The more you date, the easier it is to nail down your first-date routine. But when you bring a better version of yourself to the table and your date brings their alter ego, Satan, you can be completely blindsided and have a hard time speaking up when something crosses a line. Even people who’re usually outgoing can find themselves struggling to balance authenticity and politeness.
Tinder’s dating and relationship expert Darcy Sterling, Ph.D., explains that meeting someone new can invoke anxiety even in the most confident people, especially when you’ve never before met IRL. “When you’ve invested the time in effort into crafting your Tinder profile, it can add a layer of pressure to live up to the version of yourself that you portrayed,” she says.
In an attempt to make your date feel more comfortable, you may be tempted to stay silent when you should be vocal. Darcy warns against doing this during the getting-to-know-you-phase. “Early on, you’ve got to speak up if your date says something that offends you. How your [date] handles your response will tell you a lot about how they’ll handle conflict in the future,” she says. Make sure you pay attention to their reaction, because as Darcy notes, “despite what we see in rom-coms, people don’t change.”
Remember, your comfort is just as important as anyone else’s. So don’t be afraid to speak upon a first date when something isn’t quite sitting right — whether it’s your date or your food.
1. Your date kept you waiting.
There are plenty of valid reasons to be late to a first date: Train delays, traffic, canceled rides, and even outfit anxiety can keep you from being on time. But there comes a point when the only excuse is your date is rude AF. If they haven’t given you a heads up that they are running obnoxiously late, you’re likely calm on the outside with a quiet rage boiling on the inside. Spoiler alert: You just learned something about your date — they either have poor time management skills or zero respect for your time.
Waiting around for anyone slowly kills my soul, and with each passing moment, I’m already preparing my speech for my date’s arrival. If waiting a half hour for a stranger isn’t your cup of tea, whether you keep it light or give them a stern talking-to is up to you. But either way, it’s worth saying something.
2. You didn’t order that.
There’s something odd about paying for something you never wanted. Whether I’m the one serving the wrong food to a patron who felt it would be “rude” to speak up, or I’m dining with a date who believes it would be impolite to correct the server, I always draw the same assumption: This person hates confrontation so much that they will actually pay to avoid it — and that’s not a good look for anyone.
There’s a way to get what you want without being an asshole, and it doesn’t include apologizing for someone else’s error or berating your server. Here’s my boss move: I don’t even tell my date something’s not right. I just politely nab the next staffer coming my way and ask for the correct order. No blame. No shade. No time lost. Try it out, and you’ll be the most classy, assertive AF date they’ve ever had.
3. Your date didn’t get the etiquette memo.
Nothing makes the record skip quite like a rude date: Most of us know the basic rule of dining out is to never bite the hand that feeds you. Snapping fingers at the bartender or just plain snapping at them is enough to make anyone cringe. On the other side of the bar, I’ve watched the discomfort of someone who can’t believe how rude their date is, but I’ve never had the pleasure of watching someone call their date out on their bad behavior.
Overcorrecting the rudeness with sweetness doesn’t actually convey to your date that they need an attitude adjustment. The only way to do that is by explicitly telling them to take a fuckin’ chill pill. If they stomp off in a huff? You just did yourself and everyone else a huge favor. Queue applause, please.
4. You don’t want another drink.
We’ve all been there. You have an early morning and know you shouldn’t have another drink, but you do it anyway because you’re having a good time. But if you aren’t, you should never feel pressured into what you don’t want. Your decisions are yours and yours alone to make, including whether or not you want another round. You are not obligated to keep hanging out, nor do you owe anyone an explanation. Speak your truth, and that should be the end of the discussion. If your date tries to make you feel guilty about your choice? For me, that’s when things stop being polite and shit starts getting real. Join me.
Your date is on a power trip that you never agreed to go on, and you should handle that immediately. Let them know that begging and manipulating you is a total turn-off. If you’re really annoyed, go ahead to tell them that this is what children do, and you don’t date children. Oh, and if you end up with a drink you didn’t order, you’re well within your right to turn the fuck up on your date and the bartender. You don’t even need words to do it: Just leave and go someplace where people take no for an answer.
5. You’re ready to leave.
Sometimes it’s the chemistry, sometimes it’s the conversation, and sometimes you just really want to leave for no specific reason. Go forth chile, because your time is precious and it’s likely they’re feeling it too. Chemistry is a two-way street, and if both people are not feelin’ it then it simply doesn’t exist. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings; as long as you’re keeping it real, there’s no wrong way to make an exit. You don’t need to phone a friend to fake an emergency or claim to be tired, because who knows? Maybe you want to chat up the cutie at the bar instead. Your date should understand that it’s not personal — sometimes it’s just not right. If they catch an attitude, they’ll be showing the true colors of an egotistical brat who’s terrified of rejection. Let ’em know: “This isn’t rejection, this is me moving on.” Thank you, next.