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Dating can be among the best and worst experiences of your life.

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No matter what your age, and how you met your dating partner, horror first dates can be so cringe-worthy, you may want to assume a new identity and/or declare yourself single for the rest of your days.

On the flip side, you can learn a lot about what makes you tick and what you abhor when you’re a sassy singleton playing the dating game and looking for love. And, eventually, you will most likely go on the best, most magical date ever – when you meet your life partner – and all the hilarity and ugliness of horror first dates (and second and third) shall dissolve into nothing, but far distant memories.

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Me? I endured so many bad first dates prior to meeting my husband it’s a marvel I didn’t swear off men – and dating – altogether. In fact, I’ve had so many horror dating experiences I could write a book. Some were just hilarious, while others were disappointing and just plain upsetting. There was the guy who turned up inebriated to our first date and asked me if I was into threesomes. Abort!?

Then, there was the civil engineer who informed me on our first date he could “easily” do my job – newspaper journalism was a cinch, he’d said, because he was apparently adept at writing reports. Oh the sheer arrogance and disrespect?! Incidentally, that same guy then turned into a crazed stalker and sent me abusive texts for more than a week when I declined his offer of a second date!

Oh – and my personal favourites – which still make me laugh even today, despite them being many, many years ago: the exercise fanatic who oh-so-helpfully told me on our first date that I shouldn’t be eating carbs, and the idiotic guy who’d come to pick me up for dinner, who actually went so far as to do a runner from my house, while my back was turned, and I thought he was in the toilet.

Oh the vast and infinite horror and ridiculousness?! So, how do we cope when a first date turns into a nightmare? Is there a polite way to inform your date you’d rather swim through an ocean of sharks than ever see them again? Or did my guy do the right thing by bolting for the door, without so much as a word?

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Jodie Bache-McLean (pictured), director of both June Dally-Watkins (JDW) and Dallys Model Management – who’s a well-respected national and international etiquette expert – says it’s imperative we treat our dating partners with the utmost kindness and dignity. “Always treat people how we would like to be treated – this is paramount,” Jodie says.

“It is interesting when I hear stories that some ladies may resort to ignoring calls from a first dater, rather than say: ‘No thank you’, however when we hear a story about one of our girlfriends being ignored by the man, all hell breaks loose.

“As a mother of boys, I do have a rather large soft spot for the pain that we ladies can inflict on men when we say: ‘Thanks, but no thanks’. So I would always recommend people try to be as considerate and kind as possible when dating. No one deserves anything less.”

The etiquette expert also believes gentle honesty is best, if you aren’t interested – post horror-date – in pursuing a relationship with the person and/or are hoping to never, ever lay eyes on them again. “If after the first date, I realised that there was no chemistry at all from my perspective and it was the end of the night and the gentleman wanted to make plans for a second date, I would not commit to anything,” Jodie says.

“Instead, I would perhaps suggest we speak in the next few days to make a plan. I would then send an email the next day saying how I had had a lovely time, and he is a lovely person, but I am just not feeling a connection.

“Now, why would I do this? Because this is how I would prefer the ‘no thanks’ be delivered to me. It might sting a little, but in time (maybe 24hours or so) I would be grateful that he was truthful with me.

“And, remember this was a one-date situation, not a full-on relationship.”

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And relationship psychologists concur: kindness and gentle honesty are best, as is keeping things in perspective. You’ve only had one date with the person – you don’t owe them any more or any less.

But remember, it’s not helpful or kind to inflict emotional wounds on people for no good reason. What’s more, a little empathy goes a long way because people might not be at their best on the all-important and daunting first date.

Is there a genuine spark and you can forgive a little awkwardness? Or was the date so terrible and the person so unlikable, you’d rather stick in a pin in your own eye and/or move to a foreign country than ever see them again?

Go well and have faith, sister – I sincerely believe in the perennial power of true love. It awaits you…

What do you think? How do you survive first-date horror stories?

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