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Dating: Is there a Lemon Law?

You’re on a date. It’s going just OK. Actually, no it’s not. It’s not good at all. He lied about his age in his profile. Her jokes are really offensive. You got into an argument over some spilled beer. He was rude to the wait staff. You’re just really bored and tired of carrying the conversation. Whatever the reason, you want out.

Is there a polite, socially acceptable way to end a bad date and leave quickly and gracefully? Now, I’m not necessarily talking about Barney Stinson’s Lemon Law from “How I Met Your Mother.” I’m just talking about a courteous gesture that indicates that the date is over.

I once went on a date to play ping pong. (I’m a ping pong fiend.) When I got there, I couldn’t find my date, and it wasn’t because he wasn’t there. It was because I didn’t recognize him. He was about 50 pounds heavier than his profile picture and stated weight indicated. I wasn’t happy that my date had lied, but I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. But it soon became clear that it was hard to carry a two-way conversation (like, pulling teeth hard). Not to mention, he was a poor sport at losing to me in ping pong. Three strikes for him, and I was outta there.

I told him that my workout earlier in the day had really taken it out of 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. But what’s done is done.

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. For the “creepy” bad date (other variants are “scary” bad, “offensive” bad, “mean” bad – you get the picture), the best bet is to (gulp!) be honest. This is definitely the most awkward choice, but it’s also the most mature. “You know, I just don’t think we’re clicking. It was nice to meet you, though.”

Again, in most cases, it’s best to stick it out while you’re there. Telling a white lie (you’re feeling sick, you ate some bad sushi, you forgot about a work function you have to attend, etc.) to get out of a date, like I did, isn’t usually the smartest move. You may cross paths with this person again, which actually makes this choice pretty awkward too. Your date may not have gotten the hint and may try to ask you out again, and the lie will become apparent. No, a little white lie never killed anyone, but if you’re comfortable enough to use the, “I just don’t think we’re clicking” line, it’s a better, more honest approach.

So, while there’s no modern-day dating Lemon Law, if your date starts discussing the pros of tongue tattoos (though, who am I to judge?) or sneezing in your face without any regard for your personal space, it’s OK to admit you’re not a match and move on.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter, for updates and tips.