DEAR MISS MANNERS: There is a young man I met through mutual friends at college who has been asking me out. I considered him an acquaintance – an acquaintance I had become increasingly unfond of.
He likes to be argumentative (I am sure he thinks of it more as intellectual debate), and I have actually found him rather offensive (although I am sure he does not know). I avoid arguing or disagreeing with him, and he now thinks that we have everything in common and lots to discuss.
He has asked me out to lunch/dinner, and it has not been easy to say no. He asks things like, are you free anytime this week? How do I tell someone, who may see me on campus not being busy, that I am available never?
On one occasion I made a move to avoid him (I didn’t think it was that obvious), and he asked me about it later (I made up some mostly true excuse).
Do I need to tell him I don’t like him, not even as a friend, leave me alone? (He is friends of some good friends of mine and I might have to see him sometimes if I want to see them). Miss Manners, how does a lady navigate this situation?
GENTLE READER: As a rule, Miss Manners does not care for discouraging unwanted suitors by a frank declaration of distaste.
Proponents of this technique argue that it is kinder than the conventional subterfuges that you have employed, because it is quick and final. But the natural temptation to supply reasons means that this quickly descends into insults. And the objects of such talks, having shown themselves insensitive to the euphemistic approach, often bring on their own doom by demanding reasons.
So while you must proceed to a more direct statement, Miss Manners hopes you will keep it civil as well as clear. Say merely, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested.” Should he attempt to pursue the topic, you should repeat, “I don’t know, but I am really not interested. Goodbye.”