We've all been there: you reach the bottom of your grande iced decaf soy mocha and you know, in your heart of hearts, that you'd rather see Oprah and Jerry Springer thumb-wrestling naked than go on a second date with this person. How do you end things before they've even really officially begun?
If you can pull it off, a simple "It was nice seeing/meeting you" is all you need to say. If you can exit a first date with those final words, you're not obligated to do any follow-up work. You'll need to resist your natural instinct to make promises you can't or won't keep. If you can't bear to be so blunt, add an "I'll email you" to wrap things up nicely. Of course, that means you are required to follow through. Take solace in the fact that it is infinitely easier to let someone down gently over email. If, in a moment of weakness, you accidentally blurt out "I'll call you," then you've got to call. Think of it as good dating karma.
When you make that call or send that email - whether after one or even several dates - you don't necessarily have to tell the whole truth (because sometimes the truth hurts, and sometimes they can't handle the truth). It's not just Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire who depends on the kindness of strangers. So here's your chance to be kind.
Be specific about the qualities you admire in this person (their exquisite taste in domestic beer, for example), and be very general about those that make a relationship impossible (avoid mentioning that you could never be seen in public with someone who wears Docksiders). Blame it on the pheromones, an unfortunate "lack of chemistry." It's the truth, but it's also generic enough not to sting too strongly - being dumped is never quite as painful or regrettable when you can chalk it up to evolutionary psychology.
Try this: "Great hanging out with you, but I just didn't feel like we clicked. Good luck with [whatever project of theirs you discussed]. All the best..." You don't have to explain yourself any further than this, and you don't have to stay in touch. If they're the sensitive type, they'll appreciate the closure and the gesture (even if they can see right through your cheap lies). In addition, this will save you from the trauma of trying to hide from them for the rest of your life.
If they pre-empt your closer with a request for a second date, put off any concrete planning with a simple "Let's talk tomorrow." Unless, of course, you happen to be the proud owner of balls or labes of steel, in which case you may delicately lay the no-chemistry line on them right then and there. And then run.
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