Male Call: “Cooling Out” The Date


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 By James Roberts

What’s the best way of turning down a suitor, male or female – whether that suitor is an Internet dating correspondent, someone who asks you to dance or someone you just met at an event who wants your phone number?

Of course there’s Seinfeld’s Elaine character in Season 9 who gives a fake number (an off-track betting parlor) to guys she doesn’t have the courage to flatly reject.

Some Internet users simply don’t respond. Others, feeling it’s more polite, say “Don’t be offended if I don’t respond.” Still others simply write “Good luck” or the equally dismissive “Have a good day.”

Back in the days of Mr. Uhl’s School of the Dance (eighth grade), the ladies were firmly instructed that they should never turn down a gentleman’s invitation, but if they did, they should could not accept an immediate invite from another swain. Still a good rule for dance clubs.

Ironically, we may turn to the world of con men for some insight, as offered by my old Annenberg School prof, sociologist Erving Goffman.

He said that sometimes a “mark” is not quite prepared to accept his loss (say, a sidewalk con or sting) and may be inclined to complain to the police. Of course this gives the mob a bad reputation…and it’s bad for business! To avoid adverse publicity, an additional phase is sometimes added at the end of the “play.” It’s called cooling the mark out – exercising the art of consolation. After the “blowoff,” one of the operators stays behind and makes an effort to keep the victim’s anger within manageable proportions.

Goffman writes, “The problem of cooling persons out in informal social intercourse is seen most clearly, perhaps, in courting situations and in what might be called de-courting situations,” which, he says, “requires extreme finesse.”

“De-courting.” Good one, Erv.

We came across just such a situation in real life recently when a certain gent called to say he couldn’t come to our dinner party because he was having a “break-up date.”

The Male Call Advisory Board™ is still scratching our collective heads on that one.

However, we are liking the idea of using an intermediary to “cool out” a pesky beau or beauzo in situations where you have to untie someone who could come back to haunt you.

Happily, there is better research on how to avoid being cooled, that is, what you need to do to keep the romantic parlez going.

It turns out that there are four key things you should do, whether it’s a post-date text or an email.

  1. Ask a question (but not too many): Nothing stops a dialogue like a matter-of-fact answer to something. Keep the conversation going with a pertinent, interesting question about a mutual interest.
  2. Show that you were paying attention by mentioning some aspect of the prior conversation.
  3. Be specific as to a proposed date – not just “Wanna hang out next week?” or “How about going dancing some time?”
  4. Be funny. (Note: this does not mean adding LOL to your texts).

If you can’t be funny, at least don’t pick their pocket.

Need a guy’s perspective? Jot a note to Male Call at or check out the Male Call archives at


  1. Follow up to the column: These items (well, three of them) were discussed on the June 26, 2015 edition of This American Life in the episode called “Romancing the Stone” which reported on how comedian Aziz Ansari toured the country collecting people’s text messages from when they first say ‘hi,’ and then ask each other out. Sociologist Eric Klinenberg studied the raw data of the initial approach a man makes to a woman over text. The show presents an actual focus group the two of them did at a comedy club in New York. The results were very very clear.

    I didn’t include this show note in the original column to keep the word count manageable (as well as not getting too wonky with footnotes).


  1. […] “Cooling Out” the Date (Aug 1, 2015) […]

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