Just Say No

Well I seen the world with a five-piece band lookin' at the back side of me.

-Robert Earl Keen covering Waylon Jennings' "Are you sure Hank done it this way?"

It probably doesn't come as any surprise to anybody that "No" is a difficult part of my vocabulary, but never for the reasons anyone might initially suspect.

In the "when it rains it pours" category, I've found myself in the unfortunate position of declining several evenings out with gentlemen callers in the last few weeks (this unexpected newfound popularity perhaps owing to their hope of cashing in on that prophylactic three-pak of the last column, if I had to guess).

It pains me greatly to turn someone down for a date-no matter how unsuitable-and by "unsuitable" I am clearly referring to any kind, sweet, intelligent, gainfully employed man who plans to treat me nicely.

Loser. (And by Loser...I am clearly referring to me.)

I'll do anything to avoid a bad date, including walking out in the middle of them (I think we all recall the time I leaned over during a movie and whispered to my companion "excuse me, I think I'm coming down with viral meningitis" and abruptly left.)

So while I think it's kinder to say No than it is to go and have a bad time, I am excruciatingly inept at forming the words.

Mostly, I'm just vague, and then I do the non-callback call-back. (You know: call their office voicemail when you know they're at home, and vice versa. It's tougher when they only give you cell numbers, but relatively easy to fake a bad connection and just hang up.)

I've had guys tell me that this is callous, that it's nicer to just say NO outright, but I don't believe them (please, you should hear their histrionics when some girl actually TELLS them that. They are crushed. When they just don't hear anything, at least they're spared a certain befuddled dignity. Maybe she lost their number? Maybe she got back together with an old boyfriend. Maybe she died. But in their world, all are preferable to "No.")

They'll also protest that they want some reason, when in reality, most people don't enjoy hearing negative things about themselves. Who would actually benefit from hearing, "No... Why? Umm. Because you have hair in your ears."

I'm not saying that's happened to me (because in fact, I do not have hair in my ears), but it could.

I don't have any special reasonable explanations for why I've turned down the guys I have in the last few weeks (except for the one I already told you about...who wore jewelry), any more than I have especially reasonable explanations for the ones I've said Yes to (that's a lie: they all have air conditioning; and my reasoning is this: while it might be slutty to go OUT with someone solely on the strength of air conditioning, it's perfectly acceptable to stay over for it).

Maybe I'm overestimating the trauma, but I suspect asking somebody out has to be one of the most terrifying prospects imaginable (bearing in mind I make it a point to avoid encounters with truly terrifying things like say, skydiving or even rock climbing, or even a really long flight of stairs)-regardless of what the answer turns out to be-but if the answer is No, then somebody's been put through all that terror for nothing.

The way I usually get out of such prospective scenarios is simply by staying home.

I'm the most boring person alive, and unless there's a work-related obligation that propels me out my front door, you will usually find me there in my spare time and I will usually be doing something dull like gardening, or cooking (or maybe watching porn on Skinemax if it's late).

One of my friends says whenever he stops by my house, he is invariably enthusiastically quizzed later by his buddies as to what he's walked in on-and the expected answer is clearly that I have greeted him at the door with a martini in one hand, while half dressed men half my age scamper about doing light housekeeping (which is totally untrue, because labor laws mandate that they're at least 21).

In reality, when I saw him Sunday, the bulk of our conversation centered around the fact that 1. I had finally found window cleaner in a pop-up canister (we'd both been looking for that product to emerge in the market for some time, because we're too lazy to use paper towels AND Windex); and 2. that I'd had to switch grocery stores again. Because the campus store never stocks the cooking supplies I need, like, for example, goat cheese by the pound. Probably because, as he pointed out, "no one's ever sitting around a fraternity house sayin' 'Dude, I am soooo stoned. Could you go get me a pound of goat cheese?"

So, left to my own devices, I'd probably never end up in situations where I'm forced to decline dates, because it's not like contenders have a habit of parading through my living room.

But lately, the lack of A/C has forced me out more, and frankly, I blame most of this phenomenon on my hot girlfriends.

No, not because we spend all our time stripping down to bra and panties in the backyard and running through the water hose (which is what you were hoping), but simply because they are wildly sociable women who periodically forcibly drag me out of the house.

Once we arrive at our destination, the line of guys who want to meet them stretches down the block, and since not all of these guys are blessed with the stamina it takes to wait for what they want, sometimes they end up stuck talking to me (not realizing that if they settle for the one with the sense of humor, they don't get to go back later and date the hot chicks-a few found THAT out the hard way).

That's what the wingmen call "game."And I don't have any. There's only one exception, and it's musicians.

Maybe it's because they sense that the hot girls are never going to willingly support them, whereas I apparently have some sort of tattoo which reads, "broke? unemployed? alcoholic? plagued by substance abuse issues and erectile dysfunction? Come sit by me!"