Getty/Raydene Salinas Hansen
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t the sheer act of swiping through apps and forcing myself to put on pants for a date that might be terrible bad enough? Do I really have to worry about something called “negging”?
But knowing how to nip bad relationships in the bud saves you sooooo much time. Take my experience with negging, for example. Once, I went on a date with an aspiring comedian (I know, I know, the biggest red flag was already there). He said things to me like, “You drink your drink without picking it up, that’s so weird haha” and “What was that shimmy you just did? Please do it again, it’s so awkward.”
He justified each mild diss by saying he’s an improv guy who “just likes to observe people,” so I somehow made it through two whole dates with this dude. (That’s like five hours of time I will never get back, people!) But in truth, what he was actually doing was negging me.
Negging is when a person who is objectively less of a catch than you finds ways to manipulate you into feeling bad about yourself so that you’ll want to impress them (i.e. sleep with them).
Obviously, they have to do it subtly, because if they were to flat-out insult you, you’d just leave. Instead, they deploy more clever put-downs, making it tougher to realize that they’re actively being mean to you. For extra clarity, here are three signs someone is negging you, aka they’vescanned a pickup artist book before your date:
1. Their “compliments” make you feel more embarrassed than good.
Sure, they’ll say you’re hot… for a short person. Or you’re actually pretty without makeup on. Or you’re smart, and they didn’t expect you to be so witty.
See the pattern? They can never just say you’re gorgeous or brilliant–just that you barely make the cut for them. And it makes you feel conflicted because technically, it’s still disguised as a compliment, however backhanded it may be.
2. You feel like they’re nonstop staring at you, and not in a cute way.
It’s not exactly the romantic eye-gazing you were hoping for. Instead, they seem to be studying every movement and word you say so they can comment on what they think of it. Naturally, this makes you feel insecure and uncomfortable around them.
3. Their critiques of you are ones you’ve never heard before.
You’re not against constructive criticism–but really? You hold forks wrong? The way you pronounce “water” is the strangest thing in the world? Who–especially someone who’s supposedly into you–cares?!
4. You objectively know you’re out of their league, but still weirdly care what they think of you.
The guy who negged me wore knock-off boat shoes with a hole in one of them (note: he was not poor, he just didn’t care). Despite the fact that I looked cute as hell in a strapless red dress that I actually took time to pick out, had a job I loved, and generally didn’t have to be a dick to make people want to f*ck me, I still cared that he thought I was an idiot. And oh yeah, it’s because he made me feel clueless and ridiculous just for being myself.
5. When you look upset, they insist they’re just teasing you.
No toxic behavior could continue to exist without a good dose of gaslighting! When you call out said negging (or even just refuse to laugh), they’ll hit you with the “Aw, I’m joking!” or “I’m just being honest, but I guess you’re not into that.”
The best way to tell between an actively neggy douche and someone who maybe just overstepped is how they react. A normal person will apologize without any add-ons to make you feel worse. Someone who is negging you will do the complete opposite. The people worth spending time with know that any date where a person feels anything but their best is not worth following up on.