Hopeful 8 Hopeless 2
The title of this post is inspired by a quote from Margaret Hale in the BBC Miniseries North & South. "I have not learned to refuse" is something she says to describe her struggle to decline a man's offer in such a way that it does not unduly hurt or offend him. She does not succeed, unfortunately, in being diplomatic. This skill, the ability to decline or refuse a guy is something that I expected to learn during my project with Plenty of Fish. I expected that I would have the opportunity to practice and that I would get better at it. Yet, like Margaret, I never really managed to do this quite right.
The day after I went out for hot chocolate with Amin, I received a curious e-mail. It was from Paul. For whatever strange reason, I did not expect a message from him. I had put him out of mind and didn't expect him to crop up again. He opened with, "There is a new revelation about the south Pole and north Pole ice diminishing, actually they say south Pole gained some this year (1%) of total.." I was completely bewildered. This was his opening to ask me out for coffee to "talk about it". I suppose this is what people mean when they say that a guy is "using a line". I guess I haven't really been subject to many in my life, even during my Plenty of Fish project. That is why I was stunned. The entire e-mail gave me a very bad vibe, just reconfirming all of my instincts again.
I had decided after meeting Paul that I would not go out with him again. My opinion was unchanged and rather reinforced by this e-mail. Anyone I showed it too also found it really weird. That is when it came time to answer and refuse. I waited a day, hoping that would help me collect my thoughts. All I came out with was a few brief lines about being busy and that I would "let him know". So I did not directly say "no thank you; not interested". I just put him off. I was stuck in his paradigm about not corresponding unless I had time in my schedule to see him. I thought it would be clear that I didn't have time for him if I didn't write. It was probably not very generous of me and it completely side-stepped practicing how to let a guy down gently.
I received a reply the same day. That one also made me shudder because I was uncomfortable with the manner in which he complimented me (see Perplexing Paul for more details). He was putting me in all sorts of boxes again and repeating the same words. He claimed he understood about my being busy. I took a deep breath and hoped that that was the very last e-mail I would receive from him.
The other e-mail dilemma I needed to solve was for Patrick. That day I sat down at my computer and worked out something that I hoped sounded not as unsettled as I felt. I told him a bit about my classes and then tackled the question of the blog. We had been considering another outing, but I suggested that we go for another tea to have the opportunity to talk, given that he had found my blog and possibly also had read it. I added that in the meantime, I would be grateful if he didn't read. By this, I wanted to get a chance to sit down with him and explain to him how my project came about and answer any questions he might have. If he had indeed read my entire blog (which I was by no means certain of, given how vague he was) without hearing any explanations from me personally, I thought that he could quite possibly wish to reject me simply based on some of the things I wrote. His reply to my e-mail came over a week later and I will discuss it in an upcoming post.