On Telling a Good "Bad Date" Story

What's your worst date story? I've got a few doozies in the rather thin files of my dating life. Every woman does. I enjoy telling the stories - there's something of a thrill of watching horror turn into laughter, of seeing friends go from concern to "omg wtf" in the course of a story. And there's an art to telling a good bad date story. You have to have the right rhythm, the right pacing, the right punchline. You have to have a punchline - if you don't, your story will be less "bad date fun" and more "oh shit are you okay." And no one wants to spend their time reassuring people that they're okay.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to date more. I’ve said “yes” to more dates than I normally would, and asked out more people than I typically do. “Why not?” has become a kind of mantra as I try to loosen myself up a little more and get rid of the vestiges of purity culture and its hold on my life. This last week, I went on a date with a man who seemed perfectly nice on paper – he was complimentary, gentlemanly, and very kind to me in our text conversations leading up to the date.

But when the date actually happened, there was no spark. Nothing. My tattoo was visible and he asked me a bunch of uncomfortable questions about my mother’s passing. He wasn’t very open about his own life, and it quickly became clear that I’m far more liberal than he and that there was just no chemistry. I ended the date as gracefully as I could, after half an hour, and went home, joking over text with my friends about how my dating life is in shambles.

That night, he texted me and I got a weird feeling I can't explain. I blocked him on my apps and phone. I thought nothing more of it.

Until the next day. Shortly after lunch, I was sitting in college with my friends like I do almost every day. We like to chill in the common room and study together, creating a comfortable, quiet enough environment for our work. My phone vibrated quietly on the table, and since I never get phone calls and didn’t recognize the number.

“Hello.”

“I just want to know what went wrong and if we could talk about it…”

I hung up. I recognized the voice from my date from the night before. I realized he’d not only seen that he couldn’t reach me but he’d borrowed someone else’s phone to try and call me and catch me off guard.

As I was explaining this to my friend, who’d picked up something was strange the second I’d hung up the phone, the phone began to vibrate again. The same number. We both stared at it like two protagonists in a horror movie who have just realized the Scream killer is on the other end. I let it go to voicemail. About 30 seconds later, the text message vibration went off and I handed the phone to my friend, not daring to read it myself. The message called me rude (presumably for hanging up on him) and commented that he expected better of me.

I didn’t respond. I blocked this new number and left the room to make myself a cup of tea in the hopes I could calm down.

By the end of the night, thankfully, this fear had morphed into a funny story, where friends asked me what had happened and asked me to tell the story again. We laughed – partly because there is no other reaction – over the ridiculousness of some men. We turned it into a joke and therefore robbed the fear of its power.

Almost all my friends have these stories: the man who was trying to follow her home and only stopped when her boyfriend stepped in, turning it funny because her boyfriend isn't aggressive. The "I think a 50yo guy just tried to hit on me sir you could be my dad" story told with a smirk, brushing off the creepy manner of his approach. The jokes about sitting on men who take up too much space on public transit, even though few of us would be brave enough to assert ourselves in that way.

We deflect. We minimize. We turn our fear into a good story, a funny thing to talk about, because it is the only way we can talk about it.

Our humor, as feminists, as women, becomes our defense mechanism, a necessity to get through the day. And that, really, is the saddest thing of all.

Or maybe it’s funny. I can’t decide.