(December 26, 2011 / JNS) Bad dates are bad for a host of reasons. Maybe your date did something revolting, like my mother’s date who foraged through garbage cans. Maybe you found you had little to talk about, like my sister, whose date wore earplugs all through dinner; or your conversation took a wrong turn, resulting in a fiery debate about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
I once went out with someone who thanked me for driving, adding that his license had been revoked since his release from prison three days ago. (Bad dates tend to run in my family and I surmise that they are somehow hereditary.) No matter what happens on a bad date, time creeps by slowly. You find refuge in surreptitious texts to friends and frequent bathroom breaks for which you happily say, “It’s Crohn’s disease.”
Though these sorts of dates are not limited to Jews, we can recover from them with a bit of the wearywisdomour people are (perhaps begrudgingly) known for.Every lousy date goes through an alchemizing process, and the trauma transforms into amusing conversational material with good friends. It’s convenient that Jewish humor grows from the misfortune and self-effacing commentary required of any bad date. The laughter that ensues may be what you really need.
Bad dates also create new opportunities. If you’ve ever considered writing a memoir or a screenplay (and haven’t we all?), these experiences could be fodder. (No matter if you’re not [?] musically inclined, you could even write a song recounting the details. My “Ode to A**holes” from high school still pulls at heartstrings).
You see, bad dates allow you to appreciate your life, which your former date will blissfully never be a part of. Even if you feel lonely, it’s better to be alone than to be with someone who upsets or irks you. Focus on your freedom and consider how many adventures begin when a person finds him or herself alone.
Certainly not every Jew can put a positive spin on botched attempts at love. Bad dates can reinforce the fear of ending up alone. Woody Allen and Larry David predicate their successful careers on this pessimism. Some people will sink into desperation and bitterness, envisioning themselves growing old not even with cats, but with Whole Foods’ orchids, which are often on sale. Other people will suppress the incident and probably go out on more bad dates. But some people will find fruitful ways to process the experience and move forward.
A bad date is like a war story to anyone who has ever dated:it’s character-building and life-changing. It can teach you about what you want not only in a partner, but what you want in life. It can also incentivize you to develop yourself as an individual, something that often diminishes in a long-term relationship. So embrace your bad dates, especially if they’re paying for dessert.
Sasha Ingber is a freelance writer whose work focuses on relationships, travel and dance. She is currently a graduate student in Johns Hopkins University’s writing program.