Walking into the new, chic bar in Harlem, I had the usual jitters that arrive when you’re about to meet someone you've been talking to online. I was nervous — but also excited — to learn more about J.R., the guy I'd been chatting and texting with for a few weeks.
From the moment I saw him (sitting, hunched over his phone, texting), I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I approached him in spite of it. We introduced ourselves, but instead of getting up and heading to the bar with me, he stayed fixated on his phone. After about 20 minutes of this — his phone getting way more attention than me — he excused himself to take a call. You can probably predict what happened next: He never came back. I sat alone in the bar, fighting back angry tears.
And yet, from the moment I'd laid eyes on J.R., my instincts had told me I wasn’t walking into a good situation. My Jerk-O-Meter had gone off, and I'd ignored it. Why had I stayed when my gut was telling me to leave? Why had I made feeble attempts at small talk when his body language was clearly telling me he wanted nothing to do with me? Well, I did it because it was the polite thing to do. I let manners trump my instincts. And, I realized with some dismay, it wasn’t the first time I'd allowed my inclination to be considerate overrule my need to stand up for myself.
I don't think I'm alone in this. Women are practically trained to "be nice." We want to be liked, and so we often act politely — even in the face of someone's rudeness. Being nice to guys I dated, including ones I knew didn't deserve it, was something I'd just always done. When J.R. defended his phone fixation with a sarcastic remark and still wouldn't give me the time of day, I could have — and obviously should have — turned and walked out. But, I kept fighting to be polite. I’m not to blame for J.R.’s bad behavior, but my sitting down and continuing to engage with him indicated that I was okay with how he was treating me, which probably only made him think he could disrespect his future dates, too.
It was this horrible date with J.R. that gave me the impetus to throw my good manners out the window when I deemed it necessary. From now on, I was going to put myself first — even if it meant I had to be a little rude. Enough with the niceness all the time! I was quickly learning that it was not always the best policy. Now, if a date makes me feel disrespected, I have the right — and the obligation — to leave. And, I'm proud to say that's just what I did the last time a guy I went out with turned out to be an asshole.
I'd met Pete online, and after some nice email exchanges, we decided to meet in person. Pete picked a coffee shop downtown, which fit my rule about meeting in neutral, safe locations. When I walked in, Pete waved at me, with a smile, from a table in the corner. “What’s up, CeCe!” he said, giving me one of those cool-guy chin nods. I hesitantly sat down. We'd barely said hello when Pete began to talk about himself, non-stop, while also checking out other girls right in front of my face. I looked at my watch (never a good sign during a date), which confirmed that the date had been going on for exactly six minutes. I waited for Pete to ask me something — anything — about myself. But, that never happened.
If this was Pete putting his best foot forward, I'd seen all I needed to. “Actually, I’m going to head out," I said. "It was nice meeting you!” I picked up my purse and went to get a manicure.
Sometimes, being nice is overrated.