No matter how cute that movie with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler was, we don’t get do-overs; first dates only happen once in real life. You take your time getting ready, dress to thrill, maybe spritz on a little cologne, take a deep breath, and head out the door with your hopes high.
And then it happens — you commit some social error so awful that you wish you could crawl into a hole and pull the hole in after you. Surely you’ve ruined any hope of seeing that special someone again, right? It isn’t necessarily so. Few mishaps are so dire that you can’t salvage the situation.
Laugh, and the world laughs with you
If there’s one universal constant, it’s that everyone loves to laugh. Dumped a whole plate of spaghetti on your lap and you’re wearing white? Instead of showing how upset you are or cursing yourself for being clumsy, laugh it off with a witty, but not too self-deprecating comment — “So, I hear marinara sauce is the new black — how’s it look?” — and clean up as best you can. Laughing at your mistake tells your date that it’s okay for him or her to laugh too and turns your present gaffe into a future inside joke. Re-framing the event as something the two of you can laugh about later makes the chances that there’ll be a “later” go up dramatically.
Clear the air
There are some occasions that an offhand comment and some laughter won’t fix. Sometimes a date that’s planned well in advance winds up happening on just the wrong night; you don’t want to cancel, but something’s keeping you from enjoying your date’s company and he or she can tell. Things just don’t seem to “click.” If you came down with a cold, had a bad day at work, or got into a fight with a friend, be honest and tell your date. You don’t need to tell your date everything, but simply saying, “I’m sorry, today has been rough on me” will not only let your date know that he or she isn’t the reason for your mood, but also give your date the chance to express some empathy. The fact that you went out on the date despite your bad day is even a little flattering; it lets your date know that even though you aren’t at your best, you wouldn’t have missed seeing him or her for the world.
…But don’t clear the room
Gas. It’s hard even to write about without cringing or snickering, but on a date it can be especially (silent but) deadly to your confidence. Your best bet is to head the problem off at the pass — avoid eating broccoli, beans, dairy products, or whatever tends to trouble your digestive tract for a day or so in advance of the date. If it’s already too late for that, look for an escape route; restaurants and movie theaters have rest rooms, so “rest” if you must. If the absolute worst happens and you let one rip with nowhere to run, fib a little. Blame it on a pet, give the child in the seat next to yours an icy glare (don’t try this with anyone old enough to know what you’re up to), or mumble something about calling a plumber to check the pipes. If all else fails and your guilt is as plain as the nose on your (and everyone else’s) face, see above — plead illness and let your date know that even though you aren’t feeling well, you couldn’t bear to cancel.
Your date almost undoubtedly wants to help you put things right again. That person is already on your side; if not, then why be on a date with you at all? He or she is cheering for you even if you do have a lapful of spaghetti or take a header into a shrub. If the shoe were on the other foot, you’d want to give your date a chance to recover gracefully from a mistake.
On your next date (and there’s likely to be one if you handled things well), don’t focus on the embarrassing gaffe; it may not even come up, and if it does, it’ll likely be a casual aside. It’s possible that he’s told his friends about the spinach in your teeth or that she’s imitated the open-mouthed expression of shock that crossed your face right before you fell off the curb, but it’s a lot likelier that your date would rather keep those things just between the two of you.