I should have listened when my mom told me not to talk to strangers. The consequences as a 7-year old are more potentially dangerous, but I haven’t really had great results as a dating adult, either.

It’s commonly accepted dating practice that we talk to strangers — in the gym, at the bar, on the Internet — because how else are we going to meet people? But thinking back on all the times I did, I don’t know that it ever turned out well. All of my past boyfriends I met through mutual friends, so they were pre-vetted. Talking to guys in bars often ends in getting negged or breathed on too closely (“What is your last name? I’m going to stalk you on Facebook.”). The waiter I was so proud to give my phone number to is just the most recent disaster.

First, he didn’t show up to our date because he overslept. I gave him a second chance because he seemed so sorry about it and we met for a drink, but within 10 minutes, our conversation moved from one dealbreaking fact to another. If I had been introduced to him through a mutual acquaintance, I might have known beforehand that he lives an hour outside of town, has an 8-year old daughter and oh you know, used to sell drugs (“It was a phase”). But instead, there I was, committed to at least another hour of his company knowing that I was not interested.

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He also had this habit of putting me on the spot. When he said, “I really had fun meeting you. Did you have fun?” I had no choice but to say yes. It’s not like I had a really bad time, he was very sweet, but by making me vocalize it like that, it sounded like I was more into him than I actually was.

This was a bad sign. Three days in a row I got multiple texts ranging from “Happy Sunday Funday” to “How is your day, pretty lady?” They were nice, but I felt suffocated. Then, he asked me to be his Valentine’s date. So I took the opportunity to explain to him as nicely as I could that things were too intense for me and that I wasn’t interested. He told me he appreciated my honesty and I thought it was over.

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Then I got a text on Valentine’s Day that said, “Happy Singles Awareness Day” and then two days later an invite to happy hour. I said, “I can’t but have fun.” Then I got, “Okay, can I lay my cards out on the table?” The voice inside my head screamed, “JESUS NO PLEASE NO.” I was pondering a response when a string of 6 more texts that I didn’t answer right away because I was driving arrived. The last message read, “No response. I guess you want nothing to do with me so I’ll just leave you alone.” Well, yeah. That is about right. But it really didn’t have to end this way.

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The experience hasn’t completely scared me off talking to strangers, but it has me giving it some major reconsideration. There are a million things that can go wrong when you go on a first date with a complete stranger, but I also believe in being open-minded. Where is the middle ground?