We’ve all been there. Staring across the table at someone who’s insisting that they’re happy at H&R Block, but thinks that this X Factor audition on Saturday could be the start of something big. Sure, they’ve only sung in front of their friends and family, but they seemed to be genuinely amazed at how good it sounded, even though she was really just singing “Happy Birthday”, but if I’d like she’d be more than happy to sing me something there at the table. OK, maybe we haven’t all been exactly there, but somewhere just like it. Out on a date with a person that’s perfectly fine, just not…perfectly fine enough, and immediately the tally starts going in your head. “Money I’ve wasted on this date: $40…Time I’ve wasted with someone I never want to see again: 45 minutes…How long it’ll take me to get out of here: half hour, if there’s a fire. Otherwise, I’m fucked.” But why do we have to be fucked?
When a date is bad, both people know it. It’s not like one person is sitting there singing Firehouse’s “I’ve Finally Found The Love of a Lifetime” in their head while the other is trying to slit their wrists with a swizzle straw. Either there’s chemistry or there’s not, and it’s usually pretty evident. So why is it so hard to say, “you know what, I don’t think we’re a good match” twenty minutes into a crappy date and hit the road? I wouldn’t mind if someone said that to me. In most cases, I’d be thrilled. I’d give ’em a high-five and $5 for their troubles. But every time I’ve tried to say it myself, something happens. I believe you humans call it “feeling bad.” So sometimes you have to get creative…
The following is a list of ways to get out of bad dates:
1) Receive an emergency phone call from a friend.
2) Place an emergency phone call to a friend (so confusing that the date usually gives up).
3) Pretend to get food poisoning.
4) Sneak undercooked shellfish into date’s dinner or cocktail, giving her food poisoning.
5) Turn on all the faucets in the bathroom and insist there is a flash flood.
6) Ask your date if she knows “where all the white women at?”
7) Dress up like Godzilla and attack the bar.
8) Tell your date you’re a Republican.
9) Tell your date you’re a Libertarian.
10) Ask her if it’s cool if you write about this on your blog.
11) Say the following, “If you had to guess, what kind of shampoo do you think Justin Bieber uses?” Then, when she guesses, say, “Wrong. It’s Pert Plus.”
I’ve done each of these, and trust me, they all work. But there has to be a better way, doesn’t there? There’s gotta be, because I’m getting real tired of wearing a Godzilla costume under my date clothes.
What we need is some sort of signal. Something you can say or do at any point in the date that just calls the thing off. They’ll be no risk of hurting anyone’s feelings or making things awkward because you’re not saying anything that’s actually insulting. Every time I consider ending a date early, I’m terrified that in trying to say “You seem like a great person, and thanks for coming to meet me, but I’m just not feeling a spark”, I’ll blubber and stumble and end up blurting out “You smell. I’m outta here!” But a code word will fix all that. I just say a simple phrase and the woman understands all the nice things that I’m far too awkward to express in actual conversation. I can use it, she can use it, anyone can use it at any moment, and we’ll all understand that even though we’re both wonderful people, it’s time for this date to end. No hurt feelings, no uncomfortable silences, it’s like heaven! Or a version of heaven where bad dates exist. But what should the secret signal be…?
That’s right, Alan Alda. That’s the secret code word. Say “Alan Alda” and the date ends in harmony. It’s perfect, isn’t it?! He’s so comforting, and old, and wryly humorous. I mean, there’s just no way you can think of Alan Alda and get angry. He’s like a glass of warm milk…with a dignified gray head of hair and round creative-guy glasses. Try it out. Seriously. Look into the mirror and say “Alan Alda” as aggressively as you possibly can. What happened? You smiled, didn’t you? You have to smile! You can’t not feel good about the words “Alan Alda.” It’s not possible! Go to a funeral where everyone’s crying and carrying on and say “Alan Alda.” You know what will happen? Singing. People will be so overcome with joy and relief that they will sing to the heavens. All because of this fantastic little code word that you and I have set up today.
It could spread. Soon there will be wars ended by Alan Alda. Waves of pestilence and hunger, stopping dead in their tracks by a simple rerun of MASH. All budget debates will cease and everyone will agree to pay as much in taxes as they possibly can – and really do it. All from Alan Alda. But it starts with you. Spread his gospel. This will only work when everyone knows about it. So go forth on your awkward dates and explain Alan Alda and use him. May you never have to buy another pointless drink or waste a needless hour. Say Alan Alda, and be free!!!