Erika Ettin: Is there a dating lemon law?

A simple way to exit is to say, “I should really get going.” It doesn’t matter where you’re going.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.

You’re on a date. It’s going fine. Or is it? You’re kind of bored. She posted old profile pictures. His jokes are offensive. You got into an argument over the first person who landed on the moon. He was rude to the bartender. She started talking about a potential Martian invasion and possible future wars between humans and aliens. Whatever the reason, you want out.

Herein lies the question: Is there a polite, socially acceptable way to end a bad date and extricate yourself quickly and gracefully?

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about Barney Stinson’s Lemon Law from “How I Met Your Mother.” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go ahead and Google it . I’ll wait.) Rather, I’m talking about a courteous gesture that indicates that the date is over.

Probably 12 years ago, I went on a date from an online dating site to play ping pong. (I love a good game of ping pong!) When I got there, I couldn’t find my date. Why? His profile pictures must have been pretty old because when I found him, he was much heavier than his pictures and stated weight had indicated. (I could talk for hours about the reasons not to lie online.) I wasn’t happy that my date had lied, but I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. We did both make the time to be there. But it soon became clear that we had nothing in common … and he was a poor sport at losing to me in ping pong! So, how did I get myself out of that one? I told him that my workout earlier in the day had really exhausted me and that I had to go home.

Did I do the right thing? Maybe. In hindsight, it might have been more appropriate to say that I was disappointed that he had misrepresented his appearance, like I did do once when my date had lied about both his age and height. But I was young and didn’t have the confidence I do now to express my thoughts in no uncertain terms. That takes maturity and practice.


When it comes to a bad date, first determine the nature of “bad.” Is it “creepy” bad or just “no sparks” bad? If it’s the latter, then your best bet is to stick it out (at least for one drink or a cup of coffee). Plus, the worst that happens is you might get a funny story out of it.

If it’s the former, then a simple way to exit is to say, “I should really get going.” It doesn’t matter where you’re going. If your date presses you on it, then you can be honest, saying, “I don’t think we’re connecting.” But, by excusing yourself with the “get going” line, you are still being polite, albeit vague. And of course, if at any time you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, then say just that. “I don’t feel comfortable, so I am going to go.” Your own well-being is No. 1. I hope no one ever needs to take that piece of advice.

Telling a white lie (you have a headache, you ate some bad cheese, you forgot about a business event you have to attend, you’re really exhausted, etc.) to get out of a date, like I did all those years ago, isn’t usually the smartest move. You may cross paths with this person again, which makes this choice pretty awkward. Also, your date may not have gotten the hint and may try to ask you out again, and the lie will become apparent when you don’t accept another date.

So, while there’s no modern-day dating lemon law, if your date starts discussing the pros of dogfighting or coughing in your face without any regard for your personal space, it’s OK to admit you’re not a match and move on. But if there’s even a slight glimmer of potential, stick it out. You just never know.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge , where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.

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