Late For A Date? Here’s How To Deal

Whether you’re the perpetually tardy type or the person stuck sitting and checking your watch while you scan the crowd, here’s how to deal with a delayed arrival on your next date.

By Susan Johnston

icture this: You walk into a bar and scan the crowd for someone resembling the person you’re supposed to meet. Having no luck spotting your date yet, you claim a seat at the bar and check your cell for any updates. You switch over to Facebook and Words with Friends to calm your nerves before refreshing your
This allows you to warm up and calm any nerves that you have.
email and checking for new text messages… but so far, nothing. As the minutes tick by, you wonder if you’ve been stood up (or if you’re being jerked around again).

Like many daters, Terra Dankowski, 27, of Chicago can relate to this predicament. In her early twenties, Dankowski once waited for an hour and a half before her date arrived at the bar where they were supposed to meet. “I was annoyed (but ultimately relieved) when he showed up, because I was getting hassled by nosy, drunk patrons who kept asking why I was sitting alone and if they could be my substitute date,” she recalls.

Despite the guy’s cringe-worthy excuse — he’d overslept during his afternoon nap, apparently — Dankowski gave him the benefit of doubt and went on several more dates before finally calling it quits. “In retrospect, his tardy behavior definitely seemed to be more indicative of not valuing my time,” she says. Now, she cites repeated lateness as a turn-off, because Dankowski says that it can indicate a lack of respect for others that goes much deeper than just showing up late.

San Diego, CA-based dating and relationship coach DeAnna Lorraine agrees, adding that “lateness can be a real big game-killer.” But it doesn’t have to ruin your chances of scoring another date. Here’s how to salvage a date, regardless of whether you’re the late one or stuck waiting for a date that hasn’t showed up yet.

Scenario 1: You’re the one who’s stuck waiting on someone
“Look relaxed and chat with the people around you,” suggests Lorraine. “Scope out your surroundings. This allows you to warm up and calm any nerves that you have. You can start the date much more relaxed and confident.” Lorraine adds that ordering a drink and chatting with other patrons “shows that you’re good at entertaining yourself and not somebody who just waits around.”

According to Adam LoDolce, a Boston and New York City-based dating coach and author of Being Alone Sucks!, your willingness to wait for a date should vary depending on how you and your date originally met. “If it’s a first date and it’s [someone you met] online, I’d give someone about 10 minutes,” he suggests. “If you met someone organically, give [this person] a little more time, because you have a little more of a connection to [each other].”

LoDolce suggests making a quick check-in call (i.e., “Just wanted to make sure we’re still on for today”) after waiting for 10 to 15 minutes without any additional communication. “What a call does is builds a little bit more of a connection with that person that you don’t already have, even if you meet someone in person,” he explains. “Just by calling, it reminds your date that you’re still real versus sending a text message.”

Lorraine takes a different approach, saying that “you want to determine if [this person was] going to text you anyway, because that tells you a lot about the date.” If your date has your phone number and doesn’t call or text to tell you he or she is running late, Lorraine says that you could
Even if it’s your boss’ fault, it’s still tied to you.
still wait a little while to meet — but should consider it a potential red flag. “If the person is late and tries to give some big excuse, some people like to come across as being really understanding about it,” she says. “But you’re sending a message that you don’t respect yourself enough — and you don’t respect your own time.”

If someone shows up late for a first date, Lorraine suggests playfully calling your date out on the tardiness (“Are you trying to get me to chat up other people at the bar?”) and then letting it go. If your date’s repeatedly tardy and it bothers you, your response should be less playful in the future, Lorraine adds.

Scenario 2: You’re the one who’s running late for a date
Showing up on time (or even early) for a date not only makes a good impression, it can also help put you at ease. “Anytime I go anywhere, I’m always shooting for being 15 minutes early,” says LoDolce. “Some people feel uncomfortable being early for a date, but you’re sending such a better message by always being the first one there… especially if you’re a man waiting to greet a woman.” Women who show up early have a few extra minutes to check their hair and makeup or use the ladies’ room before settling in at the bar or finding a table.

Of course, building in that extra cushioning time for arrival doesn’t always work. If you realize in advance that you’re going to be cutting it too close time-wise, call or text to alert your date. “If you think you’re going to be late before the date has even started, it’s better to push the start time back instead of racing to get there,” advises Lorraine.

If you’re arriving more than five minutes past your scheduled meeting time, a call or text shows your date that you value everyone’s time equally. “Anything that’s outside of being a little bit late, definitely call,” says LoDolce. “Just apologize and move on: ‘I’m so sorry, I’m running late right now, I’m just a goofball, I will be there as soon as I possibly can.’”

If you’re running more than 15 minutes late, Lorraine suggests calling to apologize and offering to reschedule for another time, “because it shows you respect [your date’s] time.” Don’t have your date’s phone number? Call the coffee shop, restaurant, or whatever location you’ve arranged for your rendezvous and ask them to tell your date that you’re running late. If you’re a guy showing up late and the lady in question has ordered a drink while she waits for you, “it’s really classy to put the drink on your card,” adds Lorraine.

Once you arrive, don’t spend the first half of the date apologizing or chronicling the obstacles you encountered on your way. “By overcompensating, you’re making it a bigger deal,” explains LoDolce. And don’t blame your lateness on others, either. “It’s always good when you say it’s your fault,” says Lorraine. “It shows a lot of maturity. Even if it’s your boss’ fault, it’s still tied to you. Just say, ‘I got hung up at work.’”

Give a short, sincere apology along with an “I’m really glad to be here now” type of statement to show you’re trying to be considerate, and then shift the conversation to other topics so you can start getting to know your date. Like they say, all’s well that ends well, right?

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer who has contributed to such publications as The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, Self, and online at
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