How to recover from a terrible date
That beautiful young financial adviser just ghosted you. Or that handsome Stanford grad keeps postponing your next rendezvous. The first date went so well. But now you’re starting to wonder.
Maybe it’s something you said. Ya think?
Bad dates happen. Sometimes you screw up. Other times, your date’s the one who ruins everything.
It’s hard not to feel judged when you’re ghosted. But you were, and you have to deal with it. You can blame them. Let’s call this the “they don’t know what they’re missing” approach. Maybe.
You can also obsess over your imperfections. We can call this the “What’s wrong with me!?” approach.
Neither one of these strategies help much. The truth always lies in the middle somewhere. A little post-game analysis never hurts. Because, you know, maybe you did say or do something stupid. We all do. And it’s smart to avoid making the same mistakes.
Dates I’ve destroyed
I’ve ruined a few dates. One time, the Cabernet went straight to my head after a rough week with too much work and not enough sleep. My attempts to flirt all failed hard, and at some point I literally tripped and fell. Tried to laugh it off. He was not impressed.
The worst part? He was a friend of a friend.
You can bet my friend called me later. “What happened?” she said. “He told me you seemed really immature. And that…you might have a drinking problem? Are you okay?”
Oh, how embarrassing. And I never went back to that restaurant. A real shame. Because their pot stickers were excellent.
Another time, I slept through the first half of a date. I’d been working too hard (again) and fell asleep on my couch. His phone call woke me. So I rushed down to the restaurant. Although he was having wine, I ordered coffee and spent the entire night complaining about a student who bugged me, and all the papers I had to grade that weekend.
He ended the date early. “You seem really busy,” he said. “Maybe I should let you get back to work?”
It was Friday night, 8 pm. And the sad truth was he made a good point. So I said “probably,” and he walked me out.
With a desperate sigh, I asked for a hug.
He laughed. As he should’ve. I was a complete wreck. Not professionally. But in every other way, a walking landfill.
Lessons learned from bad dates
Distance and perspective have taught me something important. Neither one of those dates should’ve happened. Both times, I wasn’t acting like myself. Stress can do that. So can unfair expectations in your head. My problem was that I didn’t prepare myself emotionally.
You can’t just show up to a date. They’re highly artificial scenarios. You’re supposed to “be yourself,” but which one? You can’t take your filter off just yet. You’re auditioning. So are they.
It’s hard to be authentic but appealing at the same time. If nothing else, you’ve got to be relaxed and pleasant. And present.
That doesn’t happen if you rush to your date from your job, or the gym, or another social event.
My dates always went better if I spent an hour beforehand just chilling. Maybe I’d grab casual coffee and scroll my phone. Or listen to some music. Or go for a walk. Or just sit and think quietly.
Even if I was slammed, that time was essential to slough off the residue of professional and social drama. Place anxiety about my future in my mental closet. Prepare to focus on the date, not the clutter.
That hour became about centering myself.
Your life might have lots of problems that I can’t solve. But your dates will improve if you take that simple advice. Center. As a bonus, taking some time to quiet the internal tornadoes can help you in general. A calmer you is a better date, but also a more effective person.
What happens when you don’t center
Some people simply don’t connect. Others need some serious coaching. Take this guy, for instance. This post provided my inspiration.
I Went Out with a Guy and He Sent Me an Invoice
There are times in a woman’s life where she begins to wonder if she just ought to give up on life and join a nunnery.
Part of me wonders what became of the guy in this post. He sounds like a wreck of a human being. A total lost cause? I hope not. Because the idea of this person going on more dates like that makes me sad — for him as well as his future Tinder crushes.
But I also recognize some of myself in this narrative. What I see is someone who can’t function because they don’t center themselves. Nor do they ever reflect on how other people perceive their actions.
The optimist in me hopes this guy eventually sat down and had an honest conversation with himself. Or someone else finally explained:
- You wanted to impress your date by ordering an expensive bottle of wine. It backfired epically. Either you wanted to show off your salary, or you’re insecure about something. Don’t do that again.
- You suck at conversation. Learn how to talk to people. Stop compensating by asking stupid questions like “why” over and over. Maybe you could benefit from more female friends in your life.
- This whole “boyish charm” persona doesn’t work for you. Instead, it makes you look and sound childish.
- Maybe you’re actually funny, but you pushed way too hard too soon on the humor. If a date doesn’t laugh at your jokes, stop telling them. Calling attention to the obvious just irritates people.
- Learn to read body language and when to cut your losses. Sometimes, it becomes painfully clear that someone’s not into you. You can’t salvage a bad connection with chocolate lava cake.
I’m not advising anyone to lie on a date. Or fake a personality to trap someone in a relationship. Both behaviors — despicable. But I’m sensing this guy hadn’t centered himself before his date.
If he had, at least that specific date would’ve gone better.
You know, at least the date wouldn’t have sucked so bad. It wouldn’t have ruined the rest of the night for both of them.
And maybe it wouldn’t have inspired a blog post specifically about what an asshole he was.
Instead of centering himself, I think he’d read a bunch of pickup artist bullshit online. Allowed bad dating advice to pinball through his head all day. Focused on all the wrong things. Finally, he blamed his date for his own bad judgment — evidenced by the invoice.
And yet, there’s hope. Even for assholes like this one. Invoice guy, if you’re reading this, take heed. Just like I did in my 20s, own your bad decisions. Admit to yourself when you’ve fucked up.
Accept that you’re not going to win them back. Not with a clever text. Not with an invoice. Not with an unsolicited sext.
That Tinder ship has sailed.
That doesn’t mean your life is over. You’re not a hopeless loser, yet. It’s possible to find love in this world, even if you acted like a total dick on your last date. What matters is your next move.
On future dates, actually think about how you want to present yourself. Remember that this is an audition. If that metaphor doesn’t work, think of your first date as a preview. A trailer.
Your job is to show parts of your authentic self. Maybe not the whole thing just yet. But there’s no reason to pretend you’re someone else. That’s only going to lead to disaster.
Don’t show up to your date hangry. That was invoice guy’s first mistake. “I’m coming from work, and I’ll need to eat something.”
You wouldn’t show up to your job interview hungry and tired, or stressed, or still damp from your spin class.
Show your date some fucking respect.
Don’t posture. If your date’s pink nail polish catches your attention, then come at that from an earnest angle. You can say, “That’s an interesting color.” You could try a compliment. “Wow, pink nail polish. Bold choice. I like it.” If she doesn’t want to talk about that, though, move on.
And it’s okay if you don’t like her nail polish. Or her clothes. Seriously, if you have a problem with either, then you can make a mental note. You don’t have to be an ass about it.
I mean, it’s kind of weird that you’d ghost someone for wearing pink nail polish. But it’s your life. Make the call. You don’t need to psychoanalyze someone, based on their makeup or fashion choices.
Don’t guilt trip your date. You’ll come off as petulant and needy. No amount of pleeeeeaase ever changes someone’s mind on a first date. It doesn’t matter how much you resemble Channing Tatum. Childish behavior can undermine the most attractive face.
In short, you want to demonstrate these traits. I’ll list them. And it helps if you actually possess a few.
- Groundedness (You know what you want, and what matters)
- Maturity (You seem calm and organized)
- Self sufficiency (Not wealth, but you can support yourself)
- Reflectiveness (You stop and think about your mistakes)
- Kindness (You think about other people’s needs)
- Humility (You show confidence, but don’t brag)
- Humor (Not “ha ha” humor, but an appreciation of life’s irony).
Here’s a brilliant idea. Maybe you could stop blaming your dates for everything that goes wrong.
You could even apologize for shitty behavior. I’ll never forget when a partner sneered at me when I declined sex at the end of a date, because I had to work on my dissertation. He made fun of my career. Asked if I was lesbian. Didn’t walk me to my car, but did laugh me out of his.
A few days later, he sent me a text. Something like, “Hey, sorry about that night. I was rude.” A sincere apology. We didn’t go on any more dates, but he earned back some respect. Kudos. Now there’s someone who might turn into a decent spouse one day — for someone else.