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How to end a terrible date

Cocktails at Edens
Cocktails at Edens
Photo by Leigh Vogel

Dating websites and hookup apps tend to look a lot like gory slasher movies. You’re given a cast of pretty characters to judge, but soon they’ll become an endless sea of stereotypes and detached body parts displayed onscreen for your amusement and/or horror. Perusing through countless online singles you will find dozens of boring duds, career-obsessed bros, and bottle blonde sorority alumni desperate to update their Facebook status to “In a relationship.”

But we keep using these apps and sites. Why? Because amid all the headless torso pics and photoshopped selfies, occasionally there’s a charming hero or heroine who catches your fancy and inspires thoughts like, “This one seems different” or “Maybe I won’t die alone after all!”

Despite insightful online profiles and witty banter, sometimes these heroes and heroines make terrible dates. No amount of smiley face emoticons and exclamation points in their emails and texts can make up for some dating blunders that only surface when you meet the person IRL. This is why it’s important to have an exit strategy.

Why end a date?

Reasons include, but are not limited to: misogyny; they lied in their profile (e.g. catfished pictures, they actually have a kid and didn’t tell you); you learn he dated six of your exes; Scientology; offensive jokes; hypersensitivity to offensive jokes; she’s not laughing at any of your jokes; he’s not funny; suicidal ideation or intent.

Don’t actively seek out red flags—focus on enjoying the date and getting to know the person—and give it some time if they bring up something questionable. They may just be nervous. But if your gut tells you this person clearly isn’t a match for you, or belongs in prison, abort mission.

How do you bail if the date isn’t officially “over,” but it’s totally over?

Strategy is vital. No self-respecting date abandoner just got up and left without thinking it through and paying for at least their portion of the date. Consider these tips:

  • Keep first dates at coffee or drinks. Great for conversation, quick enough to migrate to a meal afterward if things are going really well, and simple enough to chug and dash if they smell bad or talk like Kesha. And it cannot be emphasized enough: never ever take a date or hookup into your home before at least meeting them. Not to be paranoid or anything, but Craigslist and Adam4Adam are dens for thieves and murderers.
  • Give it a sec. If they say or do something strange, give them a chance to recover from it. They may just be intimidated by your effortless sex appeal.
  • If the red flags just keep flying and you’re certain it’s not a good match, prepare to take complete ownership. Waiters and bartenders aren’t like they were in 90’s TV shows; they’re not paid to be intuitive and help you out if the chemistry is fizzling. It’s entirely on you to plan your next move, wave them over, and ask for the check.
  • Be honest. It’s not your job to give this person feedback if they are obviously a horrible person, but it’s fair to tell them why you are ending the date. Didn’t appreciate learning that they raise cockroaches “for science?” Say so and leave. Freaked out when they told you they want to start trying for a baby within the next 6 months? Get your point across and bounce.

All this being said, don’t be a douche. If you want to end a date because you have enough good evidence to know you’re not physically or emotionally attracted to this person, politely tell them, “I appreciate your time, but I just don’t think we’re a good match. The bill is on me tonight, and I wish you the best.” Also consider that your red flags might be irregularly specific, i.e. you won’t date a girl who can’t recite the first episode of Battlestar Galactica on command, or “He’s too short.” If those are truly deal-breakers for you, acknowledge that the problem is yours and apologize for it before respectfully ending the date.

At the end of the day, awful dates make for a great story. Dust yourself off, laugh about it, and learn from it!