Bad dates are like evil Beanie Babies -- something you collect, but only so you can scare your friends with them. But as terrible as they are, bad dating experiences do serve a purpose. "Bad dates help you figure out what you don't want in a man," says Norine Dworkin, coauthor of You Know He's a Keeper, You Know He's a Loser: Happy Endings and Horror Stories from Real-Life Relationships (Perigee Trade, 2004). "You go out with a fellow, he picks his nose, and now you know what else to add to your don't-want list: A nose-picker."
Knowing what you don't want helps -- to a point. Take Jessica's experience, for example. She thought she knew what she was getting into with her first date. "The date seemed so promising," says Jessica, 26, from Washington, DC. "He was 30 and established in his job. I thought he'd be a welcome relief from the postcollege flaky guys I'm usually exposed to. We were watching TV when he went in for a smooch. I wasn't in the mood for that -- first date and all -- so I gently rebuffed him." A few moments later, he reached across Jessica to grab his soda from the table.
"But instead of drinking from it, he stuck his finger into it and poked his now-wet finger into my right ear," Jessica recalls. "I was shocked, not having experienced a wet Willie since the age of 7, so I turned away to compose myself -- at which point he reached down my pants and yanked up my undies. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'd received a wedgie. Needless to say, I'd overestimated his maturity, and didn't go out with him again."
You may not have found yourself on a date with Pee-Wee Herman, but you've probably had a similarly mortifying moment.
To recover from a he-seemed-so-normal situation, Dworkin says, chalk it up to experience. "Don't beat yourself up with 'how could I have not seen what a creep he was,'" says Dworkin. "Instead say, 'at least I found out before I got too involved,' and know the next one has to be better."
Far from being discouraged by the many utterly icky experiences recounted in her terrifying tome, Dworkin says the other thing she learned from the bad dates out there "is how lucky I am to have the guy I finally found. He may leave his socks out, but he doesn't pick his nose in public -- knowing what's out there, I'm a lot more tolerant of my prince not-so-charming's foibles."