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Time for the monthly tradition where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions.

Before we get to it, it’s Pledge Drive Time! Twice a year, winter and summer, I interrupt our usual programming to remind folks that fun stuff like the Search Terms posts and the Friday short answers are funded by my kind and generous patrons and readers who support the site via PayPal and other ways. These donations allow me to keep the blog ad-free, invest substantial time in maintaining the community, reading the mailbox, and moderating comments, devote time to answering questions and writing new content, pay guest writers, and keep us functioning as an independent site. This year I’m trying to pull back on teaching and be a full-time writer, and your support is necessary and much appreciated for the care and feeding of me & my family. Please make a donation or become a patron if you can. Every little bit helps. (If you can’t afford to, don’t worry ’bout a thing, I’m glad you are here and reading.)

As is traditional, let’s begin with a song to set the mood. Lyrics here :

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Good morning! Today we’re doing the thing!

Submit your question before noon either at Patreon or on Twitter (@CAwkward, #AwkwardFriday) and I will answer as many as I can between noon and 1pm Chicago time. Comments open when the full transcript is posted.

Search Terms drop Monday, so, short answers all around! Short answers (literally) for days.

And we’re off: Financial stuff with parents, being a wedding buffer, the hellscape of academic career decisions, more academia with added grief, Mourning Periods, revisited, new dating partners and mismatched feelings, “but we just fell in love how can we be breaking up already” breakups, and avoiding cultural appropriation at family weddings.

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Good morning! Submit your questions on Patreon or on Twitter (@CAwkward, #AwkwardFriday) before noon Chicago time today.

From 12-1 I’ll answer as many as I can and update as I go. Comments open once everything is posted.

These have been fun so far. I’m looking forward to questions.

Ok, it’s on!

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MY GRADING IS ALL DONE FOR THE YEAR.

Image description: A lady dressed all in pink with bright red shoes does an excited dance on the front stoop of her mint green house.

In celebration, it’s time for that tradition where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are questions.

Here’s a mellow tune to relax you:

And now for the search engine snippets.

1 “How to make your parents divorce.”

This one is pretty much up to your parents. If they bring up “staying together for the children” as a thing they are trying to do, you might be able to say “I really appreciate that, but I want you both to be happy and I know you’ll be great parents even if you decide not to stay married.

See also: “Wow, I appreciate the thought but that’s a lot of pressure! What would make you most happy? I know you’ll be a great parent even if you aren’t married anymore.”

2 “How to reply to a compliment about caring nature.”

“Thank you, I’m glad you think so.”
“Thank you, I do my best.”

3 “When your rich long distance boyfriend ghosting..does it mean that he’s testing to see whether you are a gold digger or not.”

I would say that when your partner does something that confuses you or hurts your feelings like ghosting on you, it’s okay to ask them what’s going on. “I notice you haven’t been in contact much, are we cool or is there something I should know?” I also think that instead of looking at the situation as a test you must pass, think of it as if you were giving the test: Is being ghosted ok with you? Do you let this boyfriend get away with treating you poorly because he has money?

4 “What to tell your coworkers who ask about you when you are on leave due to mental illness.”



It’s really up to you what you disclose. “I’m taking some time off to deal with some health issues, thanks so much for checking on me” is more than enough information if that’s what you’re comfortable sharing.

5 “Ran into a woman that I had an awkward date with.”

I’ve lived in the same city since 2000 and this has happened to me so many times

So.

Many.

Times.

It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if everyone follows the rule of “treat everybody you meet like you will probably run into them again someday.” The way I generally handle it is to a) say a very quick and pleasant hello and b) if they are with friends, I do not bring up the fact that we know each other in a dating sort of way. There are a few exceptions, depending on why the date was awkward – Handsy McGropesalot or “Pilsen’s Most ‘Authentic’ & ‘Interesting’ Man (Ugh)” or The Guy Who Would Not Break Eye Contact Even For A Second get a terse “‘sup?” or nod followed by immediate evasive tactics. But a basically nice person I just didn’t click with? “Hey, how have you been, nice to see you!” and no worries after that. It’s a both a big world and a small world.

6 “How to reply to your ex if he asks are you still mad.”



You don’t owe this question an answer, but I think the truth can be pretty liberating. “I mostly don’t think about you. Why do you ask?”

If you’re still mad, maybe say that? “Yep, still mad.”

7a “I cant find anyone to date with good hygiene.” and 7b “How to handle a bf who happens to be dirty body and smelly mouth.”


There are enough recurring search terms like this that I feel compelled to say: What is happening out there?

Do you want to touch/date/be close to other people? If so, please bathe regularly (Once a day? Every other day? At least on days you know you’re going to see a partner?), wear clean clothes, and brush your teeth often. Do the best you can.

It’s okay to ask a romantic partner to freshen up before you do naked or up-close stuff or even before hanging out. “Awesome, let’s make out, but can we brush teeth first?” “Can’t wait! Wash the gym off first?” “Hey, I need you to shower and brush your teeth before you come see me.” Bodies are amazing and wonderful. Also, sometimes they get dirty and stinky. It’s okay to acknowledge that.

8 “What to get your son’s girlfriend for Christmas when you don’t like her.”



1 Ask your son if there is something that he knows the girlfriend wants or would find useful.
2 Get her the same thing you’d get her if you did like her? Like, if you’re going to get an “I hate you” present maybe it’s better to buy nothing at all?
3 Try something generic & consumable rather than an object she will feel compelled to display. For instance, a gift card to a big retailer that would be easy to redeem.

9 “Should you invite someone who assaulted you to your wedding.”

No. Just, no. Give yourself the gift of not inviting this person and not worrying about it anymore. Periodic reminder: Your wedding does not exist to spackle over all the rough edges in your family or social circle.

You don’t have to keep this person’s secrets. You don’t have to disclose the details, either. If someone asks you “Why aren’t you inviting _____?”

Stuff like: “We’re not close.” “______ knows why.” “Don’t want to.”

10 “Can you break up after one day?”

You can break up after one minute.

11 “How to get rid of a guy on Facebook.”



Block them. Never look back.

12 “Partner leaving because I don’t like his kids.”

That sounds really hard, but I can respect that as a good reason to break up. “You hate the people I made/raised and have a lifelong commitment to, I don’t think love for each other can overcome that.”

13 “How to reply to someone who nags about your overweight.”

“I’m gonna need you to shut the fuck up about my weight from now on.”
“It’s really weird that you think my body is your business.”
“I don’t care what you think.”
“Please stop talking.”

14 “50 and husband criticizes my clothes.” 



“Husband, I am half a century old. This is what I’m wearing. This is how I dress. Let it go.”

15 “I made my boyfriend come with me everywhere.”

Ok? Why? Was he cool with that?



16 “How do you get your new neighbor to stop asking you for things without being nasty.”

Decide in advance that you will just say no to whatever it is without negotiating. That makes it easier in the moment to say, “Oh no, I don’t lend that out.” “Can’t help you out, sorry.” “No, sorry, please ask somebody else.” You can’t prevent them from asking but you can make it boring and unproductive for them to keep doing so.

17 “How do I stop a person from inviting herself to stay regularly.”


As in the example with the neighbor, you can’t prevent her from asking in the first place but you can say “no” every single time. “That won’t work for me.” “I can’t put you up anymore.” “Please stop asking.” “Please find somewhere else to stay.”

18 “She cut me off and now I’m having second thoughts about the break up.”

Oops! You could try to reach out one time to say “I’m sorry and I’m having second thoughts, can we talk?” as long as you understand that no answer is in itself a kind of answer.

19 “My ex keeps calling me but doesn’t want to date right now.”

You don’t have to keep taking these calls. “Hey, Ex, I respect that you don’t want to get back together! These frequent calls are making it hard for me to move on and let go of our relationship, so I’d appreciate it if you stopped.”

20 “Ex says he doesn’t want a relationship right now.”

Then the relationship is over.

21 “Boyfriend breaks up tells you good luck wish you happiness and lets be casual friends what does that mean?”

He’d like to part on friendly terms and he wishes you well. “Casual friends” = He’d like to be on friendly terms when he runs into you but not necessarily make an effort to be close or spend time together.

22 “So far retirement is endless dishwashing, clotheswashing, and ‘what’s for dinner?'”

TIME FOR A NEW ROUTINE FOR EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THIS STORY. It sounds like people need things to do outside of the house, a rebalancing of household chores, and some serious alone time.

23 “Want to quit my 10 year job but feel guilty.”



You’ve given this place 10 years of service. If you’re ready to be done, it’s okay to be done. It’s not exactly comforting but chances are if they needed to fire you or lay you off, they’d do it without another thought.

24 “How to tell if a guy is too intense.”

If he’s too intense for you, then he’s too intense. Examples of behaviors that have made me write someone off as too intense for me in the past:

  • Upon connecting on social media, I feel like he is monitoring everything I have ever said and done. “Likes” and comments showing up on every single post, including stuff from long ago.
  • Wants to spend every waking moment together. Interrogates me if I say I have other plans. Wants to come along to literally everything.
  • Makes lots of jokes about getting married & having kids really early on. “Our kids will be so beautiful and smart!” “Um okay I’ve known you for 3 hours what kids.”
  • Seems to be making a ton of plans that center around me, especially really early on. “Well, I was gonna move into a new place but I don’t want to be 2 buses away from you!” “Um okay I’ve known you for 3 hours don’t plan your life around me.”
  • Overly quick to drown me in reading material and stuff to watch or listen to, like, “Date me, DATE MY POP CULTURE REFERENCES.” I already have my own taste, bro.
  • Doesn’t pay attention to reciprocity, like, I’d go into a movie or teach a class and turn my phone off for a couple hours and come out and have 10 long paragraphs of text messages.
  • Seemed overly vigilant and weird about male friends & colleagues, treating them like potential competition.
  • Way into public displays of affection & constant touching.
  • Too thick with compliments, especially about physical stuff. “You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.” “Um, okay, they’re brown?” I like being told that I’m pretty but I like being told that I’m good at something more and I don’t like lines that feel recycled.
  • If you’d like an audio-visual example, here’s a short film I directed about this.

Bottom line: It’s awesome to feel seen, it’s suffocating to feel monitored.

25 “Flirt someone internet regret.”



Aw, buddy. It happens to the best of us. Leave your regrets in 2017 if you can.

Love and light to all of you in Awkwardland.

Video description: The Bangles cover Big Star’s September Gurls in Pittsburgh in 1986.

It’s time for the monthly thing where we answer the things people typed into search engines as if they are actual questions. This feature is generously funded by Patreon supporters.

1 “How to stop a neighbour and hubby putting me down every time I walk past
.”

Ugh, your husband is being a giant asshole, and it’s time to tell him straight up to knock this behavior off. “Stop doing that. It’s rude, disrespectful, and it hurts my feelings.” If he won’t, you’ve got Husband-problems more than you have Neighbor-problems.

2 “What does it mean when a girl says focusing on school right now after you say your feelings
.” 

It means she did not enthusiastically say “Yes, I feel the same way, let’s definitely date each other!” It means she’d rather focus on school than go out with you. Interpret it as “No.”

3 “Anonymous STD notification letter.”

National treasure website Scarleteen recommends InSpot  for sending an anonymous e-card and has a good how-to guide on doing this kind of notification. Australia has a service called Better To Know that lets you notify partners of possible Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) anonymously via text or email. In both cases, you enter info, the person gets a message that lets them know that they may have been exposed to an STI (+ there’s a way for you to enter which ones) and should get tested. There’s a good roundup of similar services in this article.

If you’re feeling blue and alone in this, the Netflix show formerly known as “Scrotal Recall” (now renamed Lovesick) is a romantic comedy about a man who must notify past sexual partners about possible chlamydia exposure.

If you don’t want to go anonymous, a simple text or phone call that says “Hey [Sex Friend] I recently tested positive for ________. You should get checked out, too” is a very kind and ethical thing to send. The more we all remove stigma and shame around STIs, the better job everyone can do taking care of ourselves and each other.

4 “My boyfriend mom prophesied that we are not meant to be together.”

Translation: Your boyfriend’s mom does not want you to be together.

What do you and your boyfriend want?

5 “When some knocks on door and says the Lord compelled them to stop and talk to you.”

Translation: The someone wanted to stop and talk to you.

What do you want?

6 “How to decline a neighbor asking us over

.”

“How nice of you to think of us, but no thank you.”

7 “What to do when your friend sets you up on a blind date and the guy’s interested in her.”

Acknowledge the awkwardness, have a good laugh together, tell the guy “good luck, dude, tell her how you feel and maybe we can avoid this sitcom nonsense next time” and go home with your dignity. You didn’t do anything weird.

8 “Should you invite girls of interest to your party

.”

Throwing a party is a great reason to invite someone that you might be interested in romantically over. That person can meet your friends, see your place, everyone can see how everyone gets on together, you can get to know each other better without having it be a DATE date, etc. Why not?

Now, girl(s) plural is an advanced move, but again, why not?

9 “What do you do when your daughter owes you money and is not paying you back but takes vacations and spends a lot
.”

Ugh, this is a hard one. Here are some steps for dealing with friends and family members who are not good/prompt/conscientious about paying back loans,

a) Assume that you won’t ever be repaid. Take whatever steps you need to shore up your own financial well-being so that you’re not depending on that money. If you do manage to collect it it will be a happy thing.

b) Ask the person to repay you what they owe. If you bring up fancy vacations or their other spending they will get automatically defensive, so skip that part in your request (even if it is relevant to the issue). Why skip it? You don’t need the story about how she bought the tickets long ago or how they were really a gift from a friend and you don’t want to give her a reason to feel judged and aggrieved (even if judgment is warranted). The vacation money is spent. It’s not coming back. She knows that you know that she knows that she owes you money. Just be simple and direct and ask for what you need:

Script: “Daughter, you still owe me $______. When can we expect repayment?” or “Daughter, you still owe me $_______. Can you repay me by (date)?” Brace yourself for the wave of defensiveness and excuses that is coming. Do not, I repeat, do not get into the details of her spending or her excuses or reasons. Just repeat the question. “Okay, so, when can you get the money to me?

c) Don’t lend this person any more money. You may or may not ever get the money back, but you can definitely control whether you lend them more. You now have a lot of information about how they’ll behave when you lend them money and you both have a hard, awkward lesson. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior here, and “I’m sorry, Daughter, I don’t feel comfortable lending you money since you didn’t pay me back” is a situation your daughter created, not you.

I hope you get a good result. Also, general thought, if you are going to lend money to friends or family, it’s a good idea to put something in writing: How much, what it’s for, when & how will it be paid back. Your script can be “Let’s just write it down so we all know what the agreement is and I never have to bug you about paying me back.

10 “Etiquette of peeing when surfing.”

We are people of action and lies do not become us: In the unlikely comedy of errors that lands me on an actual surfboard in an actual body of water, there is no way on earth my enthusiastic and prolific middle-aged bladder is gonna be able to wait until I swim to shore, find a land-based bathroom, and peel off my wetsuit in time to pee decorously in a toilet. This seems like a “it’s a big ocean” and “that’s between you and your wetsuit” issue to me, but maybe an actual surfer has insight?

11 “How to make girlfriend move out to Colorado.”

You do not make. You ask, and then she either moves or she doesn’t.

12 “I have to leave the Midwest or I will die but my husband thinks it’s all in my head.”

Ok, this seems like a REALLY specific situation and we are DEFINITELY missing context here but what if I said “Even if it were in your head, is your need to go so great and so urgent and so necessary that it’s worth going alone, even if that’s a difficult & sad decision?”

13 “Dating female academic awful
.”

It certainly can be, since the prospect of relocation is always hanging over the whole deal.

14 “He said he wants to do his own thing and maybe see other people.”


Translation: “I am planning to see other people and have less energy/focus/time/interest for a relationship with you.”

It’s a prelude to a breakup, possibly one where “he” either wants you to be the bad guy and actually do the breaking up or where he’d like you to stick around in his life but in background/low-priority mode.

15 “My 23 year old son looks so unattractive, but he won’t shave or cut his hair
.”

[Bad Advisor] Well, it’s definitely 100% his job to make sure his face and body look attractive and acceptable to you, his parent, at all times so definitely be sure to bring this up as often as possible! Your concern, constantly expressed, will only bring you closer together as a fellow adult human strives to please you in all things, including and especially the hair that is growing on his personal face and body where he lives and you do not.

Also, to be on the safe side, hide all of your copies of the musical about this very question, lest he get ideas about fur vests, naked dancing or protesting the Vietnam War.

It is not only your business but your duty to set this young man straight. [/Bad Advisor]

16 “What does it mean if you ask for a guy’s phone number and his response is he is antisocial
.”

He did not want to give you his phone number, or, if he does/did, he is warning you that he doesn’t want to actually hang out. Try again, another dude, another day.

17 “Fucking past due invoices.”

Fucking the worst.

18 “Girlfriend of 11 years is leaving me
.”

Wallow. Fuck Around. Do The Thing.

Repeat the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear to yourself.

(Or not, as it suits you).

19 “Angry that my husband allows his parents to come whenever they want
.”

This would make me angry, too. His family may have a drop-in culture or agreement and expectations, but you do not, and therefore the family that you and your husband make together does not. There are several conversations/actions that need to happen if they haven’t already (and maybe they have and need to happen again):

a) “Husband, I want your folks to feel and be welcome in our house, but to make that happen I need some advance notice. Please ask them to call first and ask if we’re free, and please check with me before you say yes.” 

b) “In-Laws, I really want you to be and feel welcome in our house, but I need more advance notice than you’re accustomed to providing. Just dropping by, even when I’m happy to see you, really stresses me out. I know this is different from how you do things in your family, but I need you to call first and ask if I’m free or if now is a good time. Thanks!” 

c) “Husband, I know I’m somewhat ‘changing the rules’ on your family, but I really need some consideration here. Back me up.” 

d) When they just drop by anyway and your husband isn’t home try: “Oh, too bad this isn’t a good time, I’m just stepping out” + LEAVE (go to the library or run errands or something, just take a drive around the block on principle). Btw if they have keys and are in the habit of just letting themselves in, put the chain on when you’re home alone. Teach them that you won’t drop everything because they came over.

e) When they just drop by anyway and your husband is home, “Oh, too bad, this isn’t a good time, I was just about to take a nap” + HIDE (in your bedroom with the door shut  – keep books handy – and let him do whatever work of entertaining them). Risk seeming unwelcoming and unfriendly. You ARE unwelcoming…to people who invite themselves over.

This didn’t start overnight and won’t go away overnight but in my opinion it’s a battle worth picking.

20 “How to agree a girl for fucking if she dislikes doing it.”

Find someone else to fuck. Someone who likes doing it. Someone who enthusiastically likes doing it with you.

What the fuck, people.

21 “Got an apology from my ex after 15 years
.”

That had to feel weird.

Whether this was welcome or unwelcome contact, there’s one important thing you should know:

It doesn’t obligate you to do anything or feel anything or re-open any kind of contact with this person. If you want to talk to them, ok? You could say “Thanks for the apology, I forgive you and wish you well” if that is true of how you feel.

But if you’d rather let the past stay in the past, you can 100% delete the weird Facebook message or whatever and go on with your life.

22 “Did the date go good or bad?”

This is a great question. You can’t control whether another person will like you, so after a date ask yourself:

  • Did I enjoy myself?
  • Was I relaxed and comfortable with this person?
  • Could I be myself around this person?
  • Did the conversation flow?
  • Did I feel like the other person was on my team, helping the date go smoothly and laughing gently at any awkward moments? Or did the awkward silences turn into awkward chasms on the edge of the awkward abyss?
  • Did the other person seem at ease and comfortable with me?
  • Was the actual time we spent together fun/enjoyable/comfortable/pleasurable?
  • Was it as good as spending time alone doing something enjoyable or with a good friend or do I wish I’d just spent the evening at home?
  • Was I bored? Checked out? Apprehensive?
  • Was it easy to make plans?
  • Do I feel like the person was listening/paying attention/engaged?
  • (If kissing is a thing you’re interested in) Can I picture myself kissing them?
  • Am I looking forward to hanging out again?
  • Were there any red flags?*

If the date went well for you, where you enjoyed yourself and felt good, ask the person for another date. The rest is up to the other person.

If you can get in the habit of checking in with yourself about your own comfort and enjoyment levels during and after dates, even a “meh” date can be useful because you’ll know more about yourself and what you’re looking for.

*Bonus list of some of my personal First Date red flags from back in the day when I bravely put on clean shirts and lip gloss and met strangers from the Internet for drinks:

  • Was the person I was meeting generally congruent with the person presented on the dating site and during any prior conversations? If you’re “single” on the dating site and suddenly “planning to get divorced btw we still live together and no one at work knows we’re separated so I’d appreciate your discretion” when we meet, if you’re 28 in all your dating site photos and 58 in person…it was not going to work.
  • Did the person monologue the whole time?
  • Did I feel like I was monologuing the whole time at someone who just shyly stared at me and nodded? (The Silent Type is a great type and it may be your type but experience tells me it was not mine).
  • Did I feel like I was an unpaid nonconsensual therapist while someone shared everything about their life?
  • Did the person constantly talk about their ex & exes?
  • Was literally everything they said a complaint about someone or something?
  • Were these complaints at least funny and entertaining?
  • In these complaints was nothing ever their responsibility? Was it just a long list of Ways I Have Been Wronged By Others with a subtext of Surely You Have A Duty To Not Disappoint Me Like Everyone Else Has (Now That You Know My Tale of Woe)?
  • Ugh, mansplaining, especially politics or philosophy, how movies get made, the “authenticity” of whatever food we were eating, the makeup & history of the neighborhood where I lived and they did not (for example when I failed to pick the “most authentic” taco place in Pilsen or Little Village), telling me why everything I liked was actually overrated.
  • Talking during movies. No.
  • Taking me to some sort of performance and then critiquing how much it sucks into my ear in real time. No.
  • Overfamiliarity, over-investment. “I can’t wait to introduce you to my son, he’s going to love you!” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
  • Overdoing innuendo & sex talk too soon, like, “I just got a new bed, it’s very comfortable, you’ll have to come test it out with me later heh heh.” Ok but u just met me I am still wearing my coat slow down friend.
  • Overdoing it with the touching. If dinner and a movie remind me of how my cat likes to constantly crawl all over me and make annoying biscuits everywhere it’s too much touching!
  • Negging of all sorts, especially “I don’t usually date ________, but you seem really cool.” (Bonus Nope!!!!! if the blank includes fat people, feminists, “women who seem really smart”)
  • Constant contact, expecting constant texts/calls/emails before we’ve even met in person, all up in my social media biz, “liking” every single photo/comment going back through the archives. It feels good to be seen and not so good to be surveilled.
  • Neediness  – We literally just met, so, surely there is someone else in your life who can drive you home from dental surgery or hold your hand while you put your dog to sleep or fly home with you to your father’s funeral or weigh in with you about whether you should accept this job offer? (All true stories of actual things actual men wanted me to do after a few emails and one hour-long bar or coffee date). I will move mountains to take care of people I love, when, you know, I have had a chance to figure out if love them.
  • Casual, “ironic” sexist or racist comments, dropping code sentences like “I hate all the political correctness these days, I feel like I can’t say anything.
  • Bringing your feature screenplay to the date for me to read.

Your Mileage May Vary, as the great saying goes. My list doesn’t look like anyone else’s and I may have had stuff on there that is not necessarily a problem in itself or not a problem for you, or where there are exceptions to be made (I did drive the guy home from dental surgery as a human favor for a fellow human being, I just didn’t date him more) or that are just differences in styles and interest levels. It’s not meant to be universal and it’s about compatibility with you vs. any one thing being Good or Bad.

I’m including the list because I developed it over time by paying attention to what made me feel good, comfortable, safe, relaxed, happy, excited and what made me feel the opposite.I stopped asking people “Is this normal/cool/okay thing when you date?” and started asking “Am I good with this?” and “Am I delighted by this?” Those experiences (and the decision to be picky about second and third dates) helped me avoid some entanglements that would have been fleeting at best and draining at worst, and it helped me know “Just Right” when I saw it.

We focus so much on the auditioning aspect of dating – Am I good enough? Does the other person like me back? – that our own comfort and needs and pleasure can get lost right when we need them most. It was a good date if you enjoyed yourself and felt good and did your best to be kind and considerate. It was a bad date if you didn’t enjoy yourself. Whether a good date will lead to another one is up to more than just you.