If I can endure this, I’ll make it through anything.

“If I can make it through 9 fractured bones, I can make it through this date,” “I’m on a date with Matt Damon, that is Matt Damon, Matt Damon is talking right now,” and “Smile and laugh. Smile and nod. Smile and laugh…”  I can’t be the only one who uses these self-imposed mind game tactics on bad dates.

It can feel like torture to spend an hour with a guy when you realize he’s a dud, especially when you realize it the minute he walks up. Girls have very different ways of dealing with the situation. Some leave right away, some take “emergency” phone calls, some stay but act uninterested.  Others, like me, act. I act until I can’t take it anymore. I think I could’ve won an Oscar for some of the performances I’ve put on.

Here’s how I manage:

1. So this is how he presents himself:  He walks up looking goofy. Cases have included pleated khakis or iron-creased jeans, a gaudy gold chain necklace, tube socks, etc.  I block it out and pretend it’s not there. There is no toolish water bottle belt that he brought for a 30 minute jog. I am only looking at him from the chest up, and force-forgetting what I initially saw.

2. Not what I signed up for: He presented himself as a much more successful, fit, thoughtful type of person. As the conversation goes on, I realize there are an increasing number of holes in his story. To deal, I remember that everyone tries to show their best side first and focus on the positives. Maybe he’s nice. Maybe he is unique. It can be a sort of glass-half-full game.

3. He really just said that:He keeps saying ridiculously awkward, random, or irritating things that drive you nuts. This one is a little more difficult. I use a mild version of method acting. Something along the lines of, I’ve been living in a cave for the past ten years and find this information new, enlightening, and interesting.  I don’t find his condescending attitude at all insulting or absurd. Key point here- you can’t think about what you’re doing or you’ll hate yourself for acting so stupid. I have to just commit to and stay in that clueless girl character. I am the stupid girl.

4. Dear Lord, he’s irritating:  So he’s talking about himself all the time, consistently bragging, giving directions I already said I have, talking down to me, etc.  I don’t take it all in. I listen about every 3-5 seconds and interject with a thoughtful sounding “mmm hmmm,” “huh..” “really?” or “oh yeah?”  If he smiles and pauses while I break from listening, I smile back or laugh. Picking up key words is helpful too.  “That’s really interesting about pineapples,””Sounds like a good deal for the fire ants,” “So the Harley isn’t really the best quality bike,huh?” If I didn’t hear any of it I just say it’s really interesting and pause a minute like I’m taking in all of what he just said until he continues.

5. Millions of things I’d rather be doing: The date is dragging and it feels like a big, disappointing waste of time, and I hate it.  Flip it and reverse it. I think of all the things I wouldn’t rather be doing or that I have done and were worse. It’s at least comforting and it takes you out of the downward mental spiral.

6. Nope, not the least bit attracted to him: He looks over at me with a big ol’ goofy grin and ruffled, unkempt hair. That combined with his style, personality, and overall attitude is doing nothing for me. So I pretend I’m with someone else. As stated above, Matt Damon works pretty well for me, anything sounds better when he says it.  Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Justin Timberlake pretty good too, because they can really get away with saying some absurd stuff and still sound cool.

7.This goodbye’s going to be awkward, isn’t it?: He’s walking me to my car. Great. More talking. No problem though, because we’re in the homestretch. I preempt a clumsy closing with a “I am so glad you called, this was fun!” Hugs work well here as a distraction so that he’s not prompted to ask if/when you want to see him again. I always have somewhere I’m going right after, so we can’t linger and give time for that question.

At the end of the day it’s a bit of an accomplishment.  He feels okay about the situation, you got some good acting practice in, and you’re still on good terms with him so you can always act friendly if you happen to bump into him again.