How To Salvage A Bad Date

Uh-oh. You’ve just put your foot in your mouth, big-time. Here’s how you can save face — and save your date.

By Michele Bender

nyone who’s ever dated has experienced an awkward moment or two — you find yourself engaged in a harsh political debate instead of sweet chitchat, or you overdo it on the margaritas and find yourself sliding out of your seat. In these situations, you may wonder: Should I bolt for the door? Keep plugging away until the date’s bitter end?

We’d like to think with a little work or the right words, most dates can be saved from disaster. Who knows, you might even recover enough to remember what inspired you two to get together in the first place. Read on for the game plan.

Disaster #1: The cell phone—or BlackBerry—obsessed date.
Your date has been answering an ever-ringing cell phone from the second you sat down at the bar. Or perhaps it’s a matter of frantically clicking away at a BlackBerry. Either way, you’re feeling
Your BlackBerry-fixated date may be trying to impress you by acting like a busy mover and shaker.
like second fiddle to a small electronic unit. How are you supposed to know if the two of you connect if your date won’t disconnect?

The fix: Though it’s totally rude, there may be a few reasons your date is doing this. One, he or she is genuinely expecting an important call or email — in which case, you should have been given a heads-up the second you said hello. Two, your date is trying to impress you by acting like a busy mover and shaker. Finally, it could just be habit. Some people are so used to being on cell phones and checking email 24/7 that they don’t realize how obnoxious it is. Try asking, “Are you waiting for something important?” or “It looks like a busy night. Is that work or a friend?” “If your date is not waiting for an important call, it will send the hint that he or she’s being rude,” says David Lieberman, Ph.D., author of How To Change Anybody. You can also try a lighthearted comment to signal you’d like some more attention. Try “Does the office fall apart without you?”

Your other option is to be straightforward. “Sometimes this is the only way the other person’s going to get it,” says Gilda Carle, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of Don’t Bet on the Prince! How to Have the Man You Want by Betting on Yourself. You can say, “I really want to enjoy our date and get to know you, but it’s not possible with your cell ringing every two minutes. Can you turn it off?” Who can argue with such straight talk? And if your date won’t abandon electronic gadgets at this point, end the date. It can’t be saved.

Disaster #2: The “I can’t believe I just did that!” moment
You’re taking a nice stroll and are so engaged in the conversation that you go head to head with a lamppost. Or you’re at the movies and accidentally spill that jumbo Diet Coke all over your lap.

The fix: The best way to recover is to make light of your slip and turn a faux pas into something funny. In the case of the spilled soda, you could say, “I was hot anyway.” If you trip, tell her, “See, I’m already head over heels for you” or “You’re already making me do crazy things.” “This shows your sense of humor and ability to rise above mishaps,” explains Lieberman. Most likely your date will think the whole thing is funny, not a turnoff, and will admire your ability to shrug it off with a smile. “Don’t sit and obsess over your misstep all night, or your date may see you as distracted or uninterested,” says Carle. Instead, tell yourself that everyone makes mistakes (because they do).

Disaster #3: The drunken date
You’re only midway through the night and you realize that your date is slurring words or becoming increasingly loud and obnoxious. Should you just leave?

“Don’t try to hide that you’re tipsy—it’s very hard to do, and chances are your date has noticed anyway.”
The fix: Barring an actual drinking problem, there’s a good chance your date is simply nervous or doesn’t realize how strong the drinks are. Whatever the reason, it’s okay to gently call him or her on it. Try saying, “Hey, I think you’ve had one shot too many.” “This way he knows you’ve noticed and he’ll hopefully rein himself in,” says Gary Malone, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Five Keys for Understanding Men: A Woman’s Guide. You can try going for coffee, or simply heading outside to sit or walk so that the cool night air will work its sober-up magic. However, the only thing that will truly sober up a drunk is time, so if your date’s in really bad shape, aggressive or just driving you nuts, end the date. And you deserve a profuse apology the next day, that’s for sure.

Disaster #4: The drunken you
You’ve been having a fine time blabbing and downing the better part of a carafe of white-wine sangria. Now the room is spinning like a pinwheel and you don’t know how to recover... or save face in front of your date.

The fix: Though nothing but time will help absorb the alcohol, you can do a few things to try to salvage the evening. First, stop drinking immediately. Then acknowledge that you may have gone overboard. Say “Wow, those drinks were stronger than I thought” or “I was having such a good time, I didn’t pay attention to how much I was drinking.” Here’s how Carle spins it: “Don’t try to hide that you’re tipsy — it’s very hard to do and chances are your date has noticed anyway.” But don’t over-apologize — spending the rest of the night protesting too much that you “never drink that much” or “This is so unlike me” will make it sound like you really do this all the time.

Stick the date out if you aren’t doing things like acting silly or sitting there with drunken, droopy eyes. If you are reeling or getting loud — or feel like you’re going to be sick — end the date ASAP. (You really don’t need to subject your dinner companion to that, now do you?) You can say, “Those drinks went to my head, I better get home” or just say you’re tired. Call the next day and apologize — then steer clear of too much alcohol the next time you two go out.

Disaster #5: The conversational landmine
You’re ranting about Republicans and their latest !#$@ move. But guess who’s a Republican? Yep, your date. Suddenly, your quiet dinner turns into a heated debate.

The fix: You may think your date’s point of view is crazy. And you may adamantly believe you are right. It doesn’t matter — stop arguing your position. Then, point out where you do have similarities; there’s got to be gray area somewhere. Try, “I find it amusing that we’re so opposite on this and yet we are so aligned on topics x, y and z.” You can also salvage the night by moving on to more neutral topics of conversation. Say, “Why don’t we just agree to disagree on this for now?” or “I’d like to enjoy dinner with you. Let’s change the subject because I doubt we’re going to be able to change each other’s minds.” Why this works: “You’re saying, ‘Let’s put this on the back burner for now,’ and allowing yourself to focus on just getting to know each other,” says Carle. And if your date wants to keep up the confrontation, with veins bulging and a hostile glare? You can end the debate with one simple word: “Check.”

Freelance writer Michele Bender once barely survived the night with a cell phone-fixated date.
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