Monday, June 1, 2009

The Golden Rule

We’ve all been there … you go on a date, have a decent time but nothing to write home about. The other person, though, somehow felt the sparks that eluded you and is reliably calling/emailing/texting ready to line up round 2. You’re positive there’s no interest and have no intention of going out again and yet, the thought of sharing this simple sentiment with the other part of the equation seems too awkward/burdensome/time consuming a task … so you simply decide to ignore the continued overtures from this person until he/she gets the hint.

Despite New Yorkers’ reputation for being callous individuals with no time to help little old ladies cross the street, we all like to think of ourselves as decent people, with good manners, who treat others well and who, generally, do the “right” thing. Yet, for some reason, when it comes to dating many otherwise stand-up, thoughtful people take the path of least resistance … and, typically, the path of least integrity.

So the question must be asked, what does one owe another after a first date? Anything?? Is it completely acceptable to simply ignore a phone call/text message/email from the person with whom, only two nights prior, you shared stories of your world wide travels, athletic endeavors and career aspirations? Or … is some basic human response (even perfunctory) owed to the person who had the good taste to enjoy your company and is merely trying to see you again.

Of course, it’s easiest not to respond until you simply fade into oblivion in that person's memory. And it’s crystal clear (at least to most sane people) that by not responding to the other party’s communications, you’ve responded.* Indeed, everyone knows that because so many people go this route one won’t really be considered an [insert explicative of choice here] by the rejected party. Many would even argue that pulling the Houdini act is the more charitable course of action - why make someone feel bad with the “you’re a great girl/guy, just not for me” line – it’s so transparent after all. If the person thought you were so great, chances are they’d want to go out again.

But think about the flip side for a moment. The other day a good friend shared a story with me that made me think about the value of common courtesy. A few weeks back my friend asked out a fun, sexy woman he met at a charity event. They finally got together and he had a great time (and was unquestionably attracted to her). His read of the date was that she felt the same way. When he called her to arrange a second date, however, he learned that she was not interested in going out again. As the blond siren explained to my friend, she had a fun time on their date but she had her hands full with an ex and someone else new in the picture. My friend – who has an active dating life - was grateful for the no-nonsense response and moved on. Whether or not what she said was even true is almost besides the point – the fact is that she had the maturity (far more at 25 in fact than many men and women at 45) and decency to answer the phone, have a conversation and politely explain that she was not interested in anything romantic. If you believe in good dating karma, this girl will definitely be reaping its benefits.

For those who may be reading this thinking “why do I need to have a conversation with someone I barely know and went out with once,” I refer you to the title of this blog.** Remind yourself of the instance (there has to have been one) where you were the person whose text/email/call was ignored. Yes, we all survive it and take our lumps but in the end wouldn’t you have preferred a little more respectful treatment? There is much to be gained by asking the simple question – how would I feel if someone pulled this on me?

One can certainly take this question to the next level and ask whether communication is “owed” after every first date under every circumstance. A reader responding to one of my blogs wrote of his belief that a follow-up email/call after a date is always warranted – something along the lines of “I had a nice time with you but I don’t think there’s chemistry.” There are undeniably pros and cons to be said for this approach. Some men and women will appreciate the follow-up and candor. But one also runs the risk of arousing a strong negative reaction … maybe something along the lines of “hey bozo, get over yourself - I wasn’t feeling it either. There’s no need to state the obvious.”

Which brings to mind “The Platinum Rule” which suggests that not everyone has the same tastes and therefore people should “do unto others, whenever possible, as they want to be done by." Oh, this gets complicated …

*Anyone who’s ever tried online dating has likely come across those people who send a mass produced message and tack in at the end “even if you’re not interested, please send me a response letting me know.” You have to imagine that these individuals were clearly crushed by the advent of caller ID.

** The Golden Rule, also known as the ethic of reciprocity, is an ethical code that states one has a right to just treatment (i.e. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31). The Golden Rule was apparently also a common principal in ancient Greek philosophy ("Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him." – Pittacus).

No comments:

Post a Comment