“No” can be nice: How to let a guy down gently

As I walked through the art supply room, I heard a familiar voice.

“There she is!”

I turned around to face three of my best friends. “Kell, we need to go to your locker.”

“Why?” I asked.

“We just do,” one of them said. “It’s really important.”

Moments later, we were standing by my locker. I spun the numbers in the combination, lifted the latch, and opened it.

A folded piece of notebook paper stuck out from beneath my calendar. Surprised, excited, and shocked, I opened opened it and read the neatly printed letters: 

Dear Kelly,

Roses are red,

Twizzlers are too.

Though I don’t have any.

But I’d love to go to Prom with you.

*John Bryant

(Translated from cursive.)

The fateful note, tucked in my diary for all these years.

I tucked the note in my diary, and I found it after all these years.

I wasn’t sure what “Translated from cursive meant.” Maybe he had written it that way, and it had been too messy. But the rest, I understood perfectly. All at once, I felt exhilarated and disappointed. 

There was a note in my locker! From a boy! Asking me to the Prom! But of all the boys in the school, did it really have to be HIM?

He wasn’t a bad guy – far from it. He was pretty nice, really. I didn’t know him too well, but we had drama class together, and we had a lot of scenes together in the school play. But there was just something about him that I wasn’t completely comfortable with. There was nothing wrong with him – but it just didn’t feel right. 

My family had plans that weekend, so I had an easy out. But even if we hadn’t made plans already, I still wouldn’t have wanted to go with him.

I had to say no. But how was I going to say it without being hurtful? After all, it must have taken a lot of courage to write the note. And on top of that, he had to work up the courage to ask one of my friends where my locker was, so he would slip the note into the right one!

I needed to let him down gently. I got my chance later that day, before drama class.

“John – can I talk to you for a sec? I saw this,” I held up the note. “And I’m very flattered. Thank you very much.” I kept talking, nervous. “But I can’t go. My family is going out of town that weekend. We’re going away for Easter. Sorry . . . and thanks.”

I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember that he looked sad. Really sad.

Of course, I told my mom all about it after school. She helped me find a way to soften the blow. We bought two packs of Twizzlers – one twists, one Pull ‘n’ Peels – and typed a note:


Twizzlers are red,

My eyes are blue.

Thanks for asking me.

It was really sweet of you.

Kellie (with an “ie”)

I gave it to him the next day, and that was that. I’d said “no” without hurting his feelings or damaging his courage.

But it wasn’t over yet.

A month later, I was hanging a magnet in my locker when another piece of paper caught my eye. I opened it.

This time, he was asking me on a date.

How sweet is that?! I thought. There’s nothing like a tender little note to make a girl feel flattered!

But, on the other hand, something in me just couldn’t bring myself to say “yes.”

He’s a fine friend and all, but I just don’t want to date him! I don’t like him that way. What am I supposed to do?

I let him down gently and honestly, but firmly, as a friend.

*  *  *

No matter who’s doing the asking, there’s always something special about being asked on a date.

But sometimes, even though the guy is super nice, you’re just not interested. Sometimes, there’s a clear reason for the disinterest: a big difference of opinion, or the way he eats, or simply not feeling attracted to him.

Other times, it’s harder to figure out. It’s nothing tangible or explainable. It’s just there, and there’s no getting around it. He’s a really nice guy, but, well, he’s just not for you.

At first, you try to drop hints that you’re not interested. Every time he asks, you’ve got something to do.

“I’m meeting with my friends.”

“I have dance practice.”

“I have a lot of homework.”

“I just can’t.”

But soon, you run out of excuses. And besides that, it’s exhausting trying to avoid him! It also takes a lot of emotional energy – energy you’d rather spend on something else.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Listen close, and take this to heart: There’s nothing wrong with saying, “No.”

In fact, there can be a lot that’s right about it.

You are never under any obligation to say, “Yes.”

You are never under any obligation to sit with him at lunch or in class, to talk after school, or to give out your phone number. It’s your life, your time, your number, no matter how persistent and nice he is about it.

You don’t have to give excuses, or find excuses, or avoid him.

You might be thinking, but what if I hurt him?

Rejection hurts, and there’s no escaping it. But rejection doesn’t have to be mean or dramatic. You can say a calm “no” to those good, well-meaning guys while still being your sweet, kind self.

It’s better to give a guy an honest “no” than to lead him on with excuses in the false hope of a “yes.” 

And though it might feel awkward in the moment, it will be a lot less awkward in the long run.

Here are some things you might consider saying:

  • “Thank you so much for asking. It really means a lot, but I’m going to have to say no thank-you.”
  • “You are such a great/nice/thoughtful guy, but I would rather just be friends. Thanks for asking, though!”
  • “Thank you so much, but I’m not interested in dating anybody right now.” (Only use this if you truly don’t want to date for a while. It would be unfair if you said this to him, but then said yes to your crush the very next week!)
  • “I’m really flattered, but I need to be honest and say no thanks. But someone else will be lucky to have you!”

Whatever you say, make sure it’s true, but thoughtful. Be honest, but kind.

You’ll show him respect by being honest. And you’ll show respect to yourself for doing what’s right for you.

(*The name of the high school note-writer has been changed for privacy.)


Let’s talk about the “bad boy”

My phone lit up with a text from my sister.

She’d been talking to a sweet guy she’s friends with, and he’d wondered: “Do you think all girls want a bad boy? Or just a hint of bad?”

“I have a really long opinion on this one,” she told me. “But what is your opinion? Thought it would be fun to ask. :-)”

It turns out, we both have rather long opinions that go beyond a “yes” or “no,” and they’re basically the same – we’re sisters, after all! But before I get into that, I want to clarify something: What, exactly, do we mean by “bad boy”?

First, I want to be clear that in this particular post, I’m not talking about the people out there who might actually want to hurt you physically or emotionally. If you are ever in a situation where someone is manipulating you or seriously hurting you, or where you feel threatened, get out, and get help. I’m also not talking about those who are out breaking laws – that’s a situation you really don’t want to get into.

Here, I’m talking about something milder, yet somehow much more enticing. When you hear the words “bad boy,” you get a certain picture in your mind, right? The idea of “bad boy” might vary from girl to girl, but in general, I think he’s something like this: He’s not the kind of guy who’s going to go break in and rob anyone, but he probably likes to break curfew. There’s something charming about him, but he’s not the kind of guy you want to invite home for dinner with your parents. He’s super attractive, but if your big sister dated someone like him, you might worry about her. He’s a lot of fun, but you probably wouldn’t trust him to babysit your little brother. Everyone at school knows who he is – but his reputation’s not exactly the best.

He’s independent, rebellious … and there’s just something irresistible about him! You wonder how he could ever possibly like you, so you try to be “cool” enough for him. But … well, it seems like for all his good qualities, there’s a “but” to go with it.

Can you picture him? Good – now let’s get back to the question. Do all girls want a bad boy?

The easy answer would be something like this: “Of course not ALL girls do – it depends on the girl!” That’s true, I supposed, but I’d like to take the answer deeper than that.

Here’s what I told my sister, with some edits and expansions, of course.

I think some girls like the idea of dating a bad boy, because there is something that sounds adventurous, wild, rebellious, and even romantic. Think of Sandy and Danny in Grease! (I do love that movie, by the way – but remember, it’s a movie, not real life.)

The bad boy might be fun to think about, but not to actually date.  Or, he might be fun to go out with once or twice, but he’s not who you’d want for a steady boyfriend. Or maybe he is boyfriend material – but just for a little while, because you can’t really imagine a long-term relationship with him.

But when it comes down to it, most girls don’t think of marrying the bad boy.

DSC_1460 copy_2Picture yourself, years from now, on your wedding day. You’ve never felt so beautiful. You’re in a white dress that fits you perfectly, and your shoes feel as magical as Cinderella’s glass slippers. You walk down the aisle and see the man you’re about to spend the rest of your life with. The man who’s going to be the father of your children. As you walk, your mind fills with all the reasons you love him.

In your imagination, your dream of your someday-self, what are the qualities you hope that man has?

They’re probably not the qualities of the bad boy.

The bad boy might sound fun, or even be fun for a little while. But he’s not really the kind of person you want to be with long-term. So if that’s the case, then what’s the point of even getting started? Why start something when you know you’ll have to end it? Why begin, if you know it’s not good for you, and that it’ll only get harder and hurt deeper to tear yourself away?

The bad boy might seem like a good idea at the time, but he’s just that – an idea. It’s the idea of him, not the reality of his character, that seems so enticing.

Think about Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You were Trouble.” It’s about knowing someone is trouble, yet falling for them anyway. The beginning says it all: “Once upon a time, a few mistakes ago.” That’s right – a few mistakes ago. It seemed like a good idea, but looking back, it was all wrong.

For those who are into action and comic book movies, let’s look at another example. In X2, the second X-Men movie, Logan (more popularly known as Wolverine)  is in love with Dr. Jean Grey. She cares for him, too, but ultimately, she chooses someone else – someone she can trust to be there for her when she needs him.

“Girls flirt with the dangerous guy, they don’t bring him home,” she tells Wolverine. “They marry the good guy.”

“I can be the good guy,” Wolverine says.

“Logan,” she says, “The good guy sticks around.”

You can see the chemistry between them, but she knows that she’s better off with the other guy. (Her character goes through some crazy changes later, but still, that scene says a lot. I should also add that Wolverine is one of my favorite characters – but again, it’s a movie, not reality!)

CV1_2284_bwLet’s picture your someday-wedding again. You’re walking down the aisle, and you see the most wonderful man you’ve ever known. You were so excited the first time he met your parents, and now, your family is with you, watching you join your lives together as one. You feel so safe with him. You trust him. You know he’ll encourage you when you’re sad, and he’ll inspire you to pursue your dreams. You respect him for his honesty and integrity, and you love that you can totally be yourself with him.

You help each other to grow in faith, in hope, and in love – love that is patient and kind, and doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 for more).

When you think about the Fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) – you see them growing in him, and he encourages you in your walk with God, so those same qualities may continue to grow in you.

When you think about thatand the beauty of it all, even the idea of the bad boy starts to sound way less glamourous!

To all the sweet good guys out there, don’t worry. Don’t ever think you have to be a “bad boy” to get the attention of the girls. Be the good guy you really are, deep down inside. And for all you girls out there, the bad boy might be fun to think about. But at the end of the day, it’s the good guys who are really going to be the best. Tired of waiting for them? I promise you, the good guys are out there. But that’s a subject for another day!

. . .

P.S. Thanks to my sister for texting me that day – it was that conversation that led to “A Good Girl’s Guide to Life” being created!