Hana Shafi No Thanks, Plain and Simple*

“Just say you have a boyfriend.”

I hear that all the time. I’ll recall a story about a guy who started flirting with me, proceeded to ask for my number, and how I fumbled with my words and timidly croaked out “oh sorry, no thanks, sorry.” And there will always be at least one person advising me that I should’ve just lied and told the guy that I have a boyfriend.

But why?

Why should “no thanks,” be any less valid? Sure, saying a blunt “no” can feel a little awkward, but that’s the honest reason. No, I do not have a boyfriend. No, I do not have a girlfriend. I am single, I am unattached, but I do not want to do things with you, for whatever reason which you are not in any way entitled to know. And yet somehow, “no thanks” isn’t always well received. There will always be guys who will hear that no and walk away, but there are some who will persist. They’ll try and take their hand at persuasion and negotiation. They’ll ask if you’re single. And once you reiterate that you are, they can’t for the life of them grasp on to the simple concept that you are completely single, but you still do not want to exchange numbers or have them even slightly within the confines of your personal bubble. 

I’ve always viewed it as coming down to this very deep seeded patriarchal notion that my “no” is only valid if it is followed by me essentially saying that another male has already “claimed” me as his. Most wouldn’t dare to usurp the “territory” of their fellow male, so they walk away. This is why I refuse to to lie and say that I have a boyfriend. I refuse to allow my “no” as a single woman to be invalidated. It’s a “no” because I said so, simple as that.  

To add to that, when the answer is no because you have a girlfriend (whether you are lying or telling the truth), you will STILL get hassled. Because now this creep is confessing to you that lesbians tooootally turn him on and has managed to fetishize lesbian relationships and demean you while blatantly ignoring your “no” with just a few words. Yeah, keep on talking buddy, ignorance is a such a turn on!!

And of course, you’ll find some guys who will insist that you’re lying or arrogantly attempt to convince you that they are ten times better than your boyfriend. Stop. That isn’t even vaguely charming or cute. This is not some kind of romantic comedy where your persistence is going to come off as endearing or “meant to be.” What it really comes off as is annoying, desperate, or potentially threatening. 

I understand why any woman would revert to the “I have a boyfriend excuse.” Sometimes you just want that potential weirdo to go away without any confrontation whatsoever. But until I can truthfully tell a man, “no, I have a boyfriend,” I’m sticking with my awkward “sorry, no thank you.” And that should be good enough. 

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