Dear Nick*,

I should have spoken up. That was my first mistake.

I knew within minutes of ordering drinks that we weren’t vibing. It felt like we were on different dates, like you were having a great time and I definitely was not, but I was afraid of hurting your feelings and that I would regret not giving you a chance. So I stayed. And I didn’t speak up. I didn’t speak up when you said we should go grab another drink around the corner. I didn’t speak up when the bar you chose was closed for a private party. I didn’t speak up when we ended up at a jazz club. I didn’t speak up when the waitress asked if we were hungry and you said no, even though I was. I didn’t speak up when you ordered us beers and I didn’t want another one. I didn’t speak up when the jazz club announced a new set was starting and no audible conversation would be allowed. Then, per the house rules, I didn’t speak at all.

So I sat there, wildly uncomfortable, thinking about a looming deadline at work the next day and how hungry I was. How I didn’t want to drink the beer in front of me. How I didn’t want to be on this date. I sat thinking and thinking and thinking, How the hell do I get out of here?

I was stuck. I thought I could wait it out and try to enjoy the music, but the bottom line was that I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to waste any more of my time or, truthfully, any more of yours. I just wanted a clean way out. So I panicked. I grabbed my coat and hurriedly told you, “Don’t kill me but I’m going to go home.” This was in the middle of the jazz set. I’m sure the sax player was annoyed, as all eyes in the club were on us and the commotion at the table. Your face dropped, and your eyes were so sad and confused. You asked if I wanted to go to another bar. I said no and walked away. The look on your face has stayed with me since.

I wish I’d had cash on me. But who carries cash nowadays? I would’ve thrown a twenty on the table as a sort of apology offering, some cash for my drink, at the very least. Instead, I texted you as soon as I got outside. I apologized and called you a gentleman, said you did nothing wrong, that I was tired, that this wasn’t my night, that we weren’t a good fit, that it wasn’t you, it was me. While I’m here, I should also apologize for using the cliché it’s-not-you-it’s-me line.

The truth is, at the time we went out, I’d been on so many bad first dates that I just wasn’t willing to sit through the discomfort of this one. I wanted to prioritize myself, get home and get something to eat, walk my dog, and get a good night sleep. I suspect all my frustration from so many seemingly failed attempts at dating built up in this moment and made me decide I wasn’t willing to sacrifice any more of my time for another guy.

You didn’t take me bailing very well. I’m not sure I expected you to, but I didn’t expect what happened next either. You found me on Venmo using my phone number and charged me for my drinks. You texted me nasty things, referring to our conversation about feminism by telling me that my bailing on you wasn’t very feminist of me. Frankly, you stopped making sense. You told me that my behavior turns nice guys like you into assholes. You nudged me on Venmo. I called my dad. He said what he’s always told me when it comes to men: “Boys have feelings, too.” Then he suggested I pay up and block you, so I did. Unsurprisingly, I haven’t heard from you since.

Still, I realize I never really apologized for bailing. I think the storm of messages and Venmo requests after made me feel too defensive, angry, annoyed, and over it. But I shouldn’t have done what I did — and because I did, I at least partly deserved all that. I should’ve spoken up sooner. And for that, I’m sorry.

Forever apologetically,
Ashley

*Names have been changed to protect innocent daters.