Attention is always flattering, but it’s not always reciprocated — blame it on nose hair, pleated pants, wrong gender, that mysterious “chemistry,” etc. While it’s not fair to lead someone on by giving them a fake number (so mean!) or one of those commercial rejection lines (even meaner!), there is such a thing as killing them softly. We may not be able to solve world peace, but we can make the world a kinder place if we’re a little nicer to each other on the pick-up scene.
Try, “I’m really flattered, but I’m seeing someone right now.” Don’t lie, of course — but a small exaggeration is perfectly acceptable. Perhaps you’re taking a somewhat permanent break from dating men who look like old lesbians or women who have the charisma of a shoe horn, in which case a simple “I’m taking a break from dating” will suffice. It’s not completely untrue: You are taking a mini-break from dating until this excruciating pick-up attempt is over. Of course, a simple, polite, “I’m flattered but not interested, thanks” is admirably honest, but would it kill you to cushion a bruised ego or two?
A note to straight guys: You are less frequently hit on, and thus you have less practice at rejecting an unwelcome pick-up. Which means you’re frequently awkward and weird about it. But women especially need to be encouraged in their attempts at seduction — if only because you guys are constantly complaining that they don’t make the first move often enough! Don’t go along with a hook-up just to avoid hurting her feelings, but don’t treat her like a desperate Donna either. She’s not desperate for hitting on you (who made off with your self-esteem, anyway?), she just knows what she wants and goes after it when she wants it. And ladies, don’t take it personally if he blows you off rudely; he’s just had less practice than you.
A note to the straight gals: You are less frequently the picker-upper, and thus you’re less familiar with the sting of rejection. (Which is why all of you should attempt at least one pick-up to experience it first-hand, in the same way we should all wait tables at least once in order to empathize with servers the world over.) Approaching a stranger in a bar takes more bravery than root canal surgery or listening to a Celine Dion album in its entirety. So be gentle, ladies. And guys, don’t take it personally if she blows you off rudely; she’s just heard a lot of dirty catcalls and cheesy pickup lines in her time and is used to putting up walls.