I was raised in the South, and it only occurred to me in my early twenties how much that really affected the way I navigate social situations — particularly dating. You see, there’s this sort of unwritten code which dictates that, when on a first date, no matter what goes down, you ‘stand by your man,’ so to speak. You do not, under any circumstances, walk out – and I never have, but there have been times when I really, really should have.
Three times in particular come to mind that I present to the Internet in the hopes that this whole “you should be polite” business will just die already, to be replaced with the infinitely more useful “you do you, dammit.”
- I was meeting an online date at a bar. I arrived early, and ordered a drink while waiting. He arrived 45 minutes late, meaning I waited on him about an hour. Upon meeting me his first words were, “Do you have $5 I can borrow for parking?” So, naturally, I fished in my purse until I found $5. He took it and left me wondering whether or not I was being robbed by an online date… and that was the moment that I should have exited. He eventually came back and proceeded to chug 10 drinks over the span of two hours. Any time during those two hours would have been a good time to leave, but he’d moved all of my drinks onto his tab, and because I couldn’t ask for a check I somehow assumed that meant I had to stay. Eventually he tried to hold my hand. I looked at him, confused, and said, “What are you doing?” He immediately dropped it. The check was called for and paid. I experienced sweet freedom, but only after first politely walking the opposite direction from my car when I realized we were parked in the same lot and that he would probably prefer to drunkenly storm away from me in peace.
- I was meeting an online date at a bar (notice a trend here?). He was actually on time; no worries there. The first fifteen minutes or so things were fine… until he asked if I wanted to know what he’d liked about my profile. I told him to tell me, and he said he liked me because I was a redhead and he was really into redhead porn. This was the moment I should have exited. This time, I actually tried. I said words like, “I really think I should go,” and even made for my purse. But then he said, “Oh, God, I’m so sorry I made you uncomfortable. Please don’t go. I apologize – please stay for one more drink.” I agreed to stay for one more drink, lest I wound his fragile ego. The drinks came. He picked his up, chugged it, set it down and said, “I really think I should go.” And he left.
- I was meeting a guy in a coffee shop. (Ha—fooled you there! And this guy I actually met at a party, so that’s different too. He was an unemployed poet in a roomful of Columbia Law School students…because that’s what I’m attracted to.) The first fifteen minutes or so things were fine. Then he pulled out his Moleskine notebook and asked if I wanted to hear some of his poetry. I said I did, so he read three. All poems described, in graphic detail, a horrific rape and subsequent murder. This is the moment I should have exited. I was in New York City and had no car, meaning that I would have had to flee on foot; I decided that he would probably overtake me, and sat there in terrified silence until we finished coffee. He then wanted to know what I was doing later. I said I was going home and quickly asked what train he had to take to his own. He told me, and I said it was such a shame, but my train was that other train, the one a few avenues from his train. The truth was, I had no train. I was walking distance from my apartment, but to ensure that he did not follow me, I walked him to his train, and then, finally, I exited. The me being crazy polite thing comes later. He texted me immediately upon getting home wanting to know when we would hang out again. Rather than ignoring it and never, ever making contact with him again, I messaged back to say that I had a nice time but I thought we weren’t a good fit. I didn’t want to leave him hanging.
I realize that my reactions here were ridiculous. The sad thing is, I’m not sure I’m capable of thinking ‘to hell with it, this guy is being a dick and I’m out,’ and then actually getting out. I want to, but it’s engrained into my very core to be some sort of people pleaser. And you know, maybe it’s a me thing and not necessarily a Southerner thing. Or maybe it’s a little of both.
In any case, the full title of this article should be:
It’s unforgivably rude to walk out on a first date, unless… nothing.
Southerners and fellow people pleasers alike, let’s stop being polite. When a date’s gone to hell, the only thing to do is skedaddle faster than crap through a goose.