How To Handle Running Into A Former Bad Date


We’ve all been there: You go out on a date, it’s meh, someone doesn’t follow-up, the end…and then you run into each other. Without the drama of a hookup, the pain of an ex, how to handle this quotidian awkwardness?

Writes the WaPo, “With Washington’s interconnected social and professional circles, running into someone you’ve dated can be more than a bit awkward. Especially when one, or both, of you don’t remember each other.” With all due respect to the capital city, this is not an issue with geographical limitations: city, country or commuter train, there’s opportunities everywhere to come face-to-face with that barely-remembered OkCupid dinner partner, the friend-of-a-friend who got food poisoning, the business contact from the out-of-town office. A few of the most common responses:

The Direct Approach: When it’s a mutual-friend situation, a coworker, someone on your train, a fan of the exact same music you are or someone else whom you’re likely to encounter – repeatedly – many go for clearing-the-air. Those of us of this school often employ jokes that fall flat, “honesty” that comes off as weirdly aggressive, and self-deprecation that verges on TMI. The good part is, you’ll rarely need to take the initiative in ending these conversations.

Cool Politeness: While a little we’re-all-adults-here small talk is, generally, something to strive for, tone is all. One friend thought she was being distant and polite when she ran into a one-off. And then? “A string of text messages”: “So nice seeing you!” “Sexy haircut, btw. Meow.” “Was that ur boy friend?”

Avoidance: If things ended with unrequited interest on either side, you live in different cities, or gastric distress was involved, the “panicked feint” is a popular choice. Especially common in public-transit situations in which acknowledgment might involve a conversation of indefinite duration.

The “Buzz”: In those cases where one wants to be reasonably adult but wants to avoid actual interaction, “the buzz” is an option. Also known as the “Hi/Bye,” this involves a brief acknowledgment or greeting – while on the move. “Don’t stop,” instructs Dodai.

Excessive Friendliness: Those troubled by a guilty conscience often fall into this confusing mode of behavior. Especially confusing when, as in the case of one Jezebel, “I obviously didn’t enjoy the date and may have ignored follow-up phone calls or made clearly fake excuses to get out of the second date.”

The Willful Ignorance: Sometimes borne of panic, sometimes a genuine lapse of memory, ignorance is, in a sense, a power move: you’re definitely taking control of the interaction, for good or ill.In the words of one, “I make small talk that is for friendly acquaintances, leaving the date thing unacknowledged.” Very few have the raw nerve to pull this off.

But then there are encounters that fall outside the normal range of run-ins. Jenna invoked the horrifying scenario recounted in a recent New York Times “Weddings and Celebrations” announcement. Upon meeting, mother-of-the-bride and father-of-the-groom realized they’d been on a single date, 30 years ago. To see The Exorcist. While all etiquette manuals, wedding and otherwise, ignore this situation, here’s the only recourse: if you’re unable to fall in love, RomCom style, this is one case where a canned line is the best option. Specifically, “What an excellent day for an exorcism.”

Dating: For Less Than Memorable Dates, Next Meetings Are Tricky
[Washington Post]

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