Last week, I was kind and loving to the first date experiences out there and shared a lot of suggestions and tips – all based in real-life happenings – to help that first impression go as far as it can.
But I know that’s not what you guys really want – you’re in it for the horror stories. Here it is, my top worst first dates ever.
1. Going to an AA meeting. I’m not kidding. Seriously. And what’s worse, it wasn’t supposed to be a date. He invited me to give a talk to his group, and I was delighted to provide, but I did not completely grasp that 1) he was still in the “desperate to stay sober” stage and that 2) “can I buy you dinner” when we were done constituted a “date”. He called me the next week to find out when we could go on our “next date”, and I had to shut that down really, really fast.
2. Planning a complex “surprise date” after minimal communication. In this case, we met at a chain restaurant (which was already kind of meh for me), but then he said this wasn’t our “real date”. Yes, I know I should have followed him in my car, but he said the next part was “just over those buildings”. I thought he meant the shopping center. It turns out he meant downtown. The big surprise was games and beer at an indoor amusement park (which, if you know me, is monumentally D-U-M), and after trouncing me at games I had no experience with, he had the gall to get irritated with me when I trounced him back at Laser Tag.
3. Taking you to the same place he/she haunted with the ex. This is generally always a bad move, no matter what, but the awkward happens when your date tells you that they went there all the time. The awkward gets really, really bad when people that knew them as a couple come up and start talking to your date, often as part of an obvious action of ignoring your presence. The awkward gets turned up to “what the hell was I thinking” when people that knew them as a couple come up and want to know what kind of a tart/whore/slut/loser it is that the date is seeing now.
4. Taking you to the same place that he/she takes all other first dates. There is something of a difference between going out on a first date and only first-dating. First-dating is kind of serial monogamy except often without the sex (theoretically). Those are the folks that really aren’t going to open up and connect with anyone, so they will go out with any given person only once with no intention of a second date before it begins. And if you find yourself hanging with a first-dater at the same place they take every other first date… let’s just say that the experience I had with this one was at once awkward, embarrassing, and slightly degrading. Nothing is more dehumanizing than a waitress who knows what your date is going to order ahead of time, and asks what his girl “this week” wants.
There’s a caveat to this one that I should probably explain. When you’re starting out or heading back out into the online dating world, you’re going to go on a lot of first dates. I mean, a LOT. Much of it is meant to be a learning experience, to figure out who you’re comfortable with and how you’ve changed and what you’re really into these days. There’s no shame in going out with someone and then discovering that they aren’t really your cuppa. If you’re using a non-metric-based site (Plenty of Fish instead of OKCupid, for instance), you’re liable to go on a lot more first dates before you find someone that you’re totally compatible with – and that’s okay.
To the men out there, I recommend you make sure that you budget for such things and don’t commit yourself to more dates than you can afford because we are still living in a patriarchy that will expect you to pay for the whole date.
To the women out there, I recommend you have a little cash on hand, just in case things get weird, so that you can bow out gracefully without being accused of being “in it for the free meal”. (This is the last-ditch accusation of a hurt ego. It doesn’t mean anything about you personally, but I suggest covering your ass.)
To BOTH men and women, there’s always a little awkwardness about protocol on the first date meal, so let me share this with you: The payer (usually the man, but not always) orders FIRST, usually something in the mid-range prices on the menu. The guest (again, usually the woman, but not always) THEN orders something of equal or lesser price. Deference is given to the payer for things like appetizers and bottles of wine and dessert.
I bring this up to bridge the way between the last terrible date and the next one:
5. The Surprise Dutch Date. For those who might not know, “going Dutch” means that each person in a party pays for their own meal. This is not entirely uncommon, but it’s generally accepted that the initiator of the date will mention something to that effect, either because of budgetary constraints or something else. In my case, I followed the protocol, kept with the system, and then when it came time to get the check, I politely waited for him to look at it first. And I waited. Then he got a hint or something and looked at it, then he put a carefully calculated amount of cash in the folder and handed it to me. “You’ve got yours, right?”
Frankly, I was offended because it was dishonest and broke with tradition – and he was advertised as a “traditional guy” who “opened doors” and “walked next to the street”. His statement to defend his action was, “Well, you said you were a feminist.” I never said I was a feminist, I said I was an independent single mom. “I figured you’d want to pull your own weight.” My own weight? Really? “Well, it’s not like you were going to fuck me or anything.”
You will all be very, very proud of me. I paid my part of it, told him good-bye without preable, and walked out. And I swear, I still don’t know where he or his car is, I had absolutely nothing to do with any of it, my alibi is air-tight.