Sometimes dating isn’t all roses, candy and promises you have no intentions of keeping. Sometimes dating is a series of auditions, giving men and women a test run to see whether they’re right for the role. This, unfortunately means that you’re inevitably going to be spending time with people who just aren’t right for you.
For every night of magical conversation and undeniable chemistry, you’re going to run into people who just bore you to tears. Others will be so mind-bogglingly offensive that you won’t be able to understand why they’re allowed out of the house without a police escort. Still others will be filled to the brim with barely restrained gender-based resentment or have insanely unrealistic ideas about what relationships are like.
It’s enough to put somebody off dating entirely.
However, just because a date isn’t going as wonderfully as one might hope doesn’t mean that it has to be an unmitigated disaster. In fact, some of my favorite dating experiences were because of bad dates.
Sound confusing? Well, sometimes it’s all about how you decide to look at things. With a little creativity, and the right mindset you can salvage – or escape – any date with minimal emotional scarring. This handy guide to bad dates will help you coast through even some of the worst dates.
Find Something Interesting To Talk About. Anything.
The worst dates aren’t the ones that are actively bad – your date makes racist jokes about the waitstaff, they try to explain how the feminist movement is a conspiracy organized by the Bavarian Illuminati to repress men, you’ve been set up as a blind date with a hyper-developed man-child, she lets you know she’s “a Bella looking for her Edward” – it’s the ones that are just boring.
Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you will end up on a date with a person with whom you are simply not compatible. There’s nothing wrong with them, per se, they’re just so outside your experience or zone of interests that you’re left wondering how you ended up there in the first place. This is actually a very common occurrence with online dating: just because you seem like a match on paper doesn’t mean that it will work out in the real world. They may be nice enough but you just have no connection at all. You’re not offended, you’re not repelled, you’re just bored out of your flipping skull. Dinner is dragging on so long that you feel as though you’ve slipped the bounds of linear time and are stuck in a limbo of inane conversation and nondescript appetizers.
You need to find something to distract yourself. Which is why I recommend the Question Game. This is a tactic I’ve recommended before as a quick and easy way to keep conversations from stalling out. It’s also a way of dragging conversations out of the doldrums and into new and interesting areas.
The rules are simple: Rule 1: You take turns going back and forth asking serious questions – no bullshit questions like “what’s your sign”, but actual, probing questions. Rule 2: No asking the same question back. Rule 3: The other person goes first. Ply yourselves with cocktails if need be and just start moving the conversation towards something interesting. “What was the greatest day of your life?” ;”What was your craziest break-up story?”; “If you could commit the perfect robbery, what would you do?”; “Where did you lose your virginity?” All of these can lead the night into interesting and occasionally surprising territory. You may not want to go out with them ever again, but at least the night won’t end up a monument to being unable to violate the social contract.
Plus, you may find out that your date has a hidden depths after all… ones that might actually save your date from another night of tedium.
You’re Just In It For The Stories
While there will be plenty of dates that start out horribly and end well, there will be some that no force on this Earth could save.
Sometimes you just have to embrace the fact that your date is horrible. Alcohol-won’t-wash-away-the-memories horrible. And sometimes… those can be the best kind of dates.
The date was horrible, but I was enjoying myself more than I had thought possible.
Skip To The End
There will be times when you have an incredible attraction to somebody… only to find out mid-date that the only thing they have going for them is a smoking body. Maybe the light in their eyes is shining through the hole in the back of their head. Maybe they’re the sort of person who latches onto a single thought before it dies of loneliness. They’re a dyed in the wool follower of Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin and you’re liberal to the point of making Ghandi look like Hitler Youth. Maybe you have nothing in common except the fact that you’re both carbon-based life forms… and you’re not entirely sure about that.
Regardless of the reason, you know that this date isn’t going to go anywhere good – and you’re pretty sure they know it too.
So why stick it out? If things are so bad that you’re actively counting down the seconds until the social contract says you can leave, all you’re doing is rewarding bad behavior and wasting your own time. Unless they’re paying for an exceptionally delicious dinner – one so amazing that it’s worth the annoyance – sometimes the best thing you can do is just cut things short.
If their behavior is offensive or rude to the point of driving you away, then call them on it and make your way to the door. Sometimes you can just leave without making excuses – “I’ve had a nice time, but this just isn’t clicking for me and I don’t want to waste your time.”
This, by the way, is one reason why low-key outings – drinks, tapas, museums, gallery shows, etc – can make for excellent first dates. When you aren’t constrained by, say, having to wait for the check, you can make your excuses – an early meeting tomorrow, an appointment later in that day – and go.
Just whatever you do, don’t promise to call when you won’t. It’s rude, and it’s bad dating karma.
But hey, let’s say that, for whatever reason you just can’t bring yourself to leave with no warning? What to do then?
The Cell Phone Escape Clause
The cell phone has been a boon for modern dating. It’s opened up new forms of instant communication that allow people to connect, flirt and build a connection without the anxiety that sometimes comes with calling somebody you’ve only just met. It also opened up new ways of getting out of dates that are spiraling miserably into a singularity of boredom and banality so dense that the most intense sexual attraction can’t possibly escape.
For example: the cell phone escape clause: you get a phone call from a co-conspirator at a designated time. If the date’s going well, you don’t answer or give the pre-arranged code that everything’s fine. If it’s going horribly, then suddenly you have an unexpected “emergency” that you absolutely must attend to, so sorry, got to go, I’ll call you later, ok?
(SPOILER ALERT: no she won’t.)
Let’s get this out of the way early: everybody knows this trick. If you pull this trick on somebody, you’re basically insulting them to their face – not only are you saying that you find them so unpleasant that you can’t stand to be in their presence for a moment longer, but you also either think they’re so stupid that they would believe it. You’re better off just telling them straight that you see no point in continuing the date and leaving – at least it’s honest.1
- “What? An orphanage is on fire? I’ll be right there!”
In fact, this is the method I recommend: if you simply can’t make it through the date, you’re better off to be direct and cut things short.
If you simply can’t… well, just because everybody knows about the cell phone trick doesn’t mean that you can’t use it any more. You have to be clever about it. Hence: the modified version of the cell phone escape clause.
First of all, you either need a willing accomplice or an alarm app on your phone that uses your pre-existing ringtones and text alert sounds. If you have a smart phone, this is even easier; there are dozens of apps that fake phone calls, even ones that spoof the caller ID and call screen.
At a designated hour, you get the first text or call. Pull the phone out, glance at the caller ID and just put it back in your pocket. You don’t need to say anything… either your date will assume it’s something unimportant or else they will think that you’re passing on the Cell Phone escape. Bonus points if your phone has a tone for when someone leaves a voice mail. Then, about 10 – 15 minutes later, you get the second call from the same number.
This time, you look at the caller ID and say “Again? Sorry, about this; it sounds like this is important.” You answer your phone with noticeable impatience in your voice; after all, whomever is on the other end of the call is interrupting your date. You can tell them you’re busy, calmly talk them through the “emergency” and hang up. If you’re feeling especially creative you can always give them another number to call – as though you’re trying to be helpful but pass them off to someone else. There would be many times that I would pull out an auto-club card or the number of a taxi dispatch and pass it along. Then you hang up and make an apology to your date.
The third call – less than 20 minutes later – means that it’s an emergency that requires your personal attention. This is the point where you make your exit. Make your apologies and a brief explanation: the tow truck wouldn’t accept their credit card, taxis won’t stop in that neighborhood, your dog’s pregnant and has had complications birthing the litter, something, leave money for the bill and race out the door.
Yes, this means you’re spending upwards of 40 minutes longer with someone who bores you to tears and/or looks like the love child of a Shoggoth and a snub-nosed macaque. But let’s face it, if things were so bad that you couldn’t spend another moment in their presence, you would’ve excused yourself to the bathroom and crawled out a window.
Have a bad date story of your own? Did I miss your favorite get-out-of-date-free tactic? Be sure to share it in the comments and at the Dr. NerdLove Facebook page!
- Side note: there’s a difference between trying to escape a bad date and a date where you legitimately feel that your safety is compromised. If something about your date is making your spider-sense tingle, it’s better to get out early and worry about the social repercussions later. [↩]