Should I stay or should I go [on first dates that don't appeal to me]?
February 26, 2017 8:20 PM   Subscribe

If I start talking with someone online, make plans, and realize while we continue chatting it won't be a good fit, should I cancel the date?

This has happened twice now. I started chatting with a guy online, we decided to meet up, and then I realized before meeting that I'd rather not actually go on the date. In both cases I was very sure it wouldn't be a good fit because of red flags and general incompatibility.

In the first case, I actually canceled the date and got a really long, sad message in reply, which confirmed in several places the reason for my "eehhhhh" feeling. In the second, I went on the date and felt drained and unhappy that I'd spent my time on it.

So, I think the main takeaway here is to talk to people more before we set a date, right? I can do that, although one thing I'm working with is the fact I get to know people much better face to face, so I default to setting those up faster.

In the case that this happens again, though, what's the etiquette? Can I just cancel? Is there a timeframe that feels better, e.g., not the same day but canceling the day before is fine? Should I just also make sure the first meeting is short, regardless of the guy, in case I realize I don't want it to last too long?

Assume I really don't want to meet the guy in these cases and would rather be napping, cleaning, at work, etc. than going on the date. These aren't the "let's see how it goes" dates -- these are "I know I will not want this to continue" dates. If the situation were reversed I think I'd prefer they cancel politely a day in advance; I would respond in kind, feel bummed, and move on.
posted by ramenopres to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If face-to-face works better for you (as it does for most of us), make first meetings short and sweet - think coffee or dessert. Both can be prolonged if you're feeling it, and neither commits you to a meals worth of time if things aren't working.

I dont see why you should go on dates that you are not interested in. It's a waste of time and energy for you, and for the guys. If you realize before meeting that you are not interested, just message them and cancel. You don't owe them anything that early in the interaction.
posted by MFZ at 8:31 PM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Meet up for a quick coffee before planning an actual date! That way you can suss the guys out before you commit to spending anymore time with them.
posted by littlesq at 8:32 PM on February 26, 2017 [11 favorites]

Frankly I'd just cancel. If you're getting red flags there's no reason to put yourself in a situation where you may be forced to deal with someone who is a hazard to you.

If you're feeling shy about it, I'd just go with "sorry, I've had an emergency come up, I don't think this is going to be possible" then politely disengage afterwards. You don't owe these men anything more than that.
posted by Jilder at 8:55 PM on February 26, 2017 [22 favorites]

People probably flake on 30-40% of all online dates scheduled. Just cancel. Better for everyone.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:58 PM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

My go-to line for these situations: "Upon further reflection, I don't think we're a good match. I wish you the best in your search."
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 9:05 PM on February 26, 2017 [15 favorites]

I'm not remotely an expert online dater, but I say you should definitely cancel. You're not doing yourself or the other person any favors if you force yourself to go on a date. Personally I find it frustrating when people cancel plans at the last minute, so I would recommend doing it a day before the date if possible, but you do what you gotta do.

How long do you generally talk to people online before meeting them? I agree with littlesq that it's better to quickly set up a low-stakes in person meeting than to talk online for a long time first--just makes it worse when it turns out to be a bad fit. (And it sounds like that's what you're doing, so I'd say stick with it.)

Good luck!
posted by ferret branca at 9:11 PM on February 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

We talk long enough to establish that we have worldview and hobbies in common, plus some rapport -- multiple messages with multiple paragraphs for OKCupid, and multiple scrolls on my phone via an app like Bumble. But in one case it was the process of setting up the date that made me realize it was unlikely to work out.
posted by ramenopres at 9:19 PM on February 26, 2017

Captain Awkward's got you covered.
posted by foxjacket at 9:21 PM on February 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

Respectfully cancelled. These people are strangers. You don't owe them your time just because they asked for it. Your only obligation is to treat them with courtesy as you would any other person.
posted by amycup at 9:45 PM on February 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

In the case that this happens again, though, what's the etiquette? Can I just cancel? Is there a timeframe that feels better, e.g., not the same day but canceling the day before is fine? Should I just also make sure the first meeting is short, regardless of the guy, in case I realize I don't want it to last too long?

Starting more casual is, in my experience, generally a good plan, for precisely this reason. If you're just getting coffee, it isn't the end of the world to find out the other party isn't coming even after you've arrived at the coffee shop; you just have a coffee and go about your day.

Manners should never obligate you to paying romantic attention to someone you're not romantically interested in. The concern about etiquette here should be more about being polite and prompt about letting them know, rather than about whether or not you cancel. Like, it's more polite to cancel the day before than to cancel the day of, but it is not more polite to go on a date you don't want to be on than to cancel the day of the date. The right answer is never "go even though you don't want to", because then you guarantee you're wasting both your time and theirs.
posted by Sequence at 11:44 PM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sounds like your instincts aren't working against you, so follow them, while being kind.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:41 AM on February 27, 2017

I'm no expert either but I've been erring on the side of "wait and see, maybe they're bad in text and better in person" and it's done me no favours and indeed made more a bit burnt out and jaded in my attitude towards online dating. My recent policy is to cancel politely and only go on dates I'm at least a little excited and the good-kind-of-nervous about, it's working a lot better.
posted by hotcoroner at 4:39 AM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

As a fellow online dater, i echo others in saying my insincts haven't been wrong so far and i doubt yours are either. I'm not an extrovert and my energy for socializing and meeting new people is limited. I think it's fine for you to cancel- probably best to give at least a day's notice though. If it's an hour before but you're not feeling it, it's still polite to go through with the meeting (unless you feel seriously creeped out). Otherwise, cancel when you want, and certainly don't feel obligayed to make a date just because you've been messaging someone.
posted by bearette at 5:10 AM on February 27, 2017

I agree with politely letting them know beforehand. But definitely plan to have short meet for coffee dates for First Dates. Then if the date goes well you can decide to go have dinner or do something else after coffee.

When I was dating I did meet people even if I did not feel very excited about them as long as they shared the same core values which were important to me. I figure I could meet anybody for coffee for 20 minutes and probably learn something interesting from that conversation. And since the were many people who I was very excited about meeting and turned out to be absolutely non compatible, I figured the reverse would also be true, that there would be some people who I felt blah about on the phone but in person we would have good chemistry.

I went for coffee with one of those non exciting prospects and we did not hit it off but he invited me to a big party he and his roommates were having. Then I met a guy at the party and he was really nice and I went out with him but it didn't work out. I ended up marrying the roommate of the guy I met at the party. So you never know.
posted by Melsky at 5:12 AM on February 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

All this talk about coffee dates is missing the point. Ok, let's say it's only a coffee date that OP is asking about canceling, the question still stands: cancel a day ahead, or if they only figure out it's pointless the morning of the evening coffee, or feel obliged to go because they said they would? It doesn't matter if it's $5 coffee or if it's a $100 dinner and theater extravaganza, OP still has to cancel or go. If you don't want to go, cancel. If you think that's an awkward and uncomfortable text message, imagine meeting up with them and telling them in person that you're not that into them.

(and yes, that Captain Awkward post is spot on)
posted by aimedwander at 6:51 AM on February 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Go on dates with people. Avoid chatting ahead of time.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:55 AM on February 27, 2017

When I feel like this, I almost always talk myself into going and then always regret it. Just cancel.
posted by aaanastasia at 6:57 AM on February 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah, your time and social energy are limited resources; if it were me I'd want to spend them on people I actually had potential to click with. Trust your instincts.

Add my vote to the "go ahead and cancel" side (though I would agree that it's ideally done before the day-of, if you can).
posted by DingoMutt at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2017

I agree with the other posters that you're well within your rights to cancel a date if you aren't feeling it.

However, I've also been the person who was enthusiastically asked out on a date and then cancelled on, and it blows. Not as much as being stood up, but a lot. It's rude to set up a date with someone you're not actually interested in - and I'm sorry, but if you're discovering "red flags" just a bit later in your chatting, it sounds like you should have gotten to know them better before suggesting or agreeing to a date. thing I'm working with is the fact I get to know people much better face to face...

This isn't unique. Most people are better face-to-face. It's still far kinder to chat a bit longer than to do the hurtful make-and-then-cancel-a-date thing.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:05 AM on February 27, 2017

cancel, apologise a lot, cancel, don't feel bad, block if necessary - i say this as the recipient of many rejections who over-feels it you know - if it's not going to work, wasting time further isn't going to help. It's not like you're divorcing your wife by facebook message or something (a uk popstar did that)(worse, billy bob thornton's fiance found out it was off when she read in a magazine about his marriage to angelina jolie - now that is some kind of rude)
posted by maiamaia at 11:21 AM on February 27, 2017

Bail. Like others have said, every time I've gone against my better judgement, ignoring red flags, I regret it and end up with someone who bitches me out or wants me to give them a full criticism of what went wrong when I don't agree to a second date. Dating is THE WORST.
posted by greta simone at 3:14 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

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