There’s a customer where I work who has a crush on me that I in no way reciprocate. She came in again today, and she keeps trying to get me to initiate setting up a time for us to have tea. I’m annoyed, because I feel like a) I haven’t given much of an indication that I actually want to have tea, and b) she’s also trying to get me to be the one who initiates that.
Anyway, I’m just not quite sure how to handle it. Do I have tea and just be very firmly cordial and nothing more? Do I ignore the request? I see her often enough that I don’t feel that comfortable just saying no, and anyway I have no good reason for doing so other than I don’t really want to. I feel like I’m going to end up meeting her once, and try not to be too engaging. I just feel sort of silly about the whole thing.
Anna says: This is the most important part of your letter: “I have no good reason for doing so other than I don’t really want to.” You don’t need another excuse than that. Not wanting to have tea with her is reason enough. It’s so hard for women to say no in a direct, firm manner. I’m guilty of this all the time. I usually can’t even think of the “I’m gay” excuse before I am stupidly accepting some strange man’s phone number out of guilt and a weird sense of obligation not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
But you know what? That’s dumb. Don’t have tea with her. If she ever grows the eggs and asks you outright, say something along the lines of, “I’m flattered you want to spend time with me outside of my place of employment, but no. I’m not interested.” Don’t apologize. Don’t make excuses. Just say no–politely, of course, but quickly. Don’t say you’d like to be friends if it isn’t true. If you really think you can’t do that, then it’s totally plausible to say you can’t because it’s against company policy to date/maintain outside social engagements with customers. But really, you should just tell her no.
Not to sound all after school special, but I strongly recommend you take this opportunity to practice being assertive. We all should. Let’s do it together right now. I’m going to ask you all out and you’re going to reject me. Feel free to insert your own quips and dialogue. And don’t worry about hurting me – I’ve been rejected lots o’ times.
Me: Hey, AfterEllen.com reader!
You: [Cordial, but not flirtatious greeting]
Me: You look pretty hot over there, clicking that mouse or laptop keypad.
You: [Noncommittal sound, a "humph" perhaps, or slow nod]
Me: Speaking of “humphing,” how’s about you and me go on a date sometime? We can watch The Real L Word and eat couscous with wild mushrooms that I picked from my very own windowsill garden. I even purchased your favorite Celestial Tea blends and compostable spoons with which to stir them.
You: [Smile, but politely decline. Then continue to peruse other AfterEllen columns, leaving me to deal with the jealousy and crippling loneliness on my sad existence.]
Me: [I see you wavering! Stop it! Don’t fall for my pity face! Walk away!]
To reiterate, in all seriousness: It’s not worthwhile to waste your time and hers simply for the sake of being too nice to say no. Especially since, ultimately, it’s not nice at all. It’s leading someone on. And annoying yourself in the process. Your time and your dates are valuable. Don’t waste them on someone you feel “feh” about.