I’ve never really worked out how I feel about social niceties. Obviously I love manners, people being polite and taking care not to trample on the feelings of others (and I seem to have come to the right country for that). I also love words and the rigmarole of niceties creates hoops to jump through, hurdles to leap over and perilous stalactites/mites to make the journey more adventurous. By adhering to a sense of propriety, we create layers of meaning to be decoded, subtext to sift through. Part of me is enamoured with the intrigue of such language conventions, the other part of me abhors the facetiousness of the whole façade. As I said, still undecided.
I guess I’m just trying to figure out how I feel about the sentence “Hey I’m sorry but I am not looking for anything right now but it was really nice to meet you.”
The overwhelming calls from the peanut gallery say “not thrilled” and they’d be correct. If you’re into someone and it’s not reciprocal, it’s a bummer. In that instance, breaking it off is also the best possible thing to do. My logical core has no issue with that. My emotional framework has resorted to beer and newly received New Zealand confectionery. So what did that sentence say?
My instinctive read says that it could easily be rephrased as “Hey, you’re not an awful person, but you don’t pique my interest enough to necessitate further contact.” Once again my logical core breaks it down. Whereas my emotional framework breaks down in a different way. It reads the same sentence as “Let’s be honest, nobody is ever really “not looking for anything right now”, you just weren’t engaging enough to be that person. So I’m gonna phrase it in this way because it doesn’t burn any bridges. It also leaves me with two outcomes which are either a) you’ll have heard this excuse enough times to instantly grok the subtext or b) you’re dim enough to take it at face value, which leaves me with a sterling excuse and coming off blame free.”
Firstly, as much as the ol’ emotional framework wants to apportion blame, there’s none to dole out. I’ve been in her position many times before and that logical core knows full well that what she’s doing is the right move according to these social conventions we’ve constructed. She doesn’t owe me anything, both the logical and emotional side are well aware of that fact. We weren’t deeply entwined whatsoever and deep down in that core I knew the whole time that it probably wouldn’t work out. That didn’t stop the emotional dreamer in me from clinging to some form of hope, hope that circumstances might change, that she might see something in me that she hadn’t before.
Was it even nice to meet me? We had what I assumed was fun conversation, but when you’re engaged with the rush of meeting someone new you’ll often overlook normally obvious signs of disinterest while searching hard for any signs to the contrary. Those subtleties, the subtext falls to the cutting room floor, while your emotional framework lines up the shots it chooses to edit together in the post-date clip show.
If I slip back to that logical core, I can see that my rejection of social niceties in this situation is a thirst to justify any lingering ill-advised outrage. If she was rude I would at least have something to raise my hackles, get mad about. It’d give me reason to formatively reject her for being rude, it’d give me cause to dismiss her and take back some of the mana I lost by being rejected. If she’d said something like “you’re a dick, don’t contact me again.” I’d at least be able to rest on my haunches and say “well, dodged a bullet there.” I could appease my own feelings of neglect by lowering her status in my eyes. “Taking it back” so to speak. Who am I kidding? I’d likely have crumpled into a ball of unwanted and unwarranted neuroticims.
So what did I say in the face of such linguistic maneuvering? Did I show her how we do it back home? Did I stick it to her? Turn up the heat and drop the hammer? Casting aside these insincere social niceties?
How about this sick line? “No worries. If you’re not into it, no use trying to make something work. It was excellent getting to know you.”
Ooooh, check yo’self before yo wreck yo’self there bro’self.