feel” at the last minute, he’ll wonder if he said something wrong during the date.

That sort of assumes his doing everything right gets you back to his place, whereas in reality, doing everything right isn't even a guarantee of a second date.

(8) Secondly, it would be considerate to let him know he won’t need to run around cleaning up his apartment.

Being a dude who didn't get laid whose apartment is clean beats being a dude who didn't get laid with a messy apartment.

(9) This is going to sound harsh, but it sounds like you're having trouble treating your own needs as being valid here. If this is part of a pattern, you may be sending unconscious signals out to the world that you do this, and, if you are, there are very, very unsavory people who will pick up on them and be drawn to you like moths to a flame. Watch out...
posted by alphanerd at 5:29 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm confused at to what the problem is with just going for the drinks, and then when the invite for movies comes up, to decline. There shouldn't be enough of an expectation that you'll be coming over that it needs to be addressed in advance at all. In a weird way, it almost seems like your decision to reject in advance is like an apology- like you feel you OWE it to them to let them down easy now instead of just doing what you feel like when the time comes. Anyway, if you do end up really liking him, you DO spare more of his feelings this way- you won't have given him the pre-rejection, and if he's a decent guy he shouldn't have a problem with you saying "oh i wish i could, but i don't think i could stay awake for a movie, lets stay for one more drink but then i have to go home."

don't get me wrong, i very much agree with the sentiment that you need to be clear with your boundaries, and that worrying too much about being nice can get you some shitty consequences. i guess it just seems unnecessary to turn down the movie in advance rather than on the spot. because if you do it in advance and he IS angling for a hookup, this just gives him more time to work on another strategy. and if he really didn't have any bad intentions, now he might be overly worried that he crossed a line and be self-conscious on your date because of it.

you're allowed to go on a date with the plan of leaving after drinks, without telling him that's your plan. it's not like dudes are telling you in advance , "hey, lets go for drinks and then after we leave my plan is to try to get in your pants." why do you have to tell him what you're planning to do? just do it. besides, if i was really worried that a guy was a shit, i'd prefer to see his reaction to my turning him down in person anyway. more telling. if you text him in advance, and he's mad about it, you won't necessarily know about it.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 6:01 PM on November 29, 2011

Oh, ha. I am reading this guy differently from many people here. I don't interpret his text as boundary-pushing ---I read it as kind of sweet and earnest. I think he would love to hook up with you, now or in the future, and he's politely giving you advance notice of that. If I'm right, he will be completely okay with a no -- he's asking, because he wants you to have time to think and reply. He is doing the opposite of trying to manipulate you, IMO.

I'd love to meet you for a drink Friday. I was thinking of seeing Some movie at Some Cinema; it starts at 7. If we meet at Some Cafe Near Some Cinema at 6, we'll have options.

Yeah, do something like this. I think you're absolutely correct to reply ahead of time, so that he can cancel, or not clean his house, or whatever. And I don't think you should make up an excuse -- it'd be disingenuous and unnecessary. I also don't think you should say any version of "I'm not ready yet" because that implies that you will be later, and you may not want to create that expectation.

So yeah. Send a text like what theora55 said. Whether he's being manipulative or sincere, it's the best way to handle this.
posted by Susan PG at 10:00 PM on November 29, 2011

From the OP:
Thank you all so much for taking the time to answer my question. This thread has been incredibly helpful to me. The fact that reasonable minds disagreed about the guy’s intentions and about how I should respond helped me see that my confusion wasn’t just the result of social cluelessness on my part. He created an ambiguous situation, intentionally or not.

I especially appreciated tel3pathe’s point that I was right to feel uncomfortable about being placed in this position; cairdeas’ insight that if I’m looking for a relationship in which I feel comfortable expressing my boundaries, I should start here by being straightforward about them; and bilabial and phearlez’ suggestions that I’d make things easier for both of us by explicitly establishing parameters.

I let all of your answers percolate for a day and then emailed the guy to tell him that I’m looking forward to drinks but don’t feel comfortable going to a guy’s apartment until I know him fairly well. I threw out a few suggestions for after-drinks activities that would be either free or “my treat” (which, as susanvance pointed out, would help me feel more in control of the situation).

I haven’t heard back yet, but the problem is already resolved in my mind. My response was reasonable and respectful to both of us, and the guy’s reaction is out of my control. I do expect that he’ll say something in the vein of “Oh, hey, that’s cool, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” but if not, I’ll have all the information I need. Thanks again, everyone.
posted by mathowie at 1:00 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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