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 }

CaffeineKatie June 19, 2012 at 4:15 am

I would think long and hard before I “went off” on a guy I didn’t know but still expected to drive me home waaaay out in the country after dark.

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admin June 19, 2012 at 9:00 am

CaffeineKatie, You make a very good point that I overlooked.

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sv June 19, 2012 at 6:52 am

Howard may not have been Prince Charming but you sound as though you had a chip on your shoulder long before he ever showed up. It was unbelievably rude of you to literally berate him over his eating habits. It appears that Howard had the better manners here, as I think you should consider yourself lucky that he still drove you home after that tirade. Gum chewing is gross, Howard should have kept his hands to himself, and no one wants to watch someone eat with their mouth open – but Howard was still the one who had a terrible date.

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mich June 19, 2012 at 7:17 am

I agree that it was very poorly handled. You started off making assumptions about him because of your own silly personal view on chewing gum of all things. He may not have had the manners and grace that you would have preferred but he wasn’t rude to you, he didn’t call you names of put you down. None of the offending behavior was intentional.

I think the OP is right. You should have taken more time to think about responses to such things and acted with the manners and grace you were trying to preach

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Chicalola June 19, 2012 at 7:20 am

I feel sorry for the poor guy and I’m wondering when I’ll see his side of it on the site!! You were unnecessarily cruel to him, for what? He made a bold move once, and wasn’t the best dining partner? His excessive gum chewing could have been due to nervousness, as well as his bad dining habits. I’m just blown away that you could be so mean after what would have been just one date with someone you’d probably never see again.

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Shannon June 19, 2012 at 7:24 am

This is why on a blind date, you should always drive yourself so you can escape if necessary. When I was single, I kept a $20 bill tucked into my bra so I could dash out and get a cab home if my date turned out to be a Handsy McOctopus.

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Erin June 19, 2012 at 7:32 am

It sounds like you went into it expecting to have a bad time and weren’t disappointed. You could have politely asked him not to chew gum (or ignored it, because it isn’t that terrible a habit – at least it wasn’t tobacco he was chewing!). You could have moved his hand as the admin suggested. There’s not much you can do for table manners, but the hyperbolic descriptions of everything else suggests maybe it wasn’t as bad as you made it out to be. He doesn’t sound like a prize, but you don’t sound like you were much of a fun date, either.

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Xtina June 19, 2012 at 7:34 am

I agree that everything after “go for it” was unneeded. I can sympathize with the OP’s bad date experience but I have to wonder if Howard was nervous or socially awkward and reaching too far in an attempt to make up for it; he sounded like it. And maybe all the gum was because he feared bad breath because he’d eaten or drank something earlier that had lingering effects? Or it could have been that he was indeed a rude dud, haha, but I still wouldn’t have gone that far in criticizing him.

The OP was lucky that she got a ride home–if someone had spoken to me like that, I might have considered leaving them there to find their own way home!

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Bint June 19, 2012 at 7:59 am

The irony is that Sally, who thought they’d be a good match, is right. Howard is boorish, rude, crude and cheap. So’s the OP. All that moaning and you still let him buy you dinner. Your post made me laugh for most of it, but that is cheeeeeeap.

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Just Laura June 19, 2012 at 8:26 am

I do feel bad that the “gentleman” put his hand on her knee. What sort of girl does he assume she is? Even as a teenager, I put the boy’s hand back on his own leg (as admin stated).

While I understand that in formal situations gum-chewing is frowned upon, this was clearly a casual meeting. It’s very common for people with halitosis (resulting from disease, diet, or medication) to chew gum to as not to offend their friends/dates. The extra gum was perhaps to make absolutely certain that you were not subjected to bad breath during that long car drive. Here is an article with health benefits to chewing gum: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/11/the-cognitive-benefits-of-chewing-gum/

I agree that this man was a bit presumptuous in claiming to know the “real” OP. That said, why would anyone ever suggest a movie date for a first date? That’s what high-school kids do. The couple may not share the same movie tastes, or may prefer to not sit for hours on end in the dark with a stranger, or might like to get to know the other person by talking. Still, for him to tell her that (along with other perceived flaws) is a a sign of a conceited person. Glad he was able to give her a safe drive back home.

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MiseryLovesYou June 19, 2012 at 8:27 am

I don’t think it can be said enough, gum-chewing is disgusting. On my first date with my current boyfriend he asked me about turn-offs and I told him gum-chewing was #1. Accordingly, he has been nice enough to never chew it in my presence. Chronic sniffling is a close second, thank god he doesn’t have allergies and I always have tissues in my purse for anyone who can’t understand that the sound of them sucking snot down their throat is unappealing.

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Melissa June 19, 2012 at 8:30 am

I find the LW to be the rude one here. Gum chewing annoys me as well but it doesn’t offend most people. Maybe he was nervous. LW should have let this go and not been so nit picky with a simple act of gum chewing.

As far as the movie goes, I fully agree with the Editor. It is passive aggressive to “squirm away” from unwanted affection. That calls for putting on your big boy pants and doing exactly as the Editor suggested…simply move his hand.

It is also incredibly rude to sit there “pushing chicken around your plate” while watching agape at his table manners. This is something you smile and let go of and then laugh about later. To top it off, the LW then launches into a highly rude and offensive and unnecessary rant. She seems to think she was being funny, but it was needlessly hurtful.

Making this even worse, it was the friend of a friend. Even if she didn’t care for the date, she should have had enough compassion to treat kindly so Sally didn’t have to suffer later.

All in all, a very childish and rude performance.

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Huh June 19, 2012 at 8:31 am

I thought she just didn’t like him right from the beginning and was being critical of his behavior, until the part when he openly criticized her.

If someone openly criticizes you like the date did to OP, how do you politely shut them up? I am curious, because I have had this happen with rude former family members that I still have to deal with and want to know a good alternative to just taking it (like I do) or going back at them (like the OP did.)

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boohaha June 19, 2012 at 8:57 am

I always think that first dates with the opposite sex should somewhat be treated as a first time out with a new friend.

The roving hands aside, would OP have reacted this strongly to a night out with a girlfriend? Would she have expected girlfriend to pick up the tab? Would she have thought the gum chewing anything but either a nervous habit or a bad breath problem? Would she have stared at a girlfriend eating her food like that?

I’m not saying this guy sounds all roses, and it’s obvious this isn’t going to work out, but I think a big part of etiquette is being gracious and I certainly don’t think OP was doing that.

I believe that we allow others to dictate our responses and attitudes too much by their words and actions. If someone is being boorish, crude, and juvenile–we don’t act boorish, crude and juvenile back. It’s childish to strike out at someone in this type of situation.

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Meow June 19, 2012 at 9:16 am

I’m sure if you had asked him to cool it on the gum he would have stopped, at that point he would have been still trying to make a good impression.

{The compulsive gum chewing could be a substitute for smoking, I’ve known a couple of former smokers who beat the habit by gum chewing and not just the nicotine gum either.}

Either way, you just weren’t feeling it, which is fine, not everyone feels that love connection on one date- if that were the case there would be no market for dating service-s but you weren’t feeling it from the beginning and instead of just calling it in you continued with it and when the evening was just about over you let into him. Not nice. I’m amazed you expected a ride from him after that. I’m more impressed by his behaviour with the fact he still drove you home to the middle of no where after that unnecessarily harsh tirade. He would have been well within his rights to direct you to the nearest cab. I also wouldn’t expect Sally to be very friendly after this either…

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Goldie June 19, 2012 at 9:22 am

My approach to first dates has been pretty much that of a kindergarten teacher — smile at them, say positive things, give them gold stars for effort. This is not technically a date yet — you’re just getting to know each other, so give each other a break. Chewing my date out in public, on a first date no less, is something that wouldn’t occur to me.

That said, in defense of OP, if a man asked me, on our first date, if I was afraid of intimacy, I’d probably be outraged. Chewing gum and having bad table manners is something I can overlook at this stage, but overstepping the boundaries is another thing. I’d go with admin’s suggestion, starting from “What an interesting assumption” and all the way down to “I don’t believe we have much in common”.

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Hanna June 19, 2012 at 9:31 am

I had a date go off on me similar to the way the OP did to her date. I didn’t comply to his physical forwardness (albeit, this was not a first date, it was like a 5th date) and he started laying into me. He wasn’t shouting at all, but he was telling me how predictable of a person I was, how I always hang out with the same friends and always have, how I will never take risks in life, etc. I knew all of the things he said about me were completely false and he was just mad that he didn’t get any from me that night. But I didn’t even give him the justification of a response (or take anything he said to heart) – although I may have said, “Right, okay” a couple times. We very shortly parted ways after that and one of my good friends said no when he later asked her out…

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Cat June 19, 2012 at 9:39 am

I worked with a woman who constantly wanted to critique my behavior. I smiled at her and said nothing. When she kept on to the point where I became annoyed, I said, “Kathy, in my next life I will be just like you. However, for this lifetime you will have to accept me as I am. I shall not be making any changes.”
The coup de grace came when she decided to remind me, in front of our boss, how important it was not to make mistakes on our job as it cost our business money. We got a report each quarter which listed all our mistakes for the previous quarter. She went on and on and I smiled and agreed that it was very important.
The boss had finally had enough and he had just read the report. He said to me, quite loudly, “You didn’t have any mistakes last quarter, did you?” I smiled and said, “No, I don’t believe I did.” Kathy turned beet red and shut up for good.
For the date, it is enough to say, “I feel that we don’t have enough in common to truly enjoy one another’s company. It was a pleasure meeting you though. Would you please drive me home now?”

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Stacey Frith-Smith June 19, 2012 at 9:41 am

Wow! Date-zilla. (And I don’t mean the attorney).

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Shalamar June 19, 2012 at 9:49 am

I’m going to go against the tide here and support OP. I absolutely loathe gum chewing, even the quiet kind, and you can’t tell me this guy was quiet when he had probably more than half a dozen sticks in his mouth. I would’ve been ready to scream by the end of the 40-minute drive and not at all ready to have a good time with this guy.

Honestly, if his table manners were that bad, chances are no-one has ever sat him down and said “Howard, dude, let’s talk about the way you eat.” (I’ve heard that many people who have terrible body odor have been astonished to find out that people think they stink, because no-one has ever had the guts to tell them before.) Could OP have been kinder about it? Certainly. She’d had enough at that point, and I would have, too.

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Shelly June 19, 2012 at 9:55 am

I get the feeling LW exaggerated Howard’s boorishness a bit so she could justify her nasty behavior towards him. As in, she hates when people chew gum, but knows it’s really her problem, so instead of just writing, He was chewing gum and I don’t like it – it became: He stuffed 50 pieces of gum in his mouth within 30 seconds – how dare he subject my delicate constitution to something so horrifying! And so on…

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Baku-chan June 19, 2012 at 9:55 am

Wow, he may have not been the most polite guy, but you’re no prize either, OP. First, you whine about his gum-chewing, which is hardly the worst thing in the world. As for the movies, it’s not like he tried to fondle you; he just touched your knee. His eating manners were deplorable and he was rude to criticize you for not wanting to be touched, but your cute little tirade against him was boorish and unnecessary. “How dare you!”, really? Melodramatic much?

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Lerah99 June 19, 2012 at 10:00 am

Wow, Letter Writter, you were really rude to “Howard”.

Just Laura makes an excellent point about people chewing gum to ensure their breath is tolerable. Years ago I tried the Atkins diet and after a week it made my breath unbearably sour. So I was constantly chewing gum or sucking on mints just to ensure other people were safe when I talked.

Plus, this guy is a good friend of your friend “Sally”. She probably talked you up to “Howard” and told him how wonderful you are. You certainly proved her wrong. Now she is in a position to apologize for your bad behavior.

I’m sure you felt self righteous and smug at the time, but I hope looking back you feel ashamed for your own bad behavior. So Howard wasn’t your Prince Charming. You didn’t like him being so forward in the movie theater, you didn’t like him chewing gum, you didn’t like his table manners, and you didn’t like his conversation… But none of that gives you the right to humiliate him in a public setting.

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Calliope June 19, 2012 at 10:12 am

From the way this is written, I get the sense that a lot of the details are exaggerated. My hope is that the OP’s tirade is also exaggerated or even a case of l’esprit de l’escalier; that is, the OP thought of what she’d like to say to this guy after the fact, and presented it here as if she’d said it in the moment.

It’s interesting to me that this entry is written as if the OP and Howard are characters in a book or a movie. I occasionally meet people who talk and toss off jokes and insults in an odd way, as if they’re emulating a character from a sitcom. It’s clear that it’s meant to be funny, but it usually comes across as forced and awkward, and sometimes just plain rude. That’s sort of the sense I’m getting here. Calling someone out the way the OP did is the kind of thing that can be funny when a character in a book or a movie does it, but when someone does it in real life, it’s not so much.

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Cobbs June 19, 2012 at 10:36 am

For the first date always meet the guy somewhere. Never rely on anyone unknown to you for a ride anywhere. Do the coffee shop or a park or any well lit, populated place for the first meeting. As others here have stated, movies can imply that you seek intimacy.

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Helen June 19, 2012 at 10:51 am

The OP sounds really stuck up.

She judged him harshly from the moment he arrived. Sure, he was no prince charming, but he at least made an effort. She could have at least been polite in return.

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Lisa June 19, 2012 at 11:06 am

OP seems a tad high maintenance and melodramatic to me. Sheesh; it was just a date. I have to wonder how many other men have been subjected to her wrath. I hope she reads these posts so she can get some perspective on how SHE comes across.

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--Lia June 19, 2012 at 11:19 am

I see this one much as I saw the last bad-date letter: Two people stepping on each others toes while realizing they’re not right for each other. Both are a little rude. Nothing too bad happens. You could argue all day about who started it. I’m a little on the OP’s side but terribly so.

The picture I’m getting of him is that of a guy who has put all his effort into learning to be that business man to the point where he has no experience dating. He’s okay with his old friend who arranged for the blind date, but other than that, he approaches romantic/sexual/social situations like he does job interviews or business negotiations. In those, coming on strong and being up front about what you want is a plus. Telling an applicant what he (she) did wrong on the interview is a kindness. That way, the applicant can make improvements and reapply or know for the next job. Reaching for a knee is a way of being clear. (I wonder if someone told him that was expected.) Stating that seeing a movie didn’t give him enough time to get to know her seems to fit this model. He wasn’t getting what he wanted from this interview (uh, er date). He didn’t have enough experience to know that going to a movie is perfect because it gives you something to talk about over dinner, something that’s not too terribly personal. Dating is all about not going for the jugular.

Which isn’t to say that I think he was okay, only that he sounds inexperienced. To me, returning fire with fire sounds like bad manners, but I wonder if he interpreted it that way. If he thought giving a critique of her behavior was okay, he might have thought her critique was fine. Think Sheldon and Amy Farrah Fowler exchanging their thoughts. The audience can laugh at their antics, but to each other, they’re just trading information. For all we know, telling Howard that his gum chewing is disgusting is exactly what he needed to know delivered in exactly the way he needed to hear it. His silence might have indicated attention, not abashment.

As for how bad can it be? A great deal worse. You went out, saw a movie, had dinner, and got a ride home. Bad is violence and stalking.

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Lacey June 19, 2012 at 11:28 am

I’m going to side with the OP too – dude could see that she wasn’t into him and decided to try to make her feel like there was something wrong with her for it. If a girl moves away from you when you decide to put your hand on her knee within half an hour of meeting her, the appropriate response isn’t to tell her that she must have a fear of intimacy – he sounds like a manipulative ass. The extra comments about his eating were a bit much, but she snapped on him out of defensiveness, IMO.

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LovleAnjel June 19, 2012 at 11:35 am

Both Howard and the OP are rude. OP needs to learn to talk. I agree that gum chewing is disgusting – the sound makes me nauseous. Just ask him to stop.

” 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.”

Admin is right – move his hand off. Say “Stop.” Instead, OP squirmed over so far that she intruded into the space of another patron? Rude. Get up & move if you’re afraid of the tentacles.

“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.”

It’s rude to stare.

“I mewled when asked if I wanted coffee. Howard took that for assent…”

What exactly was he to take that for? That you wanted your cat treats before being brushed? You are a human being. Communicate like one.

You were a bad date, and I’m sure Sally got an earful about how awful that prissy friend of hers was.

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Ellen CA June 19, 2012 at 11:43 am

I know this date would have been a disaster for me, I could not have gotten past the initial gum chewing. I know it’s my own personal issue and many people are not bothered by it in the least, but I find certain gum chewing habits revolting. Too much gum in the mouth is gross, gum snapping is really annoying, but the one gum offense that truly puts me over the edge is when you can see the gum in a chewer’s mouth while they are talking!

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Sarah Jane June 19, 2012 at 11:43 am

I chew gum and mints to avoid bad breath and to keep my mouth moist so I don’t have trouble speaking, especially when I’m a little nervous. I try not to chew it loudly; I’m not sure why just the act of chewing gum bothers some people. It doesn’t seem much worse to me than someone cracking his knuckles or constantly checking his phone…all habits I’ve learned to tune out.

Yes, he was presumptuous to touch her knee and then to ask her about it. I agree, it’s silly to suggest a movie on the first date, but he could have voiced his protests while they were still planning the date.

I agree with those who have said the OP was unjustified in her rudeness. For heaven’s sake, just get the date over with and get home. You don’t have to see him again.

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LovleAnjel June 19, 2012 at 11:47 am

@Huh

There are two tactics I like for dealing with rude/criticising family members:

1. The smile & nod. No, seriously, smile and nod like you mean it. It will throw them off their game – they expect you to get riled up, and if you just smile & shrug, or whatnot, they don’t know what to do, and end up floundering a bit before moving on to someone else.

2. Quietly get up and leave. Don’t say anything, don’t slam things down on the table, just quietly get up & leave. I prefer to go to the bathroom and stay in there long enough for the conversation to turn away, and then go somewhere else – the kitchen, the room where the nieces are playing, whatever is away and engage in activity of some sort.

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Queen Medic June 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I admit that OP was rude in her treatment of Howard, but I just can’t get my head around how many people here think chewing gum is a bad thing! Honestly! Some people have bad breath, some people’s gum prevents them smoking, they might be nervous etc. It’s hardly like they’re smoking and blowing it in your face. The only reason I dislike gum is because the smell of the mint ones make me feel queasy. But that’s hardly an excuse for me to tell someone to stop it!

Now, if you’re reading, OP, don’t feel like everyone is against you. You may have exaggerated in your story, you may have been rude to Howard, and subsequently your friend, but just chalk it up to experience. You handled a date wrong. Now you know how to handle it well in future! My advice to you is remember not everyone is the same. Just because you have one outlook on, say, his eating habits, doesn’t mean he’s doing it on purpose or thinks it’s how everyone should eat. You’ll never know your flaws if they aren’t noticed! Next time you encounter something like this, make it known that YOU don’t like it, not generalize that it’s a horrible thing for everyone. He can eat however he wants when you’re not around. (But don’t bring this up bluntly on the first meeting!)

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Claire June 19, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Ouch. That was a terrible date for all concerned…the habits Howard displayed would certainly cause me to reconsider, or most likely decline a second date, but otherwise I think the OP is a worse offender, if circumstances were indeed as described, as it appears she didn’t even give him a chance to remedy his “faux pas”.

On a separate, personal safety note, I can’t believe anyone would have a first date pick them up from home, or drive them back there.

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Shannon June 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I’m driven utterly bonkers by gum chewing myself. The slurping noises aren’t just annoying, they make my stomach churn. When the gum hardens and the chewer starts smacking, I have to fight the urge to vomit. It’s not mild annoyance – to me it’s the equivalent of having a soiled diaper waved under my nose.

That said, there are constructive and not very constructive ways to deal with it. Framing it as your own personal peculiarity gets you over a lot of the awkwardness, “I’m sorry, and I know this is very particular of me, but the sound of gum chewing bothers me. Could you please spit out the gum?” I used to work with a woman who was an avid gum chewer – we simply made a joke of it and moved on. “I have gum! I’ll maintain a five-foot perimeter!”

I can’t understand why the OP couldn’t just ask the gentleman to ease up on the gum, or ask to turn on the radio to drown it out a bit.

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Meegs June 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm

People, just because some of you don’t like gum-chewing does not make it rude. It is a very common and popular thing to do.

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June June 19, 2012 at 12:36 pm

OP forgot to toss her glass of wine at Howard while she was ranting.

Seriously, though, it’s simply not safe to rely on a stranger for a ride. Next time you go on a first date, meet them at that location. This guy’s worst car habit is chewing gum, but what if he pulled out a road beer when you were halfway to your destination?

OP also sounds quite defensive in the beginning about choosing the movie theater. That was nicely explained later. I wonder what Sally said when OP complained about her awful date…

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nk June 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I must say the OP sounds ruder than Howard. We all have a few instances where we don’t behave exactly as we should, and part of etiquette is overlooking those small lapses in others just as we hope others would overlook our own small lapses. This includes minor things like chewing too much gum or spilling some gravy. To me, making a scene and loudly berating someone for a few small things is ruder than the small things themselves.

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acr June 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I think OP was pretty mean and unfair to Howard. His only mistake that I can see is asking if she was “afraid of intimacy”. That is a very inappropriate question. The hand on the knee – a little forward, but in this day and age it’s apparently not uncommon for people to fall into bed after a date or two – or at least that’s the impression the media gives. Like many others have said, everything after “go for it” was cruel and unnecessary.

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Shannon June 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Meegs – gum chewing in and of itself is not rude. What is rude is not knowing how to chew gum discreetly. Smacking, slurping, cracking, and gnawing on gum are absolutely revolting noises. Once the gum gets hard, spit it out into a wrapper and throw it out. Don’t keep worrying it like a dog with a bone.

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MidoriBird June 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm

OP lost all my respect when she hurled in his face his shortcomings. Yes, I view chewing gum noisily around others is rude (I personally do chew once in a while, but when I’m alone) and displaying piggish manners as he did would ruin my appetite. But in no way, shape, or form does one EVER come out with the critical lashout the OP provided. It is beyond rude, beyond boorishness, beyond the pale. I’m inclined to think this guy was incredibly nervous to display the behaivor he did (at least the gum chewing) but you didn’t even try to ease his insecurities, OP, you drove the stake home in the body of the head vampire, so to speak.

We have no idea how sensetive this guy is but with an all-out frontal, verbal assault like that cause a lot of damage. Quiet discretion is the key to getting out of a bad date; not an unrestrained blast of verbal exhaust fumes. It wasn’t Howard who had the worse bad breath, and I’m not talking about smell.

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AMC June 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Howard wasn’t perfect but it sounds to me like you went into the date with a bad attitude. While he should have kept his hands to himself at the movie, the gum-chewing and sloppy table manners were minor offences. Regarding his rather confrontational question about you shrinking away in the theater, I think your first sentence (“I shrank away from you because…”) was sufficient. Nothing beyond that was needed and you certainly didn’t have to go off on him.
This is why I’ve always hated blind dates. Howard is probably actually a nice person (Sally seems to think he is) and you probably are too, but that does not automatically mean that you and he would be a good match. Here are two nice people who know nothing about each other and are thrown together for an evening, and they’re supposed to find some common ground and make some sort of magic happen out of nothing? I have to wonder what the success rate is for blind dates. It can’t be good. And yet people keep setting their friends up with strangers anyway and we end up with awkward evenings like this one.

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Shoegal June 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I have a serious aversion to gum chewing – I simply can’t handle it and my only recourse in most situations is to find some way to flee. If I promised to go on a date with Howard – it would have ended before it began. I do understand that everyone has a right to chew gum and I’m the one with the problem – but that would have been an absolute living hell for me. Watching him roll the food around in his mouth would have also been torture.

BUT there was really no need to verbalize out loud to his face what you think of him – you can do it publicly behind his back on this forum.

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SJ June 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm

While it would have been more straightforward to place his hand back where it belonged, I’m fairly sympathetic to the OP for most of the story. When she tells him why she didn’t want his touch, that’s fair, too.

Howard’s criticism of her behavior on the date was completely uncalled-for, and probably a manipulation technique. I understand her desire to retaliate, even if it was too far.

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Goldie June 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm

I, too, am puzzled by all the gum-hating on this thread. Cannot tell you if any of my dates chewed gum or not, because it just doesn’t register with me. Plus, I prefer my date’s breath to be fresh. If the OP is that averse to gum-chewing, that’s fine, but then she should’ve said something instead of suffering in silence for hours. Most people don’t mind gum, Howard is not a mind-reader and could not know that you’re one of the few ones that do. Say something.

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LonelyHound June 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I, personally, have no pity or sympathy for the OP. In fact, reading what she did to Howard, however rude his behavior, makes me upset. Folks, I belong to the ranks of the socially awkward. I am working on it. So, I know what it is like for Howard right down to the hurtful tirade OP put him through. Because I declined a date with a person of a different faith (this is important) he told me he feared for my immortal soul. I told him I believed strongly in my faith and he obviously believed strongly in his, and that fact alone might be a hinderance for any relationship.

OP, you had ample opportunity to ask Howard to remove the gum. If there was any chatter at all in the car you could have simply said that you were having trouble hearing him and could he please remove the gum. Gum chewing does not squick me out but it does make any coversation difficult. The hand during the movie should have been placed directly back in his lap. If you were dissatisfied with the date after the movie, due to the gum and hand, you should have terminated the date there. I am sure we can all agree that eating with your mouth open or talking with if full is rude, but so is staring. When he then went off on his critique of your behavior particularly the part about being afraid of intimacy your reply could have been something more tactful. Such as, I am nervous on first dates so prefer my space, I did not realize you would consider the movies an intimate setting or I would have suggested coffee or I am old fashioned and would prefer to get to know you a little better before doing that. Exploding the way you did was uncalled for and particularly ungracious for a man you expected to drive you home after that tirade. The fact that he did truly speaks to his character.

Then again, hindsight is 20/20.

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Andie June 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I wish letter writers would quit trying to embellish their stories. The little dramatic touches here make the LW look like a cartoon pearl-clutching priss. (“How dare you!” and “Why, I never!”) It’s weird how much of the time she spent staring at this guy’s mouth.

That said, that guy lost my sympathy when he tried to psychoanalyze her. Maybe that was the point he thought “go for it” because no thinking person would believe that a favorable response would come from a criticism like that.

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Calypso June 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I’m going against the tide here—-yes, if OP had done everything the Admin and most of the posters are suggesting, she’d have nothing to reproach herself with in terms of etiquette and gracious behavior. And then Howard would keep going on dates and behaving like an oblivious boor and wondering why he never gets a second date.

Touching someone you just met when you haven’t received any signals that it’s welcome is boorish and rude. Asking someone what they want to do on a date and then criticizing their choice is stupid. Telling someone you just met that “when you laughed you were sexy, that’s the real you” is infuriating.

Yes, the OP could have endured it gracefully and made her escape….but maybe, there’s a tiny glimmer of a possibility that her rude reaction *might* serve as a little much-needed education for poor Howard.

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David June 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm

If Howard had tried to place his arm around the OP during the movie that would be one thing, but placing his hand on her knee? After one phone call and part of a movie? Then discussing whether she has a fear of intimacy and how sexy she is when she laughs and how that’s the real her? On the first date? It just makes my brain hurt. It’s like he read every bad “How to Pick Up Girls” book on the market and took the advice to heart.

The OP does not get a pass, however. Everything after “How dare you presume to know the real me?” was unnecessary. Luckily they had a mutual friend in common, it made the ride home safe for her and she actually got a ride home.

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German Shepherd June 19, 2012 at 4:24 pm

David, you pretty much summarized everything I was going to say except for Howard placing his arm around OP (still too forward when they barely know each other). Howard is amazingly clueless and his rude remarks about the OP and intimacy ticked me off. Also: “a couple of times during the movie you laughed and that was really sexy, that was the real you.” Grrr! Why is it that some people need to be physical with those whom they have just met and barely know? It shows what you really want from the person. Another Grrr!

With that being said, OP should’ve kept her mouth shut about Howard’s table manners and had had emergency cab cash. I too don’t understand the gum hate and found OP being petty about it. Meow makes a good point about Howard probably chewing that much gum because of a smoking addiction. I feel that could be the case because I’m doing that.

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