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All Petered Out

This is a story about someone I went on a date with when I was 17. I know that the people on this site don’t look kindly on spinelessness, and I make no excuses for my actions. I think that at the time I was too anxious to say anything and didn’t want to look bad in front of others. Now I look back at it I think about what an idiot I was!

An acquaintance set me up on a blind date with a guy I will call “Peter.” I spoke to Peter a few times before we went on the date, and he was nice to me, but said a few things that made me uncomfortable. For instance, he said my interest in horror fiction was a waste of time and that women weren’t able to write good books. He seemed to have little social awareness, and told me that he became very nervous around girls. I thought he probably didn’t understand that he sometimes sounded rude.

Peter and I arranged to meet at a London Underground station. He said hello and called me “Lizzie”, but my name is Lucy. He had my email address, he had spoken to me before, and should have known what my name is. I corrected him and he apologized, but continued to call me Lizzie all through the evening. When I told him that this was beginning to upset me he said it shouldn’t matter as it was “not my real name”.  (I am Chinese, and Lucy is the name I use in English.) I was annoyed that he couldn’t even remember something basic about me, but it was not the worst thing that happened that evening.

We went to a coffee shop where there was a woman serving alone at the counter. As Peter ordered our drinks, he was obviously leering across the table at the waitress, and she was becoming uncomfortable. At that stage I was worried and not sure that I wanted to stay, but I was willing to give Peter another chance, and I knew I’d have nothing to do for the evening if I left now. During the course of drinks he spilt hot tea in my lap and began talking about very personal things relating to his mental health and social anxiety. So I tried to change the subject to more appropriate topics like family and hobbies. When I mentioned that my sister and I each have a different father, Peter said something like, “No offense but your mother must be kind of a slut!” I was shocked by this and decided there wasn’t going to be a second date.

Peter wanted to have dinner in Chinatown so we walked there and looked for a restaurant. The first restaurant we looked at wasn’t to his taste, and when someone came over to ask if we wanted a table, Peter said to the waiter’s face that the restaurant “looked too cheap.” While we were walking around the streets Peter went into an alleyway to answer his phone, apparently to his father. Peter was near enough for me to hear the conversation, and at one point he said I was not as pretty as he thought I’d be! We went to another restaurant that Peter preferred, and we finally sat down to order dinner. He expected me to be able to converse fluently with the waiters and was irritated to find out that not all Chinese people speak the same language; I speak Mandarin, the staff spoke (and the menu was written in) Cantonese. Peter’s antics were quickly making me lose my appetite, and when he noticed I wasn’t eating much, he began eating the food off my plate.

We left the restaurant and Peter got on his phone again to his friends or family. He was asking, while standing right next to me, what to do next on the date and whether he should try to kiss me. When the call ended I tried to tell him I was leaving now; but then his phone rang again. Peter answered it and then said that he was going into a nearby McDonald’s to use the toilet – I took that to mean that he didn’t want me to hear his conversation. As soon as his back was turned I ran and got on a bus to go home. Peter didn’t contact me again. I suppose it was just too much trouble for him to remember my name and not to insult me to others. 0625-12

OK, readers, I really do not want to see a plethora of comments suggesting that Peter has Asperger’s.   Enough of blaming Aspergers on every maladroit, socially awkward young suitor.

{ 79 comments… add one }
  • Cat Whisperer July 10, 2012, 6:50 pm


    This is the kind of story that makes the strongest possible arguments against going on blind dates. Seriously: if you’ve never met the person you’re going out with, if you have to go out at all, make it for someplace where you can make a quick exit if things just aren’t going well. Meeting for coffee is great; meeting at a Farmer’s Market or a mall food court would work; just something where you aren’t stuck in a bad situation if things don’t go well. You have to have some survival instinct!

  • K July 10, 2012, 7:27 pm

    Oh my. It seems I am acquainted with the female version of Peter. Down to the calling of people by the wrong name even after corrected (she called my daughter the wrong name for nearly a year), the cell phone calls during inappropriate moments, the constant brain-to-mouth filter blunders. And she blames it all on her “mental condition.” And that’s the worst part of all – she, and Peter, don’t care to make the effort of learning appropriate behavior.

    OP, I’m glad you were able to get rid of this jerk. Unfortunately, mine is someone I can’t completely get rid of, as she’s a good friend of one of my good friends, and I have to endure running into her at parties from time to time.

  • Maggie July 10, 2012, 10:11 pm

    I don’t understand why the OP couldn’t read the menu. Perhaps she had just totally given up by then!

  • Anderlie July 10, 2012, 11:24 pm

    My diagnosis: ‘nice guy’ in training.

  • Jessica July 11, 2012, 5:23 am

    There’s clueless and there’s rude. As someone said: the inclusion of the phrase “no offense” by its mere presence excludes clueless. Which leaves us with rude. No neurypsychiatric diagnoses needed.

  • Andie July 11, 2012, 8:49 am

    I’m starting to think I should send teenagers to this site (and MyVeryWorstDate) just so they can see that the urge to flee is a perfectly valid feeling to acknowledge.

  • Weaver July 11, 2012, 9:09 am

    Ugh! What a horrible experience. I completely understand your not acting differently than you did at the time, especially as you were only seventeen.

    Some men, I fear, use a so-called ‘lack of social awareness’ or ‘nervousness around girls’ to excuse their atrocious behaviour. In my experience, they’re just using those excuses to see how far they can push and control people (especially women; particularly vulnerable or relatively inexperienced women) and probably take pleasure in their vile experiments. He couldn’t even be bothered to call you by your name? Yuk.

    Women aren’t “able to write good books”? An interest in horror fiction is “a waste of time”? Well, thank goodness this shining example of humanity educated us all. That phone call would have been enough for me to end the relationship right there – although I might not have had the sense to do so at seventeen I have to admit.

    Kudos to you for having the sense to get out of that situation when you did. I imagine, that as you’ve since posted this story, you have now gained the confidence to nip that sort of thing in the bud at the first opportunity. Here’s wishing you the best of luck in your future as a confident, savvy lady (with a healthy interest in horror fiction)!

  • James July 11, 2012, 9:20 am

    I can’t do more than agree with the awesome comments to this story; aspergers or not, Peter was rude & selfish. One can only hope he learned to care for others more when he got older.

  • mechtilde July 11, 2012, 11:01 am

    @ Maggie- Mandarin and Cantonese are very different languages. The OP may be able to recognise that a menu is in Cantonese, but she wouldn’t be able to understand it. It would be the equivalent of an English speaker being handed a menu in German and being expected to understand it.

  • SV July 11, 2012, 11:01 am

    @Maggie – She couldn’t read the menu because it was written in a foreign language, one that her date assumed she could read.

    OP – Exactly what kind of friend was it that set you up with this person?? What a terrible date!

  • Riri July 11, 2012, 11:32 am

    Peter is just rudeness itself! Sorry for you, OP! Hope you never encountered dates like that again! And “Not your real name”? How would he like it if people referred to him as “That rude guy” instead of “Peter”?

    Btw, Mandarin and Cantonese use the same writing system, though. Do you mean traditional and simplified Chinese?

  • Kendo_Bunny July 11, 2012, 3:26 pm

    I have never met anyone on the spectrum who is okay with blanket statements like “women can’t write” and would never say “no offense” because it wouldn’t occur to them that what they are saying could be construed as offensive. The whole not picking up social cues also includes not picking up on what is offensive to people in general.

    This guy was a jerk. Maybe he had social anxiety, but that’s one of those conditions that can be worked on to a degree. There is medication, there are therapists and support groups. It can’t be cured, but it can be helped. Instead he just sounded like an arrogant berk who expects the world to cater to his tastes, because he happens to have a diagnosed mental illness, and that means the world owes him something. I struggle with mental illness, as do several members of my family, and many of my friends. All of us have had the unfortunate experience of being in group therapy sessions where one person with a mental illness has decided that makes them the most unique special snowflake ever, and the world owes them a little extra sweetener, because it was so unfair. I don’t know how it is for people with other disabilities, but I’ve never heard a blind person say that the world needs to bend around them because it’s so unfair that they were born blind. I’m sure they exist, but it makes me think the prevalence I’ve seen in group therapy just points to a lot of undiagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

  • Powers July 11, 2012, 5:44 pm

    English and German use the same writing system too, Riri. But that doesn’t make them mutually intelligible.

  • Jenny July 11, 2012, 8:39 pm

    My Dad is a Doctor who works with kids with autism and asperger’s and there’s nothing more tiring that people who think they can diagnose something as complicated as Asperger’s from a basic online description of a date.

    Seriously. Stop it. This is a real thing affecting real people and it’s turned into the internet’s new excuse for everything. Even if someone here WAS a doctor, they would know it is horribly irresponsible to “diagnose” someone from such little information. My Dad would never diagnose someone from this – he would want to run very specific tests or ask very specific questions to figure out an exact diagnosis.

  • koolchicken July 12, 2012, 4:59 am

    First of all thank you, thank you, thank you to the admin! I really appreciate what you wrote. As someone who does have Aspergers I find it an ettiquite breach on its own the way so many see any social inadequacy (or lunacy) as an oppertunity to suggest Aspergers as the cause. It’s extreamly offensive to those who do live with Aspergers and I feel often makes social anxiety worse as your worried one misstep will have you lumped in with people like Peter in the minds of others.

    To the OP, under the circumstances I think you did the right thing. So far as I’m concerned when he announced he would be retiring to a restroom (presumably to talk about you more) he ended the date. You did everything you could to be polite and Peter, well I’m sure this won’t be the last time someone submits a story about him to this site. All anyone can hope for is that early dating disasters help to teach you the “right” way to act on a date. In Peters case he still has a lot to learn, for you, leave earlier and without regrets. At least you got a crazy story out of it and you’re another frog down to finding your prince. 🙂

  • The Elf July 12, 2012, 7:54 am

    I understand what you are saying, Jenny, but our collective unprofessional armchair diagnoses are merely attempts to understand how a behavior may or may not be simple rudeness (or how the situation might be more complicated). I think it is understood by all that these are not in any way official.

  • Enna July 12, 2012, 8:51 am

    I feel sorry for Lucie for having that bad expierince with that man – I think he was using his autism as an excuse as many struggle to communicate properly: the Yorkshire Ripper was paronoid schizophrenic but still considered and was responsible for his actoins. I disagree with grey ghost and elle though – I think if he did have autism and said so the OP would have mentioned it. Having or not having a mental condition is no excuse for being a twit.

    I was in a realtionship for a year with a man who had asperdgers, I did break it off and when when he met someone else he stopped talking to me. He was blunt but not cruel – I hasten to add that the relationship just wasn’t working, he was a good bf whose heart was in the right place.

    This man who OP dated was an idiot. Normally people with aspergders have higher IQ and don’t forget things like people’s names. Would be interesting to know what kind of mental/social issues he had that could make a man behave in such a bad way but none come to mind that would make someone call another’s mother a “slut”.

  • Queen Medic July 12, 2012, 9:49 am

    Jenny, thank you. I hate when people try to diagnose without any understanding of the condition they are talking about. My father has had Tourettes, ADHD, Mania and various tics all his life, and it outrages me when people talk about how ‘cool’ having Tourettes would be because they could swear all the time and get away with it. (Which is Coprolaia, not Tourettes.)

    Last night, in fact, my mother was telling me about how her boyfriend’s mum has Schizophrenia. I cut her off and asked ‘Was she diagnosed?’ The response was ‘No but she acts like two people – She can be happy one minute then angry the next.’ Cue me explaining how insanely rare multiple personality disorder was, and various other things it could be etc. (Dear mum has a habit of self-diagnosing from things she’s heard, so I try deter her to get the facts first.)

  • Jessica July 12, 2012, 10:40 am

    I’m still with Jenny, though. Even if we are all agreed that it’s just speculation, it’s hurtful speculation. People with Asperger’s might not appreciate being lumped in as the go-to group for cluelessness just as us gingers don’t particularly like having our sexlives speculated about.

    All the Aspies I know have learned manners as a skill, as most of us have to, if we’re honest. The difference being that neurotypicals have the luxury of veering from learned manners when they feel the situation allows it, while my Aspie friends stick to manners since they’d rather be safe than sorry. They are also crushed if they find out they have hurt someone. Having Asperger’s only means you might not pick up from someone’s body language that you are making them uncomfortable – it doesn’t stop you from caring that you did, once you find out.

    I have a nephew who is autistic and whose autism is quite pronounced and while he can come off as blunt or clipped, he is never hurtful. If he is starting to feel crowded he will say “Could you please leave the room?” which might come off as oddly blunt to someone who doesn’t know but isn’t really rude (and actually very good progress for someone with his difficulties, it’s a compromise between him and his mother, my _amazing_ SiL, from unexplained tantrum via “Leave!” to “Could you please leave the room?”). Within family and friends it is understood that him asking you to leave, without further explanation, isn’t being rude. We don’t ask “Why?”, we just leave the room.

    The explaining-why bit is something he is working on at his own pace, so that he can communicate his need to be un-crowded to strangers in a productive way in the future. I feel very sad when I see the hard work he puts into finding good ways to communicate with people who don’t understand his disabilities – and then see him get lumped in with people who are _clearly_ just being horrible neurotypicals because people can’t be bothered to familiarise with the diagnoses they like to toss around like so much confetti.

    It’s difficult to explain because the spectrum is SO wide but no one who has spent any time around autists or Aspies could mistake “Peter’s” behaviour for something on the spectrum. Sure, people with Asperger’s _can_ be rude and obnoxious too but that’s not down to the Asperger’s, per se. That person would have been a d*ck if s/he was neurotypical. There is nothing in the story that even hints at Asperger’s. It’s like claiming he’s myopic or Scandinavian from the information in the OP. There isn’t enough information to draw that conclusion.

    As several peope have said: it’s very un-Asperger’s to make sweeping generalizations or to not call someone or something by its proper name. What we have in “Peter” is a person who clearly fails several types of Asperger’s litmus tests immediately but manages to come off as a perfect match for “Rude idiot who reads pick-up artist manuals.”

    I would speculate that one of the reasons people like to call Asperger’s (in situations that clearly have nothing to do with it or any other spectrum disorder) is that it is perceived as a benign diagnosis: Asperger’s ain’t so bad – heck, it can be pretty sexy from the right angle! They try to find a “nice” spin to someone doing something rude because they feel sorry for clueless men. But using Aperger’s to excuse rudeness and cluelessness diminishes people who genuinely have Asperger’s, it confuses the general public in regards to the signs of Asperger’s and, frankly, it diminishes men in general. The OP is “forgiven” for not showing spine on the understanding that she grew one after this. But “Peter” is given an out for never improving his dating skills and staying entitled? Why? Men aren’t somehow more stupid than women. Surely they learn from mistakes as well? Women with unwanted behaviours are responsible for stopping them – but men can always fall back on being excused with the Asperger’s hammer. Meahwhile bona fide Aspies get painted with the same brush, despite not displaying those particular behaviours at all because someone mistakenly believing the rudies have a condition that in no way makes people act in the way they just did?

    I mean… Whut..?

    This is not intended to diminish the views of posters who identify as having Asperger’s who think he may have. I do think you are selling yourselves short if you think people perceive you like they perceive Peter – but obviously you know your situations and how often you are accused of being rude a lot better than I can. I can only speak from what I see from the outside and to me there is a vast and easily identifiable difference between rude and “probably Asperger’s”. If you know that you do your best to mitigate the obstacles that stem from your situations, then I think it’s the people that might call you rude, who are rude.

    Many NTs when faced with Asperger’s can tell the difference between things coming out wrong and someone being a d*ck. It’s just difficult to pick up on that in text, which might be why some still insist on trying it out on “Peter”.

    If we stop attributing every bit of behaviour that comes off as odd or rude to us, to various diagnoses, then maybe more will learn to tell the difference? *fingers crossed*

    OP – I’ve been 17. Some people are naturally assertive, I certainly was not. If someone would be so presumtuous as to judge me based on how I behaved at 17, I would not take their opinions very seriously. If we want 17-yearold girls to behave assertively then a good start would be not to judge every single step they, or other women, take.

    And see it this way: if you’d left the moment he called you the wrong name for the second time, you wouldn’t have this story to tell and by gum, it’s a humdinger. There is sometimes a morbid fascination in seeing how rude a person can get.

  • MyMelody July 12, 2012, 7:20 pm

    “OK, readers, I really do not want to see a plethora of comments suggesting that Peter has Asperger’s. Enough of blaming Aspergers on every maladroit, socially awkward young suitor.”

    Hello there, after reading this I thought I might share my experiences. I have had relationships with three different people with Aspergers Syndrome. Never in my life have any of them ever treated me like Peter has treated that poor woman. I definitely agree with the above statement.

  • Riri July 12, 2012, 7:33 pm

    @powers, actually, there is a great number on dielects in china and mandarin-speaking countries, but all of them share the same writing sets. It id typically understood that two people who speak different “dielects” (although now everyone is expected to be able to communicate in proper mandarin) can communicate perfectly via writing, correcting for dielect-specific idioms, of course. The character for “takeout”, for example, will be same, although pronounced differently in mando, canto, hokkien, etc. English and German are different languages, dear 🙂 mandarin and cantonese are not.

  • Me July 12, 2012, 10:50 pm

    I think that ultimately, when you’re on a blind date, it doesn’t matter if your date is being an obnoxious jerk because of a mental condition (Aspbergers, anxiety, etc), because they’ve had a bad day or are nervous and clueless, or because they’re fundamentally an unpleasant person. They are still not getting a second date, and their date is still justified in cutting the evening short.

    If someone has a mental illness or level of social ineptness the effects of which are to send a blind date screaming into the night in horror, then they need to get either find dates in an environment where people know about, are familiar with, and accepting of their issues, or they need to seek treatment/training to be able to function acceptably in that sort of social situation, or they need to meet people in a non-date environment, so that people can get to know the person behind the issues before becoming romantically involved.

    And as an aside – it’s not uncommon for women in particular to rationalize themselves into horrible relationships because they want to thing the best of their date, or don’t want to be mean. “He was probably just nervous”, “He’s a nice guy, really, you just don’t know him well enough to see his sweet side”, “He just wants to protect me”, “His last girlfriend really hurt him, so it’s not his fault he’s jealous and controlling”, “He has depression – it would be mean to dump him because he’s moody and unavailable – he can’t help it.”

  • Jenny July 13, 2012, 8:33 am

    My point is that it creates some sort of negative stereotype about people with Asperger’s; they’re all rude, socially inept. One of the politest young men I met was a little boy with Asperger’s; he had worked very hard with his therapist to figure out the situations.

    Saying every jerk may have Asperger’s implies the reverse (every person with Asperger’s is a jerk). And it just isn’t true.

  • Lain July 13, 2012, 10:47 am

    @Maggie: Mandarin and Cantonese are dialects. Not wholly unintelligible, but it’s a real struggle to figure out the other. For example, when asking how much something costs, the literal translation in Cantonese could be “give you how much money”, but in Mandarin it’s closer to “a lot or a little money”. I wouldn’t put it as drastic as English and German; more like American English vs. Scottish English.

    As a sidenote, if the OP was referring to the written menu, she may have meant simplified vs. traditional Chinese. Like the dialects, there are similarities, but it took me *months* to realize that some of the characters I was learning in simplified, I had learned as traditional ten years ago!

  • Mabel July 13, 2012, 3:42 pm

    I just thought Peter was an idiot.

    People who set you up should know you well and know something about your romantic preferences. A lot of awful blind dates seem to be setups where the engineer assumes that two people will have a lot in common merely because they are single.

    This reminds me of something my mother did a long time ago. She had moved to a bigger city to get a new career going. I went to visit her apartment once after a breakup and she introduced me to her neighbor, a younger guy about my age. She practically forced us together and suggested, “Go for a walk! You guys should get along great!”

    We took a short walk around the grounds, and it soon became apparent that he had some issues with social interaction, although whether they were due to any disorder or just inexperience, it was difficult to tell. He invited me back to his place for a dessert. He served me a sweet roll that was COMPLETELY RAW and then showed me a guitar and a bunch of crap he was very proud of. I ate the raw roll to be polite, complimented his crap and then excused myself as fast as humanly possible. He said it was nice to meet me, and I said likewise. Then I left.

    I got back inside my mom’s apartment and told her, “Please do not ever do that to me again. EVER.” I have no idea to this day what the hell she was thinking. I imagine he was just as uncomfortable as I was, to have some random girl shoved at him by his neighbor! Worse, she did it again later, with her computer guy, who began our conversation with “Boy, do I have a lot of problems. A LOT.” I headed that one off at the pass by talking incessantly about my ex!

  • - July 14, 2012, 9:17 pm


    Cantonese is completely different from Mandarin Chinese.
    I speak Mandarin Chinese, yet I don’t understand a word of Cantonese.
    Plus, there are two different types of Chinese alphabet. Some people know both, but others know only one of them.

  • Cat Whisperer July 16, 2012, 11:22 pm

    Regarding people who tell you that they’re “social awkward,” or who preface their interaction with you by showing a “get out of jail free” card– i.e., “I’m social awkward,” or “I have this-that-or-the-other syndrome,” or whatever:

    If the next words out of their mouth aren’t: “…and this is the form of therapy/treatment I’m in to minimize the effect it has on my interactions with people…”, then you need to RUN AWAY FAST. And not look back.

    Someone who genuinely cares about how they interact with other people will, upon being handed a diagnosis of a problem, actively seek to find a way to make things better: i.e., therapy or treatment of some sort to mitigate the problem.

    Someone who just wants a “pass” for whatever awful cr@p they pull will play the “get out of jail free” card and expect that that’s all they have to do. And if you’re unable to tolerate whatever outrages they throw at you, the implication is that YOU’RE the transgressor for failing to forgive them in advance for their behavior.

    This I simply do not buy. There are minimal standards of decency for human interactions. The most fundamental of those is AWARENESS that you’re giving offence, and feeling distress upon finding out that you’ve given offence– even if you don’t quite understand what it is you’ve done that gives offence. People who are fundamentally decent people, in the most basic definition of decency, are aware that they can give offense, wish to avoid giving offense, feel distress when they see they’ve given offense, and will offer sincere and authentic apology for giving offense. Not necessarily abject or huge apology, but at the very least something along the lines of “I’ve said or done something that offended you. I’m sorry, that was not my intention. Can you please help me understand what I did wrong?”

    For me, this is the minimum amount of “skin in the game” that I want to see the other person is willing to invest before I will continue to interact with them. If they are completely blind to causing offense, then I want out: I just don’t have the stamina to accept continual infliction of offense as the price for anyone’s company.

    …And if they aren’t blind to causing offense, they just think that they have some degree of specialness that frees them from the need to apologize for giving offense, then I’m going to drop any pretense of polite behavior and I’m going to run away from them as fast as I can. That kind of person is a life-sucker, and frankly I treasure my life too much to allow that kind of person to suck even a few seconds of it away from me. JMO.

  • Lea July 17, 2012, 11:29 am

    @Cat Whisperer – I totally agree with every word! Peter seems like one of these people. I had the “pleasure” of being in class with one last year, and it caused me a lot of unnecessary stress.

  • Kasey Longley November 26, 2012, 2:38 pm

    My husband has Asperger’s and he is quite the gentleman. This guy just sounds like a jerk.

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