The Rinse Cycle

by admin on June 19, 2012

I had a date last year with fellow I’ll call Howard, a criminal defense attorney in a nearby city. Howard came recommended to me by my friend Sally, who raved about him, known him for years, if she weren’t a lesbian she would have snapped him up, etc.

“Oh, all right,” I said, by which I meant, “How bad could it be?” I forget, every time, that when I ask myself, “How bad could it be,” that it’s going to be worse than I could possibly imagine.

Howard phoned me, we chatted on the phone a little, and he suggested we get together. “What would you like to do?” he asked. “Let’s go to a movie,” I said. I like going to the movies. I go to the movies sometimes, and I see couples going in and coming out together, and sitting together, seems like a civilized thing that men and women do together.

Howard came to pick me up at my little cottage in the far reaches of the county. He was chewing gum. Now, I have an objection to gum-chewing. As a behavior, it can fall anywhere on a spectrum from mildly disagreeable to downright revolting. But can I turn a potential suitor away at my doorstep for chewing gum? It was off to the movies with us, Howard cramming a fresh stick of gum into his mouth every ten minutes or so. Without getting rid of earlier, presumably chewed-out wads. On a 40-minute drive, that’s a lot of gum.

Anyhow, I was enjoying the movie until Howard, still working on the gum, put his hand on my knee. I squirmed as far away from him as I could get. The lady on my right glared at me, so I murmured something apologetic and squirmed half the way back.

After the movie, Howard suggested dinner. I was pretty hungry, and I thought, well, I’ve come this far, and besides, how bad could it be? At least he won’t be chewing gum.

At the restaurant, Howard tucked in with paleolithic enthusiasm. I was transfixed. Think, Clan of the Cave Bear. Think, Hagar the Horrible. Grunting with pleasure, grinding and masticating noisily, talking the entire time, spilling gravy and spewing crumbs and bits of half-chewed foodstuffs in every direction. The food disappeared into his maw at an appalling rate. I pushed my bit of chicken around the plate a few times, but couldn’t take my eyes off his mouth long enough to eat anything.

Howard’s method of intake was as efficient as it was prodigious, and it was all mercifully brief. I mewled when asked if I wanted coffee. Howard took that for assent, and ordered a piece of pie for himself. He finished that off in four enormous gulps, belched, smiled, and began to offer a critique of my behavior. Why did I shrink away from him in the movie theater? Was I afraid of intimacy? Why did I even suggest we go to the movie? On a first date we should be getting to know each other, not sitting in a darkened movie theater. I laughed weakly. “There,” Howard crowed, “a couple of times during the movie you laughed and that was really sexy, that was the real you.”

I took a deep breath. “Howard,” I said, “I shrank away from you because you need to know me longer than half an hour before you get to put your hand on my knee. You think because you picked up the tab for the movie I should be all over you like a bad rash?” Oh, this was very bad. Go for it, I thought. “How dare you!” I continued, pumping up the volume a little. I was warming to my subject. “And how dare you presume to know the real me?” I said. “And watching you eat dinner, I almost lost my lunch. Didn’t anyone ever tell you to keep your mouth closed when you chew? I kept waiting for the rinse cycle light to come on. I thought of asking the waitress for fabric softener!” Howard was, for the first time that evening, silent.

One of the forgotten advantages of living in the city, as I used to do, is being able to make a swift and dignified exit by hailing a cab. Howard chewed gum in a sullen sulk all the way back to my house.  0613-12

You had me with you right up to “Go for it”.   Everything after that was unnecessary, harsh and lacked a significant foresight.  Howard needed to keep his hands to himself in the theater but if he did pay for your movie and dinner, you owed him the courtesy of being civil.   Shrinking from him in the theater rather than dealing straightforward with his roaming hand appears to have set the stage for an angry outburst later.   (For the record, the way to deal with roving hands is to firmly take the offending hand and place it back where it belongs without saying a word.  Guys know exactly what that means …as in “I tried and she isn’t going for that.”  Continued roving hands requires a change of location farther away.)  And btw, guys, making a move like that so early in the game sends the very obvious message that you don’t respect her personal space and that’s a huge turn off for lots of women.

While you did no find him attractive, your friend Sally considers him one of her favorite people and rest assured, she asked him how the date went and he may have told her in no uncertain terms how you went off on him.  It was retaliatory rudeness when cool, calm civility was in order.  Sally isn’t likely to risk offending her old friends by setting them up for dates with you in the future so your lack of business-like civility at dinner may have felt good but the consequences ripple for years.    You should have eaten your dinner without staring at his mouth, said nothing and when he made presumptuous comments, just looked at him firmly while calmly saying, “Oh, you think so?”, or, “What an interesting assumption.”   You don’t toss out any conversational “balls” encouraging him hit them back, you answer any questions with a minimal amount of detail so that you yield nothing.  You thank him politely for the movie and dinner and request that you be taken back home.   End of date.   If he inquires about a second date, you tell him, “I don’t think that will be possible since I do not believe we have much in common.”

{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny June 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Wow, I found the OP off putting for the whole letter. Howard didn’t sound great, but this OP seemed to obsess over what this guy put in his mouth. It was just strange.

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--Lia June 19, 2012 at 7:27 pm

How old is Howard? I ask because if I didn’t know he was a criminal defense attorney, I’d take him for a teenager. Suggesting that someone who rejects his pass at her has intimacy issues? Isn’t that like accusing her that if she doesn’t want to have sex with him she must be uptight? Maybe there are guys who really believe that; maybe their logic goes that they’re automatically wonderful so if a woman isn’t into them immediately there must be something wrong with her, but I’m inclined to think that it’s just something guys say. It’s an insult not to be taken either seriously or personally.

I’m starting to think that the person to blame is Sally. Let’s say her heart was in the right place and she really thought they’d hit it off. The right thing to do in that case would be to invite them both over to her house or out for a meal maybe with a few others. She’d be honest that she was hoping they’d like each other, but the invitation would be casual. It could be a small potluck picnic. That would avoid all the awkwardness of a blind date. When there’s a lull in the conversation between 2 people, others are there to fill in the gap. If they hit it off, they can agree to make a date later. If they don’t, no harm done.

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MonkeysMommy June 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I honestly thought you sounded snotty and pretentious for the start. While I have noticed certain older genres of women and teenage girls tend to smack like cows chewing cud, I don’t think you should have automatically jumped the gun and judged him. 40 minutes is a long drive for a first date, I imagine he saw nothing wrong with a stick of gum along the way. Incidentally, perhaps you should’ve offered to meet in town, since it WAS a first date, you could’ve avoided that long awkward drive home. I also agree with Howard- a movie for a first date?? That is not the ideal place to get to know someone. You “mewled” when asked if you wanted coffee? What the… Sounds like your restaurant manners are as bad as his. Maybe you two are better matched than you think.

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GroceryGirl June 19, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I’m surprised how many people on here have so many little pet peeves: gum chewing, knuckle-cracking, sniffling (!?)… If it isn’t out-and-out disgusting (like picking your nose) is it really any of your business what little things people do? I have a friend who has a loong list of things she doesn’t like (including words she doesn’t like people to use, like “moist”) and she will tell people (friends, vague acquaintances, perfect strangers) and ask them to comply to her high-maintainence needs. What I think is really rude is judging people based on their little ticks and habits. Everyone has them. I hiss when I say my s’s, people have told me they have an issue with that. Not really sure how to change my speech pattern but there you are. Some people think this world exists to serve them…

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Cat Whisperer June 19, 2012 at 9:48 pm

This whole story is illustrative of why people with survival instinct never, ever, ever allow themselves to be “set up” on a blind date with someone for anything other than meeting for coffee. I don’t care how much a friend raves about someone and how they’re perfect for you, that person is still a stranger. JMO, but I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to put yourself in a position where you’re stuck with a complete stranger in a situation where it would be awkward or difficult to terminate the meeting if things go wrong.

One other point: OP let Howard spring for the movie tickets. Again, JMO, but that’s a bad move. On a first date, and a blind date at that, you each pay your own way. That way, if things don’t work out, no harm, no foul. (This is also why when you’re getting to know someone, coffee and a snack that you pay for before you sit down together is a good idea: if you need to make a fast escape, you’ve paid for your food in advance and you can make a quick exit.)

Prepare for the worst: a quick meeting for coffee and if things don’t look good, you bail out with a smile and “it was nice meeting you, Howard.” If things work out, you can extend the coffee into something longer. Never paint yourself into a corner if you don’t have to.

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waitresswonderwoman June 19, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I think a polite, firm and ladylike response would have been, “Thank you for the movie and dinner, but I really don’t feel we have much in common. Good luck.” The rest was completely dramatic and uncalled for. I believe in something called “Dating Karma”, and trust me, it can really come back to bite you!

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Cupcake June 19, 2012 at 11:00 pm

“About a year ago I had a date with a woman, let’s call her Miss Priss. I’ll be honest – I don’t date much, and I’m a bit awkward around women. Fortunately, my kind friend Sally offered to set me up with her friend. I called this woman, we chatted a little and I asked her out on a date, and we decided to see a movie.

As I said, I don’t date much so I was pretty nervous and trying really hard to do everything right. I offered to pick her up, I chewed gum like crazy to avoid bad breath, I paid for the movie tickets. But from the moment I arrived, she seemed standoffish and I couldn’t figure out why. When the movie started she seemed to be relax a bit, laughing and enjoying herself, and I thought she had warmed up to me. I don’t really know a lot about flirting, but I tentatively reached out to touch her knee. Well, THAT was a mistake – she positively recoiled! I was mortified. Clearly I’d misread the situation.

We’d planned to go to dinner afterwards, but as things were so uncomfortable I tried to eat as quickly as possible so we could get out of there. The whole meal was so awkward and I felt like she was just staring at me the entire time. When we were offered coffee my date didn’t even answer, just made a weird mewling sound. I figured the safe bet was to order two coffees, but again, huge mistake – this seemed to make her hate me even more.

I really didn’t know what I’d done to offend her so, but I managed to get up the courage to ask. I speculated that maybe she, like me, was a bit shy and uncomfortable with dating – it would explain why she reacted to badly to my touching her knee, instead of simply removing my hand, and why she chose a movie for our date in the first place instead of getting to know each other over a meal first. She actually laughed when I said this – maybe I was right; things were looking up! Eager to build on this, I tried to pay her a compliment about her laughter being sexy because it showed the “real her” (I read it in some magazine, but in retrospect it is kinda cheesy).

At that point she absolutely lost it. She started lecturing me, but soon built up to screaming at me – keep in mind we were still inside a restaurant! This still didn’t even explain anything – it seemed like her main gripe was with my table manners, but I thought she’d been against me from the moment I picked her up. At that point I gave up and drove her home. Readers of E-Hell, did I do something awful without realising it, or should I just forget about this bad date and move on?”

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Lizza June 19, 2012 at 11:54 pm

I have to say, OP, you are very lucky Howard was gentleman enough to drive you home after such a tirade! Not everyone would be gracious enough to drive almost an hour and a half (round trip) after hearing that. In the future I would recommend meeting a date somewhere – that way you can escape any awkwardness if necessary.

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StephM June 20, 2012 at 12:27 am

@MiseryLovesYou: Sorry that I’m too broke to afford any kind of decent allergy medication, or the good tissues that don’t make the skin of my nose peel and crack. I actually have a wound inside my nose right now that has been there for weeks. It cannot heal because I absolutely have to blow my nose at least once a day, and having a tissue rub against it opens it up. Please excuse me for trying to avoid that pain.

Sorry that blowing my nose constantly has actually given me nosebleeds, and I’m frequently not in a position to discreetly blow. I’m willing to bet that you hate it when people breathe through their mouth, not bothering to consider that they may be quite incapable of getting sufficient oxygen through their nose quietly, if at all. Allergies are a big enough pain to deal with without people complaining, please keep your tissues.

Now that I’ve blown off my steam, I’d like to discuss OP blowing steam as well.
Howard is, at worst, a bit of a jerk. Touching your knee and making comments as to your character are completely inappropriate. At best, he is rude. No adult should find it acceptable to talk with their mouth full, especially around strangers. Critiquing your choice of activity at the end of the date is unbelievable – he had the option to offer a different activity on the phone. The gum chewing has been discussed thoroughly, though I will say it wouldn’t have bothered me.

Being criticized by a near stranger does make one angry. I know I would be furious if I was asked a deeply personal question like “Are you afraid of intimacy?” on a first date. Being told that going to a movie was “wrong” and moving away was “wrong” would be enough to get anyone’s hackles up. But shouting in a restaurant about an unrelated topic? Actually wrong. He’s a good man for driving you home after that. If I were him, I’d be sorely tempted to leave you there because, after all, being criticized by a near stranger does make one angry.

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Jessica June 20, 2012 at 4:54 am

++++divide by cucumber++++
++++syntax error out of cheese++++

:) I kid.

Most of the time the similarities rule here but I have to go full anthropologist whenever the questions are about dating. We do things very differently where I’m from. Not better. Not worse. Just different. I am versed on a theoretical, pop cultural level of dating habits of the US through various media outlets but I always assume that those tend to be exaggerated for effect. In my impression, so is the OP and the other commenters seem to bear this out. Was I the only one who had an internal image of Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston when visualizing this date?

To clarify: both VV and JA comes off as a lovely people in themselves, inasmuch as a civilian can get an impression at all about this, I’m referring to his ability to play boorish but lovable and her ability to play highly strung and bitchy – but lovable. In my movie, they are both actually quite nice people having a respectively bad days and end up apologizing profusely to each other – in unison – at someone’s friend’s daughter’s bat mitzvah. Probably after Zach Galifinakis said something crude but profound, between bong hits, to VV and Kathy Najimy, playing her quirky and madly efficient PA asked JA some Socratic questions, interspersed with “Uhuh?”s, that led to JA realizing her bad behaviour herself. Closing, then rolling, her eyes while tensing her jaw in a self deprecating and utterly charming fashion.

If I replace OP and Howard with VV and JA then suddenly I see this going somewhere. Otherwise not.

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Melissa June 20, 2012 at 6:53 am

Also, if any one of my female friends “mewls” when asked a question that can be answered with a simple “yes, thank you” or “no, thank you” I will buy her a bag of cat treats and refuse to go in public with her until she learns to speak like a grown-up…..

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Livvie June 20, 2012 at 7:18 am

I’m confused by so many things in this story. 1) you do not let a first date pick you up at home ever, and certainly not far out in the woods, 2) a movie really is a terrible first date idea, 3) it was just your knee! I don’t think the burden is on you to detach his hand from your upper thigh on a first date, but a bit of touching sure- hand on knee, on back to escort into restaurant, offering his arm- all of these behaviors are really fairly normal, and if you’re uncomfortable you just move it off. And I’m really not sure what his being an attorney has to do with anything.

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Angel June 20, 2012 at 8:09 am

This is precisely why I’m a big fan of “let’s meet for coffee” the first time we go out. Or let’s meet for a cocktail at a neutral location. My first date with my husband was a let’s meet for cocktails and it was perfect. Well until a bunch of his friends showed up at the location to meet me. I felt a little ambushed I must admit. And it’s kind of a pet peeve of mine–I don’t need to meet your friends on the first date. It obviously didn’t bother me that much or I wouldn’t be where I am now.

But back to the OP. It seems like there was a lot of things about this date that bothered her. She handled it in a completely inappropriate way. She could have been a lot nicer to her date. It may have been a reflex for her to squirm away from him when he put his hand on her knee. However, it seems like her communication skills range from staying silent, to completely going off. There has to be a happy medium somewhere. The person I feel bad for in this story is Sally. She will probably get an earful from Howard for a while!

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Katie June 20, 2012 at 8:14 am

Also going against the tide here, but this is what happened as I see it:

1. Howard turns up chewing gum. The OP doesn’t like this as it irritates her.
2. He puts his hand on her knee, uninvited. She tries to squirm away to the point where she inadvertently disturbs another lady. He notices that his attention is unwelcome, because he brings it up later.
3. His table manners are a little rude, which bothers her.
4. He belches without excusing himself.
5. He accuses the OP of having ‘problems’ because she rejected his advances.
6. She ‘snaps’ and says some mean things to him.

I agree wholeheartedly that some of the OP’s comments were a little OTT, but NOTHING in her post suggests that she was going to share her observations with him until he started criticising her. I will also say that on a first date, I would not be happy if someone was presumptuous enough to put their hand on my leg, belch openly without excusing themselves (of course these things happen, but it’s only polite to say ‘pardon me’) and then criticise my behaviour.

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snugglegirl05 June 20, 2012 at 9:23 am

This post reminded me of the only blind date I had, which was in 1990. My college roommate at the time fixed me up with the young manager who managed the small gas station she worked at. We were both in our early twenties.

I went to school in a town of about 20 thousand people. The guy picked me up at the resident hall we lived at on a Saturday night. We went out to eat at a restaurant. When the waitress took our order, he flirted with her. When she returned with our meals, he flirted with her. And when she checked up on us to see if everything was ok, he flirted with her. He did not say much to me while we were at the restaurant. After we finished dinner, he drove to a fast food restaurant to order take out for my roommate. He went through the drive through lane. When he picked up the food & paid for it, he flirted with the female employee working there. At that point, I was getting pissed. When he got back to the gas station, he told me he had to close it up. While he was closing up, a young female came inside to buy something. He even flirted with her. She looked at him like he was a jerk since he saw the 2 of us there *I guess she thought we were together*. She walked out, but that did not stop him from chasing her & asking for her phone number.

Then I found out that he was into fire. How I found out is…1) he poured lighter fluid on his shoe & set his shoe on fire, 2) he poured a small puddle of light fluid on the floor & set that puddle on fire, & 3) he went outside, poured some lighter fluid on the concrete step in front of the gas station *not that far from the gas pumps* & set the lighter fluid on fire. Luckily nothing bad happened, but I was afraid that something bad would.

I asked me roommate to take me home, but she said no. I was not happy when she said that…given that she saw everything happen. So he took me home in his pickup truck. He put his arm on my shoulder, but I did not want it there. I just sat there.

We never had another date.

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MiseryLovesYou June 20, 2012 at 10:11 am

Hey StephM – thanks for the “apology” in your post. Your description of your maladies combined with your baseless accusations about mouth-breathers really cracked me up, but not as much as the irony of you going off on me while rallying against the OP for doing the same. You are on the right website, there’s a lot the kind people of Ehell have to teach you. Take care, and best wishes for a reprieve from your allergies.

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NicoleK June 20, 2012 at 10:28 am

If that’s “far worse than you could imagine” you need more imagination.

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Gina June 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I can usually tell by a writing style that I’ll disagree with an OP. This is a classic example.

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Tallulah June 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm

He could have been chewing the gum as an aid to stop smoking. I used that technique. People tend to smoke more when nervous, so that might explain the ‘excessive’ gum-chewing. His table manners may have been off-putting, but if he had had other redeeming qualities, and you perhaps felt like pursuing a further relationship, it would have been possible to teach him better manners in a kind way. The hand on the leg at such a short acquaintance was a huge no-no. “Going off” on him made you appear ruder, in my opinion.

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Erin June 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm

@NicoleK, that’s very true – your comment reminded me of the time my mom went on a date and the guy got drunk and hit her. Now that’s a bad date! She never saw that loser again.

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Enna June 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm

The OP was rude in the way she berated Howard. If she didn’t like the gum chewing she should have said “you are chewing a lot of gum, you breath does not smell bad,” little hint like that. If he says he has stopped smoking or somthing then you know there is a reason for him chewing gum but he also knows that you are aware he is nervous and there’s no need to be nervous about bad breath.

@ David doesn’t matter where the man touches, could be her knee or him putting an arm round her, for me physical contact on first date from a man makes me think he is after only one thing. I do think admin is right about moving a man’s hand from where it is unwated back onto his own knee is a good direct reaction.

As for the bad table manners, I can’t see a polite way to bring this up but I do think it is important to try to be constructive and as least hurtful as possible. This means Howard hopefully won’t make the same mistakes again.

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Laura June 20, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I wonder if the excessive gum-chewing is related to quitting smoking.

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Library Diva June 20, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Honestly, Howard only did one unforgivable thing in my mind, and that was to start psychoanalyzing the OP. I encountered a bunch of that when I was dating and never understood it. Why yes, being accused of being afraid of intimacy makes me incredibly horny, how’d you guess? I think he opened himself up to this attack just by that line of conversation. The rest of his sins pale in comparison to that one.

It reminds me a bit of a guy I met online years ago. We went on one date and I had an OK time. I wasn’t that attracted to him, but thought that we could be friends, so I continued to interact with him online and tried to set up a second get-together. He blew it off several times for his ex, while continuing to message and email me. Then he messaged me something about getting physical the next time we saw each other. I didn’t want to be blunt and hurt him, so I said something about us really not knowing each other well yet, and taking it slow, blah blah. He started accusing me of being frigid, or a lesbian, or a frigid lesbian. I was very tempted to fire back by saying that short gingers really don’t do it for me (I’m 5’7 and he was a good six inches shorter than me at least), especially ones who are hung up on their exes, but I just blocked him.

But yes, on early dates, always, ALWAYS, arrange your own transportation. Until you know you can stand being around the person, you need an easy escape hatch.

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JS June 20, 2012 at 10:45 pm

A few points to mention
1-Why ever did the OP have Howard pick her up at her home??? Rule one for blind dating-meet somewhere public not out in the country at your home. For all you knew, he could have been a date rapist.
2-First date should never be a movie. You have no way of getting to know the other person, sitting in the dark for two hours. It does make situations like yours occur way more often then you think OP.

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Kate June 21, 2012 at 2:31 am

I think there is a very fine line between ‘discerning’ and ‘overly fussy’ when you are dating.
Everyone has their faults and bad habits. I’d assume the OP does too. If a potential partner ticked all of the boxes but had a couple of annoying habits, I don’t think it’s a good idea to reject them simply because they don’t conduct themselves according to all of your standards.

My fiance bites his nails, which I think is pretty disgusting (I’m a germaphobe) and it drives me crazy. But if I’d dumped him after the first date because of it, I would have missed out on meeting someone who is extremely well-suited to me in almost every way. There are things I do that he hates, too, but we choose not to make an issue out of it.

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Green123 June 21, 2012 at 6:59 am

I agree with lots of posters here that Howard’s gum chewing might have been in lieu of smoking. I’m not mad keen on gum chewers myself, but I sure as heck prefer that to someone chain smoking!

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Wendy Lambert June 21, 2012 at 9:22 am

I am a smoker myself and I know I can make it through one date without either smoking or chewing gum so I don’t believe that is an excuse here. And if you think you have bad breath, brush your teeth and use mouthwash before the date.

I think the OP could have been more polite in rejecting him but he did seem to ask for it. By commenting on whether she has intimacy issues he was pretty much asking for her reasons for rejecting him.

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MoniCAN June 21, 2012 at 10:00 am

I don’t understand why people seem to think it’s okay to smack gum around like crazy just because you’re quitting smoking.

A friend of mine is trying to quit after 30 years of chain smoking and she chews gum to help. But she chews quietly with her mouth closed and doesn’t feed another piece in every 5 minutes. I usually have no idea she’s chewing gum unless I offer her something to eat/drink and she says “no thanks, I’ve got gum.”

You can chew gum quietly without making a scene of it.
I doubt the OP was starting at Howard’s mouth. If she could hear him chewing the gum from across the car he probably had his mouth open for each chomp.

As for the post, agreed with all that it was not a good move to have a blind date pick you up at your home, especially in a remote area. Howard sounded less than smooth, but OP lost a lot of credit with her chopping him to bits with words at the end.

I disagree with admin that you can eat dinner with someone without staring at their mouth and magically not notice they’re eating like an animal. Unless you look to the side the entire dinner and wear headphones, you can’t ignore a totally sloppy eater.

Jessica (#61) is correct, this would be more fun in a bad romantic comedy with fine-looking actors playing the parts.

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WinkAndSmile June 21, 2012 at 11:35 am

My advice for anyone who is being set up on a blind date by a friend is to request that said friend join them on a double-date.

If you need to carpool, carpool with the friend, and have the others meet you at the destination.

As for the movie for a first date, I agree that if that is all you are doing, it is not conducive to getting to know a person. However, movie followed by dinner does give the people something to talk about. I would prefer a dinner at the friend’s house. It’s safe. You both know the friend. If you run out of conversation, your host can break out a board game or cards or some such. Another option for a first date that are conducive to conversation, yet provide distraction in case you can’t converse: a visit to an amusement park (you can have lots of conversations while waiting in lines) – the attractions provide a lot of distraction, if needed. If you don’t have an amusement park nearby, try a zoo or museum. You have to converse quietly in the museum, but it’s still allowed, if it’s not too loud.

As for chewing gum – it is not inherently rude. It may be annoying, but that does not make it rude. There may be valid reasons for the gum chewing, or it may be a personal quirk. It is not, however rude. If it bothers you, speak up. “I’m sorry, but the gum bothers me. Would you mind, please, spitting it out?” If he doesn’t want to, back it up with either of these two polite reasons: 1) I’m sensitive to the smell (valid concern, and true for many people – only use this if you truly are) or 2) The gum muffles your speech and makes it difficult for me to understand you, so it’s hard to get to know you better, while you’re chewing it (this may or may not be true, but it is plausible, reasonable, and in a way complimentary to the other person, as it shows an interest in them and what they have to say).

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Just Laura June 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Wendy,
Respectfully, if you believe that simple, regular oral hygiene will cure all bad breath, I’d like you to quickly educate yourself on the issue of halitosis and how it might be caused by diabetes, gum disease, chronic bronchitis, Atkins diet and kidney disease.
http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/bad-breath

Sure, flossing/brushing helps me, but I’m healthy. Others aren’t so lucky, so may turn to gum to avoid offending people with whom they have close contact.

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Missmolly June 21, 2012 at 7:52 pm

I’d say that they were both rude. Howard definitely needs to learn a thing or two about appropriate physical and conversational boundaries, particularly on a first date. The LW needs some common sense knocked into her. It is very bad form to publicly upbraid someone on their table manners, and even then, there are delicate ways to do so. The first part of the rant I could understand, as he was grilling her on her supposed “intimacy issues”. But the part of the table-manners was incredibly uncalled for and VERY mean-spirited: “I kept waiting for the rinse cycle light to come on. I thought of asking the waitress for fabric softener!”

Bottom line is, it’s incredibly unwise to say such things to the person you are relying on for a ride home.

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Emmy June 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I’m confused as to why the OP waited all the way til the end of the date to cause a scene, why not just speak up right away.

Gum chewing bugs you? Say “Howard, I’d really like to chat and get to know you better, Sally said how smart/funny/witty you are, but I’m having trouble understanding you, would you mind disposing of your gum?”, so it doesn’t outline that you find gum chewing rude, but it’s a first date, and to me this seems like a poliet way to address the gum issue.

He puts his hand on your knee? Well like E-Dame said, remove his hand and place it on his own knee. If he does it again firmly say “I’m sorry, I’m not comfortable with you touch me that way yet”, if he does it a third time, well I’d throw soda on him and leave. But you know, any variation thereof would’ve been fine.

If you were that annoyed, there was no reason to accept a dinner invite, a simple “Sorry Howie, I’m feeling rather tired and would like to return home now”, would’ve stopped you from having to deal with his open mouthed eating. But even then a simple “I’m sorry, could you please choose with your mouth closed, it’s a pet-peeve of mine”, could’ve nipped that in the bud.

If you don’t want something to happen-gum chewing, knee touching, dinner, coffee- you have to say something. First dates are akward, they’re like job interviews. You’re both dancing around each other trying to figure out what is and isn’t acceptiable to the other person and still trying to be impressive to that person. But waiting until the very end to lay into him, that’s just dramatics for dramatics sake. You hadn’t, at any other point, voiced a disagreement. As far he knew, everything was dandy.

Good news is, after listing each and everyone of a relative strangers faults, you were able to hop back in a car with him and be returned safely home. Some of the guys I know, would’ve left your behind at the resturant after that scene.

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justme June 23, 2012 at 1:37 am

@Katie & Library Diva: I agree. I think the most offensive thing this guy did was criticizing the OP for rejecting his advances (and having the arrogance to suggest that he knows “the real her” despite never having met her before). This indicates that he never considered that his behavior may be inappropriate, and instead thinks that there’s something wrong with her for not responding in the way he wanted (and has the audacity to tell her so). It’s not really about the gum-chewing or the bad table manners: it sounds like the OP was willing to put up with these until he really pissed her off, and then she let loose. Was she being a bit mean? Yeah, probably. But who hasn’t snapped (or been tempted to) when pushed to the limit? This doesn’t make her “prissy”, “snotty”, or “pretentious”, or any of the other insults flying around here. It just makes her human.

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Nicole June 25, 2012 at 2:14 am

I personally don’t like physical contact with people I don’t know…but I believe I would’ve just moved my leg quickly away when I felt his hand on it.
And I would’ve probably gotten angry as well at the comment he made at the end, though I probably wouldn’t have laid into him about it. Him assuming that he knew her was bad form, though. You can’t really know someone after only an evening out together.

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Ally June 28, 2012 at 2:34 am

@Cupcake – In love with your post! Its so spot on.

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Sara E. August 17, 2012 at 3:50 am

He may have been uncouth, but it was downright mean to rip him apart like that. I think that could have been handled with much more class.

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