Dating Don’ts: Putting Your Foot In Your Mouth On A First Date

On Friday night, I had an online date that really fizzled. Everything was going just fine over chips and guac until he majorly stuck his foot in his mouth. He started talking about his ex-girlfriends (always a red flag!) and mentioned that several were depressed. He ended up giving much more than he got back in these relationships, he said. Women with depression are way too needy. He won’t date one again.

Well then, I thought to myself. I guess we should just get the check! I tried to be polite about what he was telling me. I suggested perhaps women with depression are attractive to him in some way, seeing how the pattern has repeated itself many times. I said that people with mental illness need to take care of themselves first, not be taken care of by anyone else, and maybe he might want to look into why he dates women who turn out to be “needy.” And then when I shared with him that I, actually, have had depression for years, he got very uncomfortable and embarrassed.

Let me be clear: I don’t think this guy was a total judgmental jerk. He just made dumb comments, but, alas, they were dumb comments offensive to me as someone whose actually living quite healthfully with depression and anxiety. Dude really stuck his foot in his mouth in a way that I couldn’t get past. (i.e. I’ve since told him I’m not interested in seeing him again) I normally don’t bring up my depression until several dates in, but in this case, I wanted him to know that depressed people don’t all fit into some stereotypical mold.

So, folks, it seems like we need a basic recap of the Dating 101 skill of tact, also known as “not putting your foot in your mouth.”

  1. Religion, kids, politics, money — there’s a reason Pete Campbell says not to discuss them amongst company. Of course if you are dating someone, you eventually want to know each other’s political affiliations, religions, and opinions on having kids. But you don’t need to get into that on the first date. It’s better to hold off on these potentially controversial topics until you have a good idea of whether you even care what this person thinks. I am particularly bad about not discussing politics on a first date, seeing as it’s such a big interest of mine. I try to just keep these topics brief (“Yup, I’m liberal”), rather than wading in deep.
  2. Hold off on sharing the dealbreakers that aren’t really dealbreakers. There are dealbreakers and then there are your personal preferences, which may not actually be important.  I have non-negotiables, like, say, not dating a domestic abuser. I also don’t want to date a smoker, but I probably will die alone with my cats if I walk around saying, “I will never date anyone who smokes a cigarette ever!” The reality is that I could deal with a guy who smokes one or two cigarettes on occasion.  I’m not suggesting that anyone settle, but I am suggesting that you don’t declare yourself unwilling to date “anyone who  ____” before you have actually given the date in front of you a chance.
  3. Be wary of expressing very strong opinions about something you actually don’t feel strongly about. If you truly have a strong opinion about, say, Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marriage, and you can defend that opinion, then fine, own it. But if you’re just trying to seem like you have a strong opinion on something in order to make conversation, you’re treading fragile ground.  For example, Amelia had a date with a guy who asked her if she had seen a silly Brittany Murphy rom-com. Amelia said, “Yeah I saw it. All I remember about it was that IT SUCKED ASS.” And the guy said, “I produced that.” Oops! Amelia actually didn’t hate the movie all that much; she was just trying to be funny and ended up insulting this dude. You don’t need to be bombastic to be interesting.
  4. For the love of God, don’t discuss past relationships. Trust me, I know this one is hard — especially since I met my last boyfriend through online dating and it seems like a pertinent thing to mention when a new date asks me what I think about the process. But it’s easy to wade into Foot-In-Mouth territory when you’re talking about your exes, why you broke up, and what you’re looking for going forward.  I try to just give bare bones details, like I dated So-And-So for X amount of time and that ended Z amount of time ago. Hopefully there will be future dates in which we can discuss each other’s exes, But on a first date, nobody wants to look like bitter, damaged person who is not over their ex.

We all can’t have Patti Stanger standing 10 feet away from us on dates, ready to grab us by the collar and yank us away when we start rambling about our opinions on PETA. So remember, folks, we all have to practice a little bit of self-editing in the interest of being tactful and polite.  Yes, you should always be yourself on a date. But try to be the version of “yourself” that doesn’t have a Reebook shoved all the way down your throat.

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