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Late, or rumpled?


Say you're rushing to get ready for a date, and you go to the closet, and the shirt you were going to wear is wrinkled. Is it better to iron the shirt and be late, or be on time with a wrinkled shirt? (I'm not talking about anything extreme--not like a shirt that's covered in mud or ketchup or something. Just a clean shirt that you didn't take out of the dryer soon enough and now it's wrinkled.)

Does it make a difference whether you're male or female? What if instead of clothing it's makeup misapplied or unapplied (if you would normally wear makeup on a date), or hair a little unkempt or dishevelled, or any other personal-appearance thing where it's going to take you a few minutes to get it looking good?

What if instead of a date it's a job interview? Or any other context where you want to make a good impression on the person or people you're meeting?

(Yes, the actual answer is to leave enough time that you can look good and show up on time. But let's assume that's not an option.)

I'm not looking for advice here; just wondering how people feel about this. What would you do in this sort of circumstance? What would you want your date (or your job candidate) to do?


I hate being late. It throws me off completely. Five minutes can throw me into utter panic/raving anger/total fear that I've ruined everything. I've gotten this under control mostly in the last few years but there are still times when it hits me. I would not want to be late.

I assume also by date, you mean either first date or date of consequence. I still think better rumpled than late. Definitely, for a job interview better rumpled than late.

I've really never not been rumpled in my life. For a job interview I can generally manage a lot less rumpled than usual, but zero? Forget it. So I would definitely go for on time.

I think it's a question of degree. Also, if a date was going to be stressed by me looking rumpled or being a bit late, that would be a bad sign right out of the gate. I'm typically a bit rumpled regardless, and often running a few minutes late. I would sacrifice a slightly-more-time-consuming thing with my hair--or fall back to a non-preferred but less rumpled outfit--to not be late (or close enough), but not a shower (which would have a negative psychological effect on me).

Another variant: What if you're five pages from the end of a chapter (or the end of the book) in the really good book you're reading? (Or however many pages would make you 5-10 minutes late.)

In grad school, a friend gave me my first ever romance novel. Even though I knew what would happen in the end (happy ever after), I sat on the stairs reading those last few pages before rushing off to a meeting about teaching assignments for the following year. I was late.

I'm often rumpled, and I'm often late to dates. I'm never late to teach.

re: 5 pages from the end of the really good book:

If I finish the book, I can talk to my date about it, right? :)

Generally speaking, I have started (started, mind you) to adopt the following approach: First, do what you feel like doing. Second, accept that the results of step one really do indicate the importance you place on the various parts of your life. In other words, if I'm repeatedly late for dates with a certain person because I can't stop reading a book, that really does mean that the book is more important to me than that person.

If I accept this, I'm likely to reevaluate my behavior to see if that's the way I want to be setting my priorities, which may mean shutting the book early, or may mean breaking up with the person.

It's been a long time (thank the Lord) that I've been on a date with anyone other than my ever-lovin' wife, who hates to be late. So I would prefer to be rumpled. If it were a first date or other serious date, I would go for rumpled and on-time, but of course it depends on what the plans are. And for an interview, punctuality trumps everything else, with the possible exception of paperwork.

On the other end, I think I would be very forgiving of a date who was late because she had to iron a shirt (or something similar), while I think I would be slightly put off by excessively rumpled appearance. I would get over it, I think, but I think I would (probably without being aware of it) get a sense that she didn't care about looking good for me, and be sulky about that. Again, if we're going to the ball game, that's different, but then you weren't asking about that.

As for the book, I think we all know that it would be wrong to finish the book, but I think we all know that we'd do it anyway. And if I were on a first date with somebody who was five-ten minutes late, and explained about the last few pages of a book, I would consider it a good start. Again, I'm assuming that (a) it's not the sort of date that lateness would totally screw up so that we're stuck in the vestibule while the symphony plays the whole first movement, and (2) we're not such total idiots that we've planned the date to the minute with no possible room for lateness.


Ironing? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! (Sniffs. Wipes eyes.) You've got to be kidding. I have preschool children.

A few months ago I noticed there were new curtains on the window over the kitchen sink. When I asked Nola about them, she told me they weren't new. They had come with the house, and she had put them in the ironing pile three years ago. That was how long it took before one of us found time to do the ironing.

OK, if you must know, I am a rumpled sort of person. I don't wear makeup except when performing, which has not happened in decades. I tend to cover my shirts with sweaters just so I can avoid this sort of mishap. But push come to shove, I would iron the damn thing and most likely do a poor job of it from inexperience. Ten years ago or more I wouldn't have bothered, but as I age, I am becoming more self-conscious of my crumbling appearance.

If the tables were turned, of course I would be forgiving. It is one of my several character flaws.

Shaving trumps on-time. On-time trumps other rumpledness; the last 5-10 pages can hopefully be read on the public transit getting me to the date :-)

But wow, I hate not being clean-shaven when going out. Being on-time but obviously nervous and uncomfortable with my self-image isn't worth it.

On time, no brainer.

Rumpled is so much easier to get over, or to not be noticed. Name-drop story with a point: A couple months ago I went to Mexico City to meet with one of President Calderon's Cabinet Secretaries. Our attorneys got us to the meeting eight minutes late, and the Secretary refused to see us, and told us through his assistants that it was simply because we were late. Only after our attorneys begged and pleaded with the Secretary's assistants and pointed out we had flown all the way from California just for the meeting, did the Secretary consent to see us "for fourteen minutes."

No one cared about "rumpled" at that point.

I like what Jacob said, about adjusting one's actions so that they are in line with one's priorities. I'm in the process of trying to figure out where my actions disagree with what's important to me, so I'm not sure how to answer the book question, because that answer might be changing. I also like what Vardibidian said, about appreciating someone who might be late because they were finishing a book. Especially if he or she is then able discuss the book in an interesting fashion. Of course, being able to discuss how you'd like a book to finish, even if you haven't yet finished it, is also a conversational skill. ;)

I am generally hard on my clothing, so I try to buy things that don't rumple easily. I also usually have a back-up outfit in mind. I dislike looking rumpled/frumpy on dates (depending on the level of date-ness to the date), and so take the time to find something I feel reasonably attractive while wearing, even if it makes me late for the date.

But my attitudes about this have been changing lately, and I'm fighting a sense of frustration over mis-matched appearances, and the sense of pride so many silicon valley men seem to take in their casual rumpled-ness.

Well now, you're asking a few different things. Ironing requires getting out the ironing board, unwrapping the iron and its cord, heating up the iron, ironing the shirt, unplugging the iron, and then getting ready to go. That's going to add 15 minutes minimum, and that's too much. I could see 5 min late and unrumpled, but not 15 minutes late. That's just rude.

But reading the last few pages of the book is 5 minutes' cost. That's ok. :)

No, that occurred to me, too, and it's like this: you are rushing, but you still have ten minutes when you discover that the shirt is wrinkled. Ironing will take you fifteen minutes, which will make you five minutes late. Or you could wear the rumpled shirt and finish the last few pages of the book and still leave on time, or nearly.


Btw, the reason I wasn't asking for advice for myself on this matter is that I'm generally both rumpled and late.

I try to keep track of which of my friends get upset by lateness, and which ones are often late themselves, but I don't always remember.

...Like Megan said, I suppose if someone were to be upset by my being late and/or rumpled to a first date, then probably there's no future in it anyway, given that I'm unlikely to be significantly more punctual or neatly pressed on subsequent dates. But I do still feel like I should try to make a reasonably good first impression.

Jacob: Interesting observation. For me, though, I don't think it's accurate -- just because I choose to do X at a particular moment, that doesn't mean that X is more important to me in a big general sense than the person that X makes me late to see; it means, rather, that at that particular moment it was more important to me in a small specific sense to do X than to be punctual. If punctuality is important to the person I'm going to see, and if I know that, and if that person is important to me, then I'm more likely to try to adjust my behavior; but my lateness generally has more to do with a chronic optimism about how little time things will take than with assigning relative value to different activities and people. But YMMV.

I'm fascinated to see most of y'all finding punctuality to be generally more important than appearance; I had somehow picked up the idea that making a good first impression was, for most people, more about appearance than about timeliness. Looks like I was wrong, at least among the majority of the sample space of those who commented on this entry.

Twig: Do Silicon Valley guys really take pride in looking rumpled? I would expect it to be more taking pride in not caring about their appearance, rather than actively trying to look rumpled per se.

And there's also the question of whether they notice their rumpledness at all, regardless of what they take pride in. I don't think I noticed how often my clothes were wrinkled for years, until Mary Anne made a comment at one point about some other guy's clothes being neatly pressed. These days I try to remember to get clothes out of the dryer and folded and put away immediately, which at least eliminates the worst of the wrinkles, but even that is sometimes beyond me. And unless I have a meeting or a date, I still often don't really think about how wrinkled my clothes are.

Jaipur: :) Though for me, getting out the ironing board and setting it up and plugging in the iron takes less than a minute, and heating up the iron takes only a couple minutes more (so if I time it right I can heat up the iron while I'm doing whatever else needs to be done before I leave). So then it's just a question of doing the actual ironing; I sometimes end up skimping on that, just hitting the most wrinkled and most visible areas, but it still does sometimes take more like 10 minutes than 5, I'll grant you that. But I can convince myself that it'll only take 5. :)

V: :) :)

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