When No Means No

Men don’t hear rejection unless women speak plainly

This annoying guy at my gym keeps asking me out. I’m always polite, saying, “Would love to, but sorry, I’m really busy.” And then I move to another part of the gym. I’d go at a different time, but unfortunately, he’s always there in the hours I can work out. What should I say so he gets the hint and leaves me alone?

— Go Away Already!

There are people — some of them men — who won’t take no for an answer. But you haven’t tried no — or any of the variations: “Nuh-uh,” “Are you crazy?” or “The only way you’re ever getting into my pants is if you’re trying on ladies’ clothing at Goodwill.”

Women have a tendency to be hinty and otherwise indirect in telling a guy they aren’t interested. As personal security expert Gavin de Becker puts it in “The Gift of Fear”: “Rejecting women often say less than they mean,” and “men often hear less than what is said.” Men’s poor, um, hearing actually seems to be an evolutionary design feature. Research by evolutionary psychologists Martie Haselton and David Buss suggests that men evolved to be poor guessers about women’s sexual interest in them — erring on the side of assuming a woman’s interested when they have no definitive sign that she isn’t.

As Buss explains, the likely benefit from this “sexual overperception bias,” is that it leads men “to believe that a woman is sexually interested in them in response to ambiguous cues such as a smile or going to a bar alone,” and thus functions to keep men from “missing sexual opportunities.” (Or — in somewhat less scientific terms — it gives a man a chance at passing his genetic material on to the next generation instead of into an old tube sock.)

You don’t have to be cruel, but something a little more hope-crushing than “I’d love to” would be a start. Saying you’re “busy” doesn’t cut it, as it suggests that all that’s keeping the guy from getting into your ladybusiness are scheduling conflicts. The most effective rejection is a direct one — like this one I suggested in “Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say the F-Word”: “Thanks so much. I’m flattered, but I’m sorry to say that I’m just not interested.” Though “I’m flattered” might seem condescending, it softens the blow — without being misleading. It suggests that you believe the person you’re rejecting has some merits, as opposed to what may actually be the truth: “I would rather be pecked to death by angry hens than have sex with you.”


Ladies Who Hunch

This hot guy I met online lied about his height. We got together, and I’m like 3 inches taller than he is. That doesn’t bother me, but I’m worried that his height is a source of insecurity for him (since he lied about it on his profile).

— Skyscraper

You can’t always find your one and only, but you can sometimes find your three-quarters and only.

It isn’t a surprise that this guy, in calculating his height, added in the vintage ottoman he was standing on when he took the photo. While there are breast men, leg men, butt men, and even toe men, in female preferences for men’s appearance, across cultures, there’s one thing that really, really matters, and it’s height. (Guilty: I’ve joked about getting one of those amusement park signs to post over my bed, “Must be this tall to ride this ride.”)

Research by evolutionary social psychologist Gert Stulp suggests that women, in general, find it “unacceptable” to be taller than the man they’re with and prefer to be substantially shorter (ideally a whole 8 inches shorter; so, say, 5-foot-6 to a man’s 6-foot-2). As for why women evolved to prefer taller men, though being tall doesn’t always mean being stronger (and thus better able to protect a woman), tallness points to physical health. (If a man’s body is riddled with parasites, his metabolic resources get invested in battling the little buggers instead of upward growth.)

In modern times, some men try to cheat their way taller, with dating profile fudgery, shoes with built-in “lifts,” and strong hair gel (the essential ingredient in a towering pompadour). However, a short man isn’t necessarily short on self-worth. According to Stulp and his colleagues, shorter men’s dissatisfaction with their height seems linked to the general preference by women for taller men. But since that isn’t a problem here, let him know. And you might also keep in mind that good things do, as they say, “come in small packages.”

(c)2017, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon. Order Amy Alkon’s book, “Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say The F-Word” (St. Martin’s Press, June 3, 2014) at amazon.com.

Categories: Advice Goddess