Drawing From the Wrong Pool

(NOW: You can read Dategirl every day on the Daily Weekly!) Dear Dategirl: I started online dating recently, the first time I've "been out there" in nearly 10 years. (My divorce was finalized in May.) I've met several nice, good-looking men, but nobody I've felt any great connection with—no sexual excitement whatsoever. When they call for second and third dates, I inevitably go, but only because I've never been very good at saying no. I feel bad because most of them pay for dinner and won't let me contribute. I'm not a gold digger and am used to paying my own way—even in my marriage. So this makes me uneasy. Is there something short and sweet I could say to let them down without being rude? I also wonder: Since I lost so many friends in the divorce, would it be weird if I tried to maintain friendships with some of these men?—Girl Who Can't Say No

If your split cost you a lot of friends, it must've been fairly dramatic, not to mention traumatic. You've only been single for a few months, and while your first impulse is probably to jump right onto another love boat, your time might be better spent getting your shit together emotionally and figuring out what you want for the future. You need to make some real friends, not just attempt to transform guys you've dated into pals. For one thing, most men will just roll their eyes when you offer them camaraderie instead of vagina. Any guy you're rejecting is presumably hot for you, and while it might be gratifying to have a coterie of male friends who desperately want to bang you, it's a fairly unhealthy friend dynamic. An entourage of droolers is going to put off any men you might actually be interested in fucking. Which is not to say you can't have male friends; of course you can. But generally speaking, men you've dated and rejected aren't the pool you should be drawing from. You should try making some new lady friends too. I'm sorry that so many of your friends ditched you, but onward—you need to replace them. Tell the friends you have that you're looking to expand your collection. Become the go-to person for people just moving into town. Mentor someone in your field. Go out more and don't focus on meeting men. Focus on having fun. And while you're figuring out how to negotiate life as a single person, you also need to learn how to say no. It sounds as though dating has been fairly easy for you so far, but it can also be grueling, as you'll soon discover. Start off slow. Say "No, thanks" when your mom asks you to go out with her friend's nerdy nephew. Send back that piece of overcooked salmon. That way, the next time someone you're not interested in asks you out, "No, thanks" will practically trip off your tongue. Follow that with the assurance that while it was lovely to meet them, you're not interested in pursuing it. If they ask why, you could say you feel more of a friend vibe, and leave it at that. If they push (and some will), tell them you're not attracted to them "that" way—a hard thing to say, but flip the script before you feel bad about it. Would you ever press someone about why they're not interested in you? Probably not. But you'll be surprised how many men will.

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