From Matched to Detached: Handling Electronic Break Ups

We'd had a wonderful exchange of emails. I was interested. He offered his phone number; I dialed... and then, as that baritone voiceover always says in overwrought adventure documentaries, something went horribly wrong. The guy with whom I'd been emailing was a computer professional in his mid-30s. But his job was part-time, he lived with his parents, and he was a college sophomore. Frankly, I haven't dated a college sophomore in more decades than I'd care to say.

We never met. I had to break up with him before our first date.

It's tricky business, this ducking out of a online dating connection midway through the hookup. Sure, at most online dating sites you can always just block the person, but unless you're dealing with a psycho-stalker, that's the coward's way out. Still, even the most diplomatically forthright among us will be stumped on occasion by some suitor who can't take a hint.

I remember receiving an initial email from one guy whose message and profile left no doubt that we were miles apart intellectually. Luck seemed with me, though. His profile offered a loophole: he was a smoker, and as I wrote in my reply, allergies prevent me from dating smokers. A nice face-saver, I thought -- until he wrote back to say that maybe if I became his girlfriend, I could inspire him to quit smoking. At that point, there was nothing to do but send a short "Sorry. Not interested" reply.

I've been turned down electronically in the early stages of email communication by a wine collector and a carnivore who were turned off, respectively, because I'm not a drinker and I'm a quasi-vegetarian.

But my favorite rejection of all time came from a guy who took issue with my family's multiculturalism. I had told him that my brother, who is adopted, is Sioux; that my brother-in-law's cousin is married to a Puerto Rican woman; and that the family includes Jews, Catholics, Protestants and atheists, with the result that December is a happy anarchy of holidays celebrated, as it were, across party lines.

"It all sounds very interesting," he wrote in his reply, "but I think it's more than I can handle."

Well... if a white guy doesn't want to date this white woman because she has a non-white relative, best for me to know that at the earliest opportunity. That's the beauty of cyber-dating, in fact. Connecting with people via online dating services speeds not only the process of finding people who are right for you, but also the process of eliminating people who aren't.

Still, he did it the right way. He didn't just stop replying to my emails. He didn't resort to that tired, obvious ploy of announcing that quite suddenly he'd met someone else on the internet and had decided to pursue a relationship with her. (You'll always get caught on that one -- your profile's still here, isn't it?) He just let me know we were incompatible. And he was right -- about that.

There are a lot of people here in this community. You can find many who are right for you, but you'll meet a few who aren't along the way. When you meet them, be polite but honest about your disinterest. Remember, you may need someone to return the favor sometime!

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