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Getting Out Of A Bad Dating Situation (or How Etiquette Is Empowering)

I recently went on a date that left me feeling, for lack of a better word, icky.

My date with, let’s call him Jeff, was arranged by a friend. Jeff was an old buddy of her husband’s and had recently moved back into town. We texted back and forth and he seemed nice and polite, and we agreed to meet for a drink at a pub I know rather well. The date was for late in the evening as I had a work commitment and agreed to meet him afterward.

Jeff was already seated when I arrived. We ordered our drinks, and chatted while waiting for them to arrive. The conversation was odd, I’m not even sure how to describe it, but it was more like talking to a nervous fourteen year old than a man in his late thirties. I attributed it to first date jitters. He suggested a few times that we order some “entrees”, and I thought that a lot of food for so late in the evening. I eventually realized that he meant “appetizers”. I opted to stick with just a drink. He also suggested, several times, that we could go back to his place for a drink instead. Again, I declined.

When the waitress arrived with our drinks I removed my jacket to get more comfortable. Jeff very blatantly stared at my chest and said “WOW!” Now, I was not wearing anything revealing, and there was no reason (and there never should be) to make such a proclamation. I quickly pulled my jacket back on, told him that he had just made me very uncomfortable, and said a hasty good-night.

A younger me may have stuck around and finished my drink for fear of seeming impolite. I have learned that you do not need to keep yourself in an uncomfortable situation because of etiquette, and it is quite possible to exit such a situation gracefully. 0421-17

Eww!  Icky is right!  I think you handled it perfectly and I love that you had a polite but steely spine to take action promptly.   But I disagree that etiquette requires a person to remain in an uncomfortable situation out of some perceived need to be polite.  Etiquette is empowering because it is based on standards of behavior that gives freedom to remove ourselves from awkward, uncomfortable or dangerous situations while doing so with power and grace.   Sitting there in misery throughout the remainder of the date or reacting with drama (“You pervert!”, said screamingly) would have not been empowering etiquette.


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  • kgg January 25, 2018, 6:58 am

    OP, you are my hero!

  • at work January 25, 2018, 7:36 am

    An excellent model for how to handle this kind of situation. But of course what I really want is to know whether OP and her friend have talked about this yet, and what was said (OT and none of my business).

  • Liz January 25, 2018, 8:33 am

    I think, at my advanced age, I probably would have done the same thing the OP did, but also in my younger days, probably would have stayed, no matter how uncomfortable I might have felt.

    Good for you! I’d love to know what you told your friend and her DH about the date!

  • Vicki January 25, 2018, 9:04 am

    OP isn’t saying that etiquette would have required her to stay. She’s saying that when she was younger, she might have incorrectly thought it was rude to say “You just made me uncomfortable. Goodbye,” and now she knows that it’s not rude.

    A lot of people (and especially a lot of women) are taught that it is selfish, unreasonable, or rude to walk away from uncomfortable situations, or to say “no” to unreasonable requests. That’s encouraged by the unreasonable people, who will accuse you of being rude if you say no to lending them money, or giving up your free time to paint their garage, or spend all afternoon listening to a detailed description of their medical problems.

    Good etiquette encourages me to say “excuse me” as I walk away from the boor, o “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible” instead of “how can you possibly ask such a thing!?” But we need more than etiquette: we need to believe that walking away from a situation like that won’t ruin our lives or reputations. We need support from our friends, confidence that the OP’s friend won’t cut her off for “being so rude to that nice Jeff, he was only trying to be nice” or pressure her to go out with other old buddies of the friend’s husband, because “he’s an old friend” is supposed to trump “yes, and the last old friend of his you introduced me to was rude as soon as I took my jacket off.”

    • Rebecca January 26, 2018, 12:53 am

      I’d say he was rude before she took her jacket off. Repeatedly suggesting drinks at his place after she’s declined already. Who does that, anyway? Pretty much propositioning her right off the bat.

  • Jelly_Rose January 25, 2018, 10:24 am

    Well done! I wouldn’t have stuck around either.

  • Queen of the Weezils January 25, 2018, 10:59 am

    Love it! Other women may not have been so bothered by Jeff’s behavior, but it doesn’t matter. You were, and that’s what counts. We (women) need to learn that we don’t have to be endlessly accommodating in the name of “being nice” or “being polite”. Niceness or politeness doesn’t require us to stay in an uncomfortable situation. You weren’t mean, you weren’t rude. You ended the date both politely and safely.

  • staceyizme January 25, 2018, 11:12 am

    Nothing to add; except “go, YOU!”. Oh- except maybe to have a word with your friend. REALLY?

    • Queen of the Weezils January 26, 2018, 11:29 am

      Eh, I give the friend a pass. Jeff may not have wanted to get into mutual friend’s pants, and so mutual friend would not have seen this behavior. Or mutual friend wouldn’t be bothered by it, and so assumed OP wouldn’t.

  • Skaramouche January 25, 2018, 11:20 am

    Ms. Jeanne, what are you disagreeing with? OP seems to have said the same thing as you: etiquette does not equal remaining in uncomfortable/inappropriate situations under the mistaken assumption that it is “polite” to do that.

    What a horrible date, OP! I’m unsure whether he was a closet perv or just a 12 year old boy stuck in a man’s body. In either case you’re well shot of him but in the latter case, I almost feel pity.

    Was he of French background? I ask because he referred to appetisers as entrées.

    • Cattra January 28, 2018, 10:16 pm

      In Australia, we generally refer to starters as entrées as well.

    • Noodle February 2, 2018, 8:37 pm

      I think most of the world refers to appetizers as entrees and that actually makes more sense.

  • NostalgicGal January 25, 2018, 11:33 am

    I agree, bailing at that point was the best of the situation. Hope that he doesn’t stalk you virtually or for real (you did say you traded texts…) If the friend asks, just politely say, “It didn’t work out.” and beandip.

    • Dominic January 26, 2018, 7:44 am

      I would have to disagree with the suggestion of passing off any inquiries from the matchmaking friend by beandipping. On the contrary, she needs to know what happened so she doesn’t try to set anyone else up with this weirdo!

    • NicoleK January 26, 2018, 10:09 am

      I think she should matter of factly tell her friend. Don’t want the friend to set up some other poor woman with the guy!

    • bambi_beth January 26, 2018, 11:18 am

      I would most certainly make sure the friend knew how inappropriately Jeff behaved, so the friend does not try to set Jeff up with someone else, and possibly so the friend could address Jeff’s boorish behavior with Jeff. Predatory men thrive in an environment where their misbehavior is not discussed, even among their friends. They get years of repeated opportunities to harass and misbehave around people because their behavior isn’t discussed or addressed.
      I also believe it is occasionally appropriate (on a case-by-case basis, if the object of the advance is comfortable with her surroundings) to respond loudly or “with drama.” Predatory men should be rebuffed, attention drawn to them, and shame brought upon them for their actions. The object of their advances should not bear this burden further than the object is willing.

    • rindlrad January 26, 2018, 7:33 pm

      Just my two cents, but if I had set a friend up with this guy and he behaved this way, I’d want to know. I LIKE my friends. She doesn’t need to go into detail, but she can say that she left because his behavior made her uncomfortable.

    • NostalgicGal January 28, 2018, 11:26 pm

      That was my first reaction. I concede that the friend should know but also would have to know if it would mortally wound her if I said Hey, You meant well but Jeff’s a Creep. Maybe do a little homework of my own and see if this is the first time she tried to match up Jeff too, or if he’s been passed around a few times by her… and does he always act like this?

      Creeps don’t deserve a pass. Friend’s feelings, need to be addressed though.

    • NB January 31, 2018, 11:09 am

      I agree, there are kind ways to address this with the friend. I personally would give the friend the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn’t know he was a creep (she probably thinks he is single because he hasn’t met nice women like yourself yet), and then gently let her know that while you appreciate that she thought of you that you had an uncomfortable experience. Then she can properly understand that he is actually a creep and not try to set him up with her friends again.

      I was also curious as to whether Jeff tried to follow up with OP afterward.

  • KS January 25, 2018, 11:43 am

    Wow! I don’t know you but I am very proud of you! It is not always easy when you are in those situations to remove yourself.

  • Aleko January 25, 2018, 12:15 pm

    I don’t think that OP was saying that etiquette requires a person to remain in an uncomfortable situation out of some perceived need to be polite: rather that people who are young and/or unsure of themselves often feel, wrongly, that it does.

    What I find sad is that this man presumably thought this was a “compliment” that would endear him enough to his date that he could score. He must have spent the first 30-odd years of his social life under a rock.

  • Carrie January 25, 2018, 12:25 pm

    I wish I could have had this great of a spine when I was still dating in my early 20s! Good job OP.

  • Calli Arcale January 25, 2018, 12:41 pm

    “But I disagree that etiquette requires a person to remain in an uncomfortable situation out of some perceived need to be polite.”

    I think that was her point, actually. When she was younger, she may have believed that etiquette demanded she stay even if she was uncomfortable, and with age and experience has learned otherwise.

  • JD January 25, 2018, 1:11 pm

    Good call, OP, and done very well!

  • Lisa January 25, 2018, 1:39 pm

    Every woman should read the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker, which talks about how it’s better to be thought of as rude, than to be dead. For example – a woman coming home to her apartment building with groceries was met in her foyer by a strange man who was good looking and seemed nice. He immediately took one of the bags from her and said “let me help you, that looks heavy” and followed her up to her apartment, whereupon he raped her repeatedly and would have killed her had she not managed to escape. And all because she didn’t want to refuse his offer, even though she was not comfortable. It’s a fantastic book and I’m giving copies to my teen nieces.

  • kingsrings January 25, 2018, 2:30 pm

    I feel like the person who set her up is also responsible for this debacle. Too often it seems as if people setting others up always arrange it for the most socially clueless that they know. It’s like, “John can’t ever seem to get a girlfriend, so I’ll shove him off on my friend Susie”. I feel that “matchmakers” really need to consider first before they just blindly set others up with guys who can’t find girlfriends for very good reasons.

    • Dee January 25, 2018, 7:15 pm

      I think matchmaking is rude no matter what the situation. If someone wants friend A to date friend B they don’t have to set the two up for a date; they could just invite A and B to an outing with others, and then A and B can see for themselves if there’s chemistry and a mutual desire for further contact. To matchmake a friend with another infers that one, or both, of the friends is helpless to do the job themselves and should be grateful for any date.

      • Celestia January 25, 2018, 7:40 pm

        Well, there’s one obvious situation where it isn’t rude – if I ask a friend to set me up or keep me in mind to set up with someone, it’s hardly rude for them to do so then 🙂

        • staceyizme January 26, 2018, 11:04 am

          Agreed! Setting someone up is always by permission, and that’s okay in my view. The only bad thing is to surprise someone that had no idea that they were being set up. If you don’t ambush either side and both are amenable, it’s fine.

      • PJ January 26, 2018, 10:47 am

        I disagree. So would my parents, who were set up by friends and have now been married over 50 years. They were both perfectly capable of getting dates before, and are not socially inept. Their friends saw that the match would be good, and they were right.

        The fact is there are plenty of people who rightly see the potential relationship between people the care for. They’re not all trying to offload some loser on a ‘friend’.

        A blanket statement to say it is “rude no matter what the situation” is just plain wrong.

      • Sketchee January 26, 2018, 12:36 pm

        I don’t think it’s rude to offer to help two adults to meet who might be a fit. The parties involved can decide if they want to continue. Many people are comfortable with matchmaking or invite it. Any situation where everyone involved and impacted is okay with it is not rude.

    • Queen of the Weezils January 26, 2018, 11:38 am

      Well, I’d argue that those who are a little clueless, or shy, or awkward are probably the ones who need matchmaking the most. Those who are confident and socially saavy probably don’t have as much trouble getting dates.

      My friends tend to be on the introverted, shy, socially awkward side. What can I say? We’re gamers and geeks. Not all of us are that way, but there’s a trend. One friend of mine was particularly shy and awkward, but also honest, loyal, funny, and smart. I never set him up with anyone, but someone else did and boy did it ever work. They’re married now. Then again, I can’t see him ever making those kinds of comments on a date, so there’s that.

      • Queen of the Weezils January 26, 2018, 2:51 pm

        I just read my comment and I feel that I phrased something poorly and need to restate it. When I say someone “needs matchmaking the most”, I’m talking about people who are actively looking to date others. Those happy in their singlehood or happy with their current methods of finding dates, regardless of the number of dates they get or don’t get, don’t need matchmaking at all! Always ask first…..

  • Dee January 25, 2018, 2:44 pm

    Etiquette has never demanded that you stay in a situation that is dicey.

  • Tanya January 25, 2018, 7:05 pm

    Good for you! Unfortunately as women we’re taught from a young age that other people’s – especially males – feelings matter more than ours. We’re taught that making everyone ‘comfortable’ is our job, and good etiquette. But as Admin points out, that’s not the case. I’m glad you were able to leave!

    One thing though, I don’t understand this: “He suggested a few times that we order some “entrees”, and I thought that a lot of food for so late in the evening. I eventually realized that he meant “appetizers”. Entrees and appetizers are different words for the same thing.

    • Melissa January 25, 2018, 11:16 pm

      In America, an entree is the main dish of the meal.

      • Tanya January 28, 2018, 6:00 pm

        Ahhh, I didn’t realise that. Where I come from the terms are interchangeable.

        So if an entree is actually a main, what is a ‘main’ in the US? Or does the word not exist?

    • Rebecca January 26, 2018, 12:57 am

      Where I live an entree is the main course. I know elsewhere it means appetizers.

    • Aleko January 26, 2018, 2:01 am

      Not always! ‘Entree’ is a tricky word, which in the UK and France *usually* means the ‘starter’ or ‘appetiser’ course, but in North America can mean the main course.

      The confusion comes from the word’s origin in the huge multi-course menus of the 17th-19th century, in which the entree was a course of meat / poultry / game, cooked any way *except* roasted, e.g boiled or fried or in ragout. We would now consider a course like that to be the bulk of any meal, but back then it was followed by the main course, which was roast meat.

      • Tan January 26, 2018, 7:16 am

        Hehe… Not just UK and France it’s “starter” in Australia and South Africa… in fact I think everywhere but the USA and some parts of Canada. But you are correct it was originally the main/large first service course. I’ve been to a French wedding which follow this traditional food service… but we didn’t actually eat the meal in one sitting… what you end up with is with is a meal that is more like a series of meals and it takes all day.

    • Wendy January 26, 2018, 3:58 am

      I might be one of many to say this but they are different. Entrees can be and often are just small meals where appetisers are much smaller say an entree of a small pasta dish or salad vs a shared appetiser of garlic bread

    • Tia993 January 26, 2018, 4:59 am

      Actually, in the US, my understanding is that entree has come to mean the main course. It caused great confusion to my party when we visited last year. Luckily we were in a touristy area and the waitress prevented us ordering far too much food.

      • Barbara Foster January 26, 2018, 3:09 pm

        Yep. In North American restaurants, you will normally see “Appetizers” followed by “Entrees” which are your main course. Possibly her date was European, or else perhaps he just thought it sounded European enough to be fancy.

    • Kate January 27, 2018, 4:15 am

      In Australia we also use ‘entree’ to mean the smaller first course and ‘main’ to mean the main course. ‘Appetiser’ would refer to hors d’oeuvres. It confused me when I first watched Hell’s Kitchen and heard them referring to ‘entrees’ of steak and lamb.

      • Cattra January 28, 2018, 10:20 pm

        Me too, Kate. Lot of food for an entree 🙂

  • Shalamar January 26, 2018, 9:52 am

    The only thing I would’ve done differently was finish off my drink before doing the “SEE YA!” Waste not, want not. 🙂

  • AS January 27, 2018, 4:11 am

    A comment about the word “entrees”- I was wondering where this person is from. Because in some Spanish speaking countries, “Entrada” means appetizers. I had the reverse trouble while I was in South America, because I kept thinking that “ Entradas” means “Entrees” .

    The comment about he jacket is gross! Glad that you left right there!

  • GeenaG January 28, 2018, 10:08 am

    What goes through their minds when they do this? Do they think we feel flattered and appreciated? I just don’t get it. One nice thing about getting older is being able to make the choice to never go on another date in your lifetime.

  • Yuchin Robb January 28, 2018, 10:43 am

    You did great! I applaud you for your acting right away on your decision. There’s no telling whether a date would fantastic or disastrous, for any woman or man, your solution is the best way to handle it. Don’t leave any regrets for yourself.
    At the same time, please keep an open mind and optimistic towards guys and dating. Proceed with care and expectation!

  • BagLady January 29, 2018, 9:32 pm

    Brava to OP for extricating herself from the date! I hope, however, that when OP tells the friend who set them up how the date went, she chooses her words carefully. Not “Your husband’s friend is a creep!” but “He did/said some things that made me uncomfortable,” and tell her exactly what those things were.

    Calling Jeff names (much as he might deserve them) could alienate her from her friend by implying that her beloved husband has terrible friends/terrible taste in friends. Tell her what Jeff did and let her draw her own conclusion that Jeff is a creep.

    I was in the setter-upper position once in college, but it wasn’t a dating situation. College friend Liz had just broken up with her boyfriend and needed a place to live. Hometown friend Carla had just moved to college town and needed a roommate. I introduced them, they seemed to get along beautifully, and Liz moved in with Carla.

    Within a couple of months, Liz was bending my ear in an accusatory tone about how “YOUR friend Carla” was so difficult, impossible to live with, etc., etc. Liz is not a terrible person, and neither is Carla — they were just incompatible as roomies. But I felt personally attacked by Liz’s words, especially since I thought I was doing her a favor.