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Thursday, May 29, 2014 12:01 am

Que syrah syrah

 I’ve been dating a fun, very attractive woman for about a month, and things have been going great. However, on our last date, we were out at dinner, and the female server accidentally spilled an entire glass of red wine on her dress. Though the server seemed mortified and apologized profusely, my date absolutely lost it – going into a rage and yelling at the poor server, telling her she needs to learn how to do her job, etc. Except for this incident, this woman has been sweet to me and generally acts like a nice person. Should I give her some leeway on this? –Concerned

Red wine and clothing have been problematic companions for centuries. Impressive as it is that Jesus turned water into wine, if only he’d developed a way to turn wine back into water, he could have opened a highly successful chain of dry cleaners.

And while it’s pretty awful when somebody spills red wine all over your outfit, it’s especially awful when you are on a date and want to be at your sexy, pulled-together best. (If you felt a 2006 Bordeaux would have improved your look, you would have thrown a glass of it on yourself before leaving the house.)

But as I note in my new book, Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck (June 3, St. Martin’s Press), when you’ve just started dating someone, the butter-paws waiter who gives them a red wine bath is probably doing you a favor. Significant character flaws (like rage issues) are unlikely to be revealed in the early stages of dating, when the biggest source of stress you see your date experiencing is the kitchen’s forgetting to leave off the parsley garnish on their medallions of duck.

If, when you’re dating someone new, you never get seated in the clumsy waiter’s section, go camping together, collaborate on a project, or engage in other stress-producing activities that strain a person’s patience and party manners. Bad personality traits, if any, are likely to scurry around like cockroaches after somebody turns the lights on.

As for this woman, it doesn’t look good. Her behavior suggests not only a lack of compassion but poor “self-regulation,” psychologists’ term for the ability to control one’s emotional reactions. You also don’t mention her expressing embarrassment or apologizing afterward as people acting out in uncharacteristic ways tend to do. If you decide to stick around, be wary of succumbing to “optimism bias” – our tendency to project a rosy future for ourselves: silver linings all around; hold the clouds. This leads to selective eyesight, like focusing on how hot a woman is rather than how hot-headed. This may work for you for a while – perhaps until she’s melting your ear in the drugstore aisle: “WHERE ARE THE TAMPONS I TOLD YOU TO GET, YOU BIG MORON?” Of course, at that point, there’s only one thing to say to her: “Sorry, ma’am. I think you’ve mistaken me for somebody else.”

©2014, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email ( Weekly radio show:


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