I'm Just Not That Into You: The Art of the Slow Fade


If we’re lucky, we end the same number of relationships that we begin — minus one. (If we’re unlucky, the number breaks even.)

As a single 25-year-old in New York, my first-date count continues to climb steadily, as does the number of times I decide that I'm not exactly psyched to see someone again.

No matter how casual things were or how much you actually enjoyed his company (even if as a friend), it’s never fun to say no thanks to a second date.

I hope he takes the hint when I constantly have "early work meetings" or when my responses are hours delayed. But if he doesn't, I have to get creative.

Fortunately, our generation has adopted a way to avoid having the painfully awkward "This isn’t going to work" conversation in person, on the phone or even over email: by simply not having it at all. Instead, we turn to the creative, effective, yet totally tactless "slow fade."

Here’s how it works: After a first (or second) date, allow the initial follow-up text — "Hey, want to grab drinks again this Thursday?" — to linger for hours or maybe even a day.

Then, respond with a short, elusive response like, "Sorry, crazy week at work!" If he asks about your weekend plans, say something vague about a birthday party and friends in town and so on, until you eventually let the text(s) or call(s) go completely unacknowledged and unanswered.

I've experienced various forms of the slow fade, as both giver and a receiver, in dating situations throughout he years and it seems like it is becoming the tactic of choice — for both sexes — to get out of having to hang out.

Evidently, it has become the most socially acceptable way to say, "I’m just not that into you" — without actually saying it.

The main problem is that it’s downright rude. Gradual unresponsiveness does not let someone down "easily" or "nicely," and having grown up in the South, proper manners are always in the back of my mind.

While generally effective, the slow fade is also extraordinarily impolite.

But, I'm beginning to wonder if another, more considerate option even exists. If the slow fade is most certainly wrong, what is right?

Although I know I shouldn’t ignore his follow-up text about dinner next week or watch his call go to voicemail while I’m sitting on the couch, I'm at a loss for another way to convey my lack of interest to go out again.

So, in the spirit of bringing some sort of decency to today's dating scene, I offer six practical alternatives to the slow fade.

Admittedly, they can all be employed using texting and technology, because, let's face it: having an in-person conversation to deny a second date is unrealistic. (Face-to-face breakups should be reserved for relationships that are two-month or longer.)

1. Be straightforward.

Tell him that you enjoyed meeting him but that you’re just not the right fit for each other.

PRO: Honesty is always the best policy...right?

CON: He can’t do much else but take it personally.

2. Blame it on vague personal issues.

PRO: He’ll be too freaked out to question it.

CON: He may think you have a serious problem, like a meth addiction or a criminal record. And, if he’s feeling especially vengeful, potential rumors could spread among mutual friends.

3. Say you just started seeing someone.

Explain that you've been dating someone casually, but things recently became more serious.

PRO: There's really nothing he can say unless he wants to sound like a jerk.

CON: If you’re in the same social circle, he may hear through the grapevine that you’re still flying solo and be even more pissed that you lied.

4. Become dramatic, weird and crazy.

Talk about how you are seriously PMS-ing and invite him to come over to watch TV, but warn him you’ll be lying on a heating pad and chugging Pepto-Bismol.

PRO: He’ll probably never text you again!

CON: Again, this could get around.

5. Use work as an excuse.

PRO: There’s no judgment and no alternative solution, unless he’s your boss.

CON: He may try again for next week or brunch on Sunday two weeks from now, and there has to be a limit to how many hours you could ever seriously be stuck at work.

6. Tell him you’re not looking for anything serious.

PRO: I guess he could believe you and leave it at that.

CONS: I mean, anyone with half a brain knows you're simply saying, "I’m not into you." You went on a date for Christ’s sake — you’re clearly not opposed to an eventual relationship. Or, he’ll say that he’s not looking for a relationship either, so why not keep hooking up for the hell of it? Try getting out that one.

So, single ladies (and gentleman), I ask you: Would any of these options effectively replace the slow fade as the cop-out dating strategy du jour?

Which would you prefer to tell someone, or to be told? Or, should we all just continue to let text conversations dwindle from awkward banter into eventual, total oblivion, in the silent yet shameful knowledge that since we all do it, it’s okay.

Top Photo Courtesy: We Heart It