Sage: Man is humiliated after he's tossed out of party on date

Dear Sage:


How to overcome humiliation? I moved into a Florida retirement community six months ago, a year and a half after my wife died back in Vermont. I found myself lonely and thought it might be a good idea to start dating, after a 50-year hiatus. Well, I would have done better to sit at home and watch the Home Shopping Network, or start a collection of boa constrictors. A woman I’d met during a singles get-together at the community’s activities center asked me to accompany her to a friend’s 75th-birthday party. When we got to the house, my date (Susie) was carrying a gift and I was toting a bottle of wine. Just as we walked into the house, the hostess gave Susie a big hug, looked at me, then back at Susie, and said, ‘You’re kidding, right? Seriously? GEORGE is your date?’ At which point the offending party took the wine, put her hand on my shoulder, guided me out the front door, and said, ‘Thanks for bringing Susie and the wine. We’ll see that she gets home.’ I heard from one individual later that the hostess really wanted to set up Susie with a lawyer friend, one of about 50 people at the party. I can’t tell you how embarrassed I was. I felt like crawling back to Vermont! Oh, and neither my date nor the guilty party ever said anything.


                                                                                     ­– Flustered in Fort Myers


Dear Flustered:


   Well, so much for love after the first date! The Sage would assume that you might have felt like getting into a canoe and paddling toward Mexico, or slinking around incognito wearing a huge floppy hat, oversized sunglasses, and an Inspector Clouseau trench coat with the high collar turned up. But those solutions wouldn’t have done you that much good, right?

   Nor would staying indoors for the next ten years or getting a hundred thousand bucks’ worth of plastic surgery. And, of course, murder is illegal in Florida, even for transgressions like this.
  No, you need to hold your head high, but first you’ll have to psych yourself up, put this in perspective, and deal with the embarrassment in a rational and healthy way.

   Let’s start. Unless you are living among a bunch of morons, people would have seen right through this rude, offensive, indecorous, colossal blunder. The Sage will assume that you are a normal and agreeable person who presents himself well and did not show up after wetting his pants or getting sick all over himself or dropping a half-empty fifth of cheap bourbon all over the hostess’s two-million-dollar antique Thomas Tompion Clock.

   That being the case, you would do well to avoid letting your self-image or social confidence level tumble as a result of this experience. Easy for the Sage to say, but psychologists offer many strategies for getting over embarrassment. In all likelihood you’ll feel a lot better after putting some of them into practice.

   Psychology Today, for example, published an article that quoted a Cornell psychology scholar, Robert J. Sternberg, as offering a number of them:

   • “Don’t hide – affirm for people, and perhaps for yourself, who you are and what you stand for. And you need to show people that the crisis has not destroyed you.”

   • Realize that you are not alone in feeling humiliation.

   • Don’t give up – develop a mindset of resilience in getting past any setbacks.

   • Understand that most of the time, it’s nothing personal: ‘Success is often about a fit between you and a particular place or situation. If you don’t fit, don’t take it personally, just move on to a better fit.’

   • Learn from the experience. For instance, looking back on this situation, would you have done anything differently? Would you have called the hostess and your date and told them how embarrassed you had been and how rude you thought the behavior was? (The Sage would vote a resounding YES to this!).

   • Talk to a trusted friend or relative about the experience to get it off your chest (don’t let it fester like a virus).

   • Keep going on – try other dates.

   • Use spare time to do things you really love.

   • Avoid striking back and getting revenge – look to the future, not the past.

   • Finally, just move on (keep socializing, and understand that the next woman you meet may turn out to be your best friend, or more. And maybe she’ll even think that lawyers are numbskulls!).

   Another suggestion came from psychotherapist and author Tina Gilbertson, writing a separate article in the same publication and encouraging people to look at such experiences from another vantage point:

    “An effective reaction to your own embarrassment … is … to immediately imagine the incident from the perspective of an observer,” she said. “Remember how forgiving you yourself are when you see someone else slip up, and act accordingly.

   “For example, Self-Conscious Steve accidentally spills a bit of punch while serving his date a cup from the punch bowl. He’s embarrassed because his date, Rebecca, is right there to witness his clumsiness. But when Steve pictures the situation the other way around, with Rebecca accidentally spilling a bit of punch as he watches, he realizes it’s no big deal. Changing perspective lends him confidence.”
    As for Mr. Flustered in Fort Myers, you will have plenty of opportunities to find suitable dates. Don’t let this one situation hold you back. AARP reports that 45 percent of Americans  older than 65 are divorced, separated or widowed – and very likely many of them don’t make a habit of throwing people out onto the sidewalk.
  Regarding your date, consider that some people can’t deal with conflict … she may feel too embarrassed and guilty herself ever to address this with you … or, on the other hand, perhaps she felt peer pressure and chose to ignore you because you were not in the center of her social circle.
   In any event, silence can speak volumes, and either you two will have the best romance story ever or – a thousand to one – you’ll choose instead to watch Hallmark Christmas movies by yourself rather than even having a cup of coffee with her. Basic principle dictates that people should  apologize for wrongs or for misdeeds that they should feel at least a modicum of responsibility for. If they’re incapable of that, well, drink the coffee by yourself and right out in the open, without the floppy hat, the oversized sunglasses or the Clouseau trench coat. After all, some people just don’t have a Clou. Sorry.
   Wishing you a much better second date, I remain,
   Humbly Yours,
   The Sage