How To Maintain Your Dignity After Being Rejected or Embarrassing Yourself On a Date

January 20th, 2013

Awkward, Closure, Dating, Rejection


In tonight’s post you said

“The rejection stung, of course, especially since I wasn’t allowed the courtesy to process that privately.”

What do you do when someone rejects you on a date? I’ve had this happen a couple of times and I never know the right way to handle this. Do I excuse myself from the date and leave or do I stick it out?

I’ve also been on the other side of this. How do you suggest people reject someone if there’s no chemistry or if they express interest in another date when you know you’re not interested?

On a similar but different note,  how do you get past an embarrassing situation? I went on a date a couple weeks ago and ended up having a reaction from a medication I’m taking. I hadn’t properly spaced my medication with my alcohol intake and ended up getting really tired and hard to understand. My date offered to call 911 but I said no. He got in a cab with me and saw me home. I never heard from him again. Should I reach out to him?

Thank you,

E. – NYC – 36 –  Female


As I said in that post, what made the rejection painful wasn’t the rejection itself. It was the fact that I had been blindsided with it after 2 hours of conversation that included all kinds of compliments combined with the utterly disingenuous nature of the rejection. Really? I was everything you were looking for but I was just too much your equal and on your level to date? Okay. That makes sense. How stupid do I look?

The thing to do in a situation like that, where someone is rejecting you, is to just smile and nod and say, “Okay.” If they try to get you to stick around to finish your drink or have another, explain that you appreciate the gesture but prefer to leave. In most cases, they’re praying that you say that. You don’t have to sit there and pretend to be unaffected. You were just rejected. That’s an uncomfortable situation. You’re allowed to want to remove yourself. Often times those who make such an offer don’t want to deal with people seeing them left at a table sitting by themselves. If they try to coax you back to the conversation, don’t give in. They just want to feel better about what they did and don’t want to be left there looking stupid. Excuse yourself and leave and be done with it.

If you’re the one doing the rejecting, remember these tips:

1. If you know immediately that there’s no spark or attraction, clip that date as soon as you can within reason. Say 45 minutes. You don’t have to say that you’re not feeling a click. You can say you made other plans. The other person should be able to take the hint. If they don’t and suggest another date, tell them to email you later and you guys can talk about it. If you want to rip that band aid off right then, you can. Just be kind and tell them you enjoyed meeting them but you didn’t think you were a match. What you want to show is that you’re being considerate of their time and feelings.  And ladies, if you know you’re not interested, offer to pay your share of the tab. Just do it.Don’t be an asshole.

2. If you’re not attracted to them, keep that fact to yourself. You can say anything else: no chemistry, not much in common, etc. But do not tell them you’re not attracted to them. It’s just bad form and a little cruel. Good for you that you’re so direct and honest. If it’s not paired with tact and compassion you’re just a thoughtless and arrogant idiot. Personally, I think this reason is a catch all for deeper reasons why they aren’t interested. I think more often than not it’s used to cap the conversation and prevent further discussion. Attraction isn’t something people have to defend. It’s either there or it’s not. Like I said a few weeks ago, this kind of honesty is used as a weapon or a shield. Someone who would tell you this is a walking liability, so breathe a sigh of relief that things didn’t go further.

3. Respond to their follow up request in a timely fashion. The longer you wait to respond, the worse it will be for them and for you. The goal in these situations is to be humane. Tell them that, after the date, you did some thinking and you realized that you and they probably weren’t compatible. Never, ever admit that you knew you were going to rejection at the time that you said to follow up with them about discussing another date. If they don’t realize that you were not just trying to prevent any Awkward for yourself but for them, that’s on them.

4.If you know you did something that might have hurt their feelings, cop to it. If they send you a terse message or lash out at you, really ask yourself if you did anything to contribute to that. If you did, own it and be an adult. And please, spare them the passive aggressive, ‘You know, you really didn’t handle that well HOWEVER…” No however. Just admit where you messed up and be done with it. Don’t be some passive aggressive douche.

If you’re on the receiving end of such a rejection, keep these points in mind:

1. Allow someone to be polite.  If they say they made other plans, let them go. If they say they weren’t feeling it, let them go.

2. Don’t send multiple follow up messages. They got your first one.  If they don’t respond, they’re either trying to be kind hoping you’ll get the hint/will drop it or are just not a nice person.

3. If you ask for a further explanation, be prepared to hear something you don’t want to hear. This is self-explanatory. Trust me. You don’t want to know the real reason. If they’re especially defensive or lacking in social graces, they will tell you bluntly what the deal is just so you won’t push them further or try to debate them.

4. Don’t expect them to actually be friends with you. When someone in this situation offers or agrees to friendship, don’t get your hopes up. Again, they’re being polite. They really don’t want to be your friend. They just don’t want you to dislike them. If you follow up with invites and emails,9 times out of 10 they’ll make up an excuse why you can’t hang out or will ignore you.

5. Ladies, don’t ever, ever do this. If a guy turns you down for a date or a hook up, walk away. Sending them naked pics or a video of you getting off in a bathroom stall makes you look a) unstable and b) desperate.  No, when he replied and told you how sexy that was or how he’s rather hold on to the friendship/maintain a business contact, he wasn’t being honest. He was being polite. If he wanted to have sex with you, he would.  There’s no such thing as a woman being too cool/smart/awesome to sleep with in a man’s book. Women love to reassure each other that the men in these scenarios totally respects them or cares for them or whatnot. That is said so you will turn around and do something equally as jaw dropping and they’ll feel less ashamed. Don’t fall for it.

Now for the second question. If you feel you did something wrong, offensive or inappropriate then the right thing to do is apologize.  He probably didn’t know what to say after that experience. It wouldn’t hurt for you to break the ice and follow up and explain what happened. It might be too late or be something he can’t get past. I think it all depends how the rest of the date went and how you handle the apology. Remember that what you reveal could be held against you. If you were on anti-depressants, keep that to yourself. Say that you took a Benedryl for an allergy and had thought enough time had passed between when you took it and when you started drinking. Keep the explanation short and vague. Tell him you’d like to give it another try if he’s willing. If he’s not, just move on. If this is something that has happened before then you need to check yourself. That is NOT something that should happen more than once.  There’s just no excuse for it.


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19 Responses to “How To Maintain Your Dignity After Being Rejected or Embarrassing Yourself On a Date”

  1. D. Says:

    I don’t have much to add to the suggestions for how to give and receive rejection, except perhaps the notion that “No chemistry” is just as hard a door-slam as “no attraction,” but with a less stinging quality to it. You can be attracted to someone and still not feel chemistry, so saying that allows you to close off all future prospects with them romantically without stripping away any dignity from them. But “I just wasn’t that attracted to you” basically just sounds like “You’re fugly.” Which would you rather hear?

    One other minor addition to the “how to receive rejection” bit. If someone does reject you, and you feel the need to write them a nastygram back, ask yourself if it’s really worth it and whether they really earned it. Are you doing it because they did something objectively wrong, or is it just because you’re disappointed? If you do it, don’t expect a satisfactory response. At best, they’ll indicate their chagrin and…you’ll still be annoyed with them at least. At worst, they’ll just respond with “Fuck me? Fuck YOU.” Or they’ll just ignore it.

    On what to do when you’ve embarrassed yourself…I say steer into the skid. You know you screwed up, so, your options are basically ignore it and hope it goes away, or acknowledge it and show you’ve got a good sense of humor about it. If the person is already enjoying themselves and is interested at all, they’ll usually give you a pass and let it go. If not, well, at least you’re owning your screwup instead of trying to hide from it.

  2. Christina Says:

    If everyone followed these rules, the dating world would be both a nicer, and less confusing place.

  3. LostSailor Says:

    We’ve all had dates where there was no attraction, no chemistry, but I can’t see being so rude as to voice that opinion while you’re actually on the date. If one doesn’t have the grace or social awareness to make conversation for an hour or so, one probably shouldn’t be dating in the first place. A short email about not being a good match should be sufficient.

    That said, I only had one experience where there was clearly no chemistry or attraction with a woman who was indeed rude enough to plainly look bored and kept checking her phone. After thinking it over during one of these somewhat awkward pauses, I simply put cash on the table to cover the drinks and said “I can see you’re preoccupied so I’m going to go, but it was nice meeting you” and left. She didn’t really put up much protest. I felt a little bad about just leaving her sitting there, but not that bad. I really can’t abide rude people.

    About the OP’s question about the embarrassing date, if she was interested in the guy and wanted to reach out, she should have done it the next morning with a brief explanation and and offer to make it up to him by taking him somewhere nice for a drink. I suppose it couldn’t hurt to reach out now, but if it’s been several weeks, I wouldn’t expect much.

    As for handling embarrassing moments on a date, it definitely helps to have a sense of humor and to not sweat a gaffe too much. Last spring, I spilled red wine on my white shirt while on a date and passed it off with a joke about it at least matching my tie, buttoned my jacket, and said I should perhaps switch to white wine instead. We had a couple of further dates and while it didn’t work out, it wasn’t because of that.

    • Speedy Says:

      I think we’re talking about a drunken rant or an “actually that girl you are talking about is my sister” kind of thing.

      Honestly, while I wouldn’t deliberately spill wine, engineer your booking being cancelled or getting stuck together when mass transit fails or whatever ‘catastrophe’ it is, I can’t think of a better way to find out if your date is basically a together, kind, socially skilled or ‘GSOH’ kind of person or not (depending on your preference and what happens). This is why really wealthy to the point of indolence are so quick to whisk a new prospect off to Paris or onto the yacht, its because nobody can hide who they are in a travel situation (…is that a few Mills & Boon fantasies shattered I wonder?). Things always happen and then you know. The rest of us can’t quite afford the financial or opportunity cost unfortunately.

  4. LostSailor Says:

    Oh, and about that linked XOJane article, all I can say is wow, what a piece of work.

    Ladies, Moxie is spot on. Please don’t send cell phone vids of yourself getting off in a bathroom stall or crotch shots of the vaj, unless you’re already schtupping the guy and have talked about it. It doesn’t just scream unstable or desperate, it screams complete batshit crazy. Keep it classy…

  5. Adrienne Says:

    When someone contacts me after a date and I didn’t feel the chemistry or connection during the date, I always respond right away with, “Thank you so much for the date. It was nice to meet you, but I don’t think that we have enough of a connection to go out again.” It’s just common courtesy.

    Surprisingly, some of the guys have responded, “Thank you so much for being honest. Most girls don’t even bother to respond.”

    As for an embarassment during a date, I was in a situation a few months ago where I was running late for the date, it was humid out and by the time I got to the restaurant I was a hot, sweaty mess. I took the self-depricating route and said, “I’m so sorry I’m such a mess – I was really just running late and it’s so hot out!” and it took the sting out of the bedraggled state I was in.

  6. monica Says:

    Excellent advice…Perhaps more people will start to heed it.

  7. ISOf16 Says:

    I loved the advice “And ladies, if you know you’re not interested, offer to pay your share of the tab. Just do it.Don’t be an asshole.” Ha ha … as if that would ever happen. Funny about being rejected. I had wonderful meet up with a lady that was an aspiring actor. We had some great conversations. Guess she should get an Academy award for her performance…..The next day she wrote… “Sorry, but we arer not a match, but if things change, I will contact you. WTF… I never could figure how anything could change!

    • Matt Says:

      Actresses are flakes; I know this from experience.

    • Kim Says:

      I make a point of doing this. If the date is so completely devoid of chemistry/attraction that I know I don’t want to see the guy again, I not only offer to — I insist upon — paying my share. It just doesn’t seem right otherwise. It usually has the added benefit of de-sexualizing the evening pretty quickly so that both parties leave on the same page. But not always.

    • Eliza Says:

      Wow-aren’t you the negative nasty one there. “As if that would ever happen”. Yes, there are some nice/classy women out there with integrity – that WOULD pay their share…or just keep it at coffee–if they immediately knew there was no spark at all. Categorizing ALL women by the acts of others – will only reinforce the likelihood of you being ALONE.

  8. Vandellish Says:

    #4 is golden. I learned this in my 20s and have never forgotten it. ‘We can be friends’ really just means ‘I’ll see ya when I see ya.’
    The rest of the list is pretty much my template but nice to have it spelled out in front of me.

  9. markdice Says:

    I´ve learned through my experience that number 1 is essential. If someones polite to you it really makes you feel much better about yourself when you notice that someone is not there just to put you down more.

  10. Jeremy St. Marie Says:

    My only concern about the just be friends portion of this is I have heard and experianced the feeling of understanding and wanting to be friends with someone. I have heard that this line is a big no no if you have no intention of putting the effort into friendship. I personally can understand not having chemistry with someone but still thinking they are an awesome person and still wanting to hang out. In fact I have even developed feelings for those after getting to know them much better. So I understand the intent it just seems to me like just stating that that you don’t feel that there was enough chemistry to meet again seems like a better option to me. I have always determined that the truth said correctly is always better than a lie in the end.

  11. mindstar Says:

    Saying “we have no chemistry” is much better than saying “Oh lets just be friends”. Its much cleaner. What do you do if the guy then says “Great can you hook me up with some of your girlfriends? After all we’re friends right and thats what friends do.”

  12. M Says:

    I agree with most of Moxie’s tips listed here. A few things that I would say differently though on point #1, what to do if you know there’s no spark. If the guy suggests another date dont tell him to email you the details. First of all, this contradicts what Moxie says in 2 sentences about being considerate of the other person’s time. If you tell a guy that, he’ll go and spend time planning another date and emailing you about it, even though you have no intention of going. Second, you will leave the guy with mixed signals. A few days later he’ll be thinking “I dont get it – she responded positively to my request for a second date, so why hasnt she responded to my email?” It makes you look bad. Finally, ladies, if you know you arent interested, dont offer to pay for your share of the date, actually pay for your share of the date. As a guy, I feel that if I want to see the girl again, I have to pay for the date – the whole thing – and that if I dont, she definitely will not see me again. So if I like the girl, and she offers to pay her share (and they usually do), I always reject their offer for the above reason. But if you have no intention of going out with me again, allowing me to pay for you as almost a buy-in for a chance at a second date is misleading and is something that really bugs us guys. Also, it makes you look like a dinner whore, only out to mooch off us.

    • Andthatswhyyouresingle Says:

      If you tell a guy that, he’ll go and spend time planning another date and emailing you about it, even though you have no intention of going. Second, you will leave the guy with mixed signals.

      If the guy isn’t a half-wit, he’ll either know he’s being politely rejected or will maybe spend 20 minutes coming up with another date idea. Which is far less awkward than if you stand there and tell him you’re not interested. It’s better to allow someone their dignity and to process the rejection privately. The only time I suggest being upfront is to prevent your date from spending money on you or if he’s just not picking up on the subtle hints you’re putting out there.

  13. fuzzilla Says:

    If you Google XOJane, it says “ is where women go when they are being selfish, and where their selfishness is applauded.” It says this under the link to the website, so it’s presumably how they describe themselves….?

  14. Anon Says:

    Can I tell you how much I hate xojane

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