By the time college rolls around, you’re probably familiar with basic dating etiquette: Be on time, put your phone away, dress appropriately for the activity and pay if you initiated the date. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy, right?
If you want to have a date as sweet as lemonade, you’ve got to be polite. But what are you supposed to do when a date hands you lemons?
“Lemons” on a date come in all shapes and sizes. Your date’s car could break down on the way to your house, making them an hour late. You could find out your date is just as willing to yell about his love for pugs as you’re willing to yell about your hatred of them. Or maybe the night just wasn’t all that spectacular, but your date “would love to do this again sometime.”
It’s easy to be polite when a date is unfolding with rom-com levels of perfection. Sometimes, though, you’ll have to deal with a few sour lemons before the night is over. What do you do in those situations? Here’s some advice on turning even the sourest of dating lemons into delicious lemonade.
If Your Date Is Late
Show your date you value their time and prioritize being with them, but you can’t always control your punctuality when things go wrong. Maybe your car got a flat tire, maybe you got stuck in unexpected traffic or maybe your test ran longer than you thought. That’s OK — you’re only human, and your date knows that.
The polite thing to do, though, is to at least make sure your date knows why you haven’t shown up yet. Alden McLean, a sophomore from Fairfield, California, suggests a quick text is sufficient to let your date know when you’re running a few minutes behind.
“I don’t think it’s a big enough deal that you have to call,” McLean said. “I think (you) should say ‘Sorry I’m late,’ but (your date) should be forgiving.”
If you’re going to be late, make sure you have a valid explanation — not that you took extra time to get ready or thought you’d have time to run errands.
If You Need to Take a Phone Call
Nearly everyone has had a bad experience where their date was glued to their phone the entire time. Between Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and texts, it’s easy to get caught up in the digital realm. It’s far more important, however, to show your date you’re excited to be spending time with them than it is to take a Snapchat of your meal and post it to your story.
But, what if you actually have an important call or text you need to take over the course of the night? If you know it’s coming, you should give your date a heads up as well. If you receive an unexpected call, however, you should still follow a similar procedure. Before answering the call, try quickly telling your date, “Hey, I’m really sorry, but my mom is calling and it might be important. Is it OK if I take this call?”
If the call turns out to be something nonessential, be sure to politely tell the caller you’re busy and can contact them later.
No matter what, don’t keep your date waiting for more than five minutes. If the call really is urgent, ask the caller to hold for a moment while you explain to your date what’s going on and the two of you can decide whether to continue the date.
If You Need to Leave Early
Which brings us to our next point: How do you go about ending a date early? Unless you have legitimate reasons, you don’t. However, sometimes, you may find out your roommate broke his leg and needs a ride to the hospital or the apartment flooded and the landlord needs you home immediately. In cases like these, honesty is the best policy.
“If it’s unexpected, be honest and explain it. Don’t be shy. Make it clear why you have to leave,” McLean said.
Jessica Jensen, a sophomore from Alpine, Utah, added that if the date was going well up until it got cut short, that should be made clear as well.
“I think most of all it’s important to be honest,” Jensen said. “Just explain to them that you still had a wonderful time so that there isn’t any miscommunication.”
McLean agreed. “If it cuts off the date and it was going well, you should probably ask them out again,” he said.
If You Get in an Argument
If you pick your date up on time, manage to dodge unnecessary calls and texts and are at a restaurant enjoying pleasant conversation over tacos, you might feel like you’ve made it through the worst part.
Alas, there is still plenty of time for things to go south. Imagine the uncomfortable scenario in which you and your date are talking about a meme you saw on Facebook, and you suddenly shift from a friendly chat to a heated argument over a political post just below the meme in your newsfeed. As hard as it can be to admit you’re wrong, especially when you feel you’re not, that’s probably the best approach to instantly diffuse the situation.
Jensen suggested trying to laugh it off if you’re the one who started the debate, or apologizing if you said something that offended your date. “I don’t think I would get heated,” she added, “I would just say ‘let’s not talk about it.’”
McLean said that for him, an argument on a first date is an indicator that you shouldn’t go out again. If it’s a few dates in, though, he suggests agreeing to disagree and changing the subject.
“Is it more important to have a good date and make it a good experience and get to know the person,” he asks, “or get the point to them?” At the end of the day, it’s never polite to argue, and it’s always worth it to be the bigger person and keep things enjoyable.
If They Say ‘Let’s Do This Again Sometime’
There are also cases, though, where even if nothing goes wrong, a date just isn’t magical. If you’ve noticed signs you and your date aren’t compatible, you might not be interested in a second date, and that’s fine.
Unfortunately, first dates don’t always end with both people on the same page, and there’s a good chance your date might still bring up the dreaded, “We should really do this again sometime!”
Even if your first reaction is to walk into your apartment and close the door without another word, remember that your date has feelings, too. Be polite, even if you’re not looking for anything further.
So, should you tell your date you’re uninterested? Or should you politely dodge the topic, thank them, and hope they don’t notice?
McLean said the best thing to do is be upfront with your date. “I’d rather know right away. I’m not going to get hurt if she doesn’t want to go out again,” he said.
Jensen said she prefers an honest but less direct approach. “I would ask them to contact me later so I have more time to think about it,” she said. “I don’t know that I could ever say no in the moment.”
Hailey Stolworthy, a senior from Las Vegas, agreed that she’d prefer to put off answering right away. “It’s hard because I totally know how it feels to be like, ‘That was an awesome date,’ and then obviously it probably wasn’t if they don’t get back to me,” Stolworthy said. “Instead of saying ‘Yeah, I’d love to do it again sometime,’ I’d prefer they say something like ‘I’ll think on it’ or ‘I’ll get back to you at some point.’”
If You Don’t Receive a Post-date Text
If you’re the champion dater who makes it through pick up, dinner conversation, and drop off seamlessly, you still have one final challenge to face: the post-date text.
Nearly everyone has a different perspective on what a post-date text means. Is it rude not to send a post-date text, even if you don’t want to go out again? Are you leading someone on by sending a post-date text at all?
When tackling this small but complicated issue, it’s best to use common sense. If someone took time out of their day to spend time with you and maybe even pay for your dinner, you should definitely thank them for it. If you choose to thank them after a date via text, be aware that your wording can indicate your level of interest. Stolworthy said she usually texts to indicate interest, but will alter texts if it’s just a simple thank you.
“I would send a post-date text if the date meant something more could come of it,” she said. “If I was in a position where I didn’t pay and didn’t ask, I’d still send a text saying thank you, but I wouldn’t say, ‘Let’s do it again sometime.’”
McLean said he doesn’t let receiving (or not receiving) a post-date text deter him from pursuing a girl he’s into. “I would think a post-date text would mean I could ask her out again if she still contacts me, but I wouldn’t expect one,” he said. “And if I liked her and wanted to ask her out again, I’d still do it whether or not she texts me.”
The best practice is always to thank someone for their time, but if your date has already expressed gratitude, try not to get caught up in the meaning of a post-date text.
If you get a simple thank you, understand that your date probably isn’t looking for anything more. If there’s something like “I had a great time,” or “I’d love to see you again,” included, you probably have the green light to ask again. Either way, don’t read too much into it. Just appreciate the time you had with your date rather than worrying about your digital interactions after.
Dates are supposed to be fun, but that doesn’t mean they will always go perfectly well. The best people to date are those who are polite no matter what, because a little bit of courtesy will always go a long way. So next time your date has to rush home to give his corgi the Heimlich or has to take a call from his landlord, remember to be understanding and just take things as they come. You’ll likely find that even after the biggest of dating disasters, you can still have a great time if you and your date are considerate and respectful to each other. And if not, well, at least you’ll have a great bad date story to submit for the next edition of TWO’s Dating Diaries.
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