Otter: She broke our date.
D-Day: Had to wash her hair?
(shakes head) Dead mother.
A woman (and it is almost always a woman
), subjected to the advances of an Abhorrent Admirer
, indicates that she doesn't want to date him but is trying to let him down easy. Unfortunately she can't think of a plausible excuse
, so comes up with something ludicrous off the top of her head. Either it couldn't possibly take up much time, is hopelessly vague or surreally implausible, or is something no-one in their right mind would prioritize over a promising date - which may of course be a deliberate hint.
Named for the Stock Phrase
that has become such
a clichéd excuse
that it doesn't let the target down easily at all, but instead says "I wouldn't go out with you even if every other man on the planet was radioactive!"
Compare and contrast I Have to Go Iron My Dog
, where the excuse is blatantly just a nonsensical lie. Doesn't work on the Literal-Minded
, the Cloudcuckoolander
, or anyone particularly determined
(or just plain lecherous
): "That's a lot of hair. Need any help?
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- There was a 1980s anti-smoking advert on British TV where a group of girls are discussing how to chat up boys by blowing smoke suggestively. One tries it on a skinhead who coughs before answering with this line.
- There was a UK ad for quick-cook pasta where a woman hears her annoying upstairs neighbour leaving his apartment. She rushes to put the pasta on and it's ready within a couple of minutes, so by the time he comes to the door and asks her on a date, she apologises and explains that she's just sat down to dinner.
- Private School
Arcade Voice: [playing "The Big Score" game] Hey, big boy. Think you're man enough to score with me?
Jim Green: I am, if Bubba is.
Arcade Voice: Oops, sorry, tonight I gotta wash my hair.
- Back to the Future Part II: Lorraine uses the line on Biff. Ironically she wasn't trying to let him down easy, considering she had just told him to "take a long walk off a short pier". At least Biff deserved it.
- When Otter says that a girl broke a date with him in Animal House, Boon asks if she used this excuse. Subverted with Otter's reply - "Dead mother".
- Woody Allen films love this Trope.
- Bananas. Fielding Mellish tries to ask out a Sexy Secretary.
Fielding: You busy tonight?
Norma: Some old friends are coming over. We're gonna show some pornographic movies.
Fielding: You need an usher?
Norma: Aw, that's sweet. I'm busy.
- Magrat does this in Wyrd Sisters. "I shall be washing my hair!" "When?" "Whenever!"
- Its use gets lampshaded when after being repeatedly rebuffed by Magrat, The Fool convinces her to watch the play with him and that there's even a pump available "in case you want to wash your hair".
- A further lampshade later: To indicate that the Fool hasn't been asking Magrat out lately, Nanny Ogg says to her: "Your hair looks a bit grubby. It looks as though you haven't washed it for a month."
- When Richard shows up without his date in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Reg muses about why she hadn't come, and asks if this was the excuse she gave. He adds that it's only for lack of hair that he has to participate in the school as much as he does. (It turns out that Richard completely forgot that he had invited her.)
- Gender Flipped by Lakewalker culture in The Sharing Knife. The woman is normally the one that makes advances, while the man is the one who has to come up with some excuse if he's not inclined to her.
Live Action TV
- The Prisoner: Oddly enough, this is Number 24's excuse when Number 6 calls her for help in "The Schizoid Man." She comes anyway.
- In Help Im A Teenaged Outlaw, Lady Devereux tells one of the servants in one episode (who is asking her out) that she will not be coming out with him because she is "washing her hair."
- Played with on Dawson's Creek when Joey tells Dawson that if he can't find a date for a double date, he should call Jen and tell her he can't go out because he needs to "wash his hair"
- In Kenan & Kel, after being rejected in the phone with this answer, Kenan suddenly remembers that the girl he was asking is bald.
- Mash: Colonel Blake once put the moves on a nurse. He complimented her on her scent, to which she replied, "I just washed my hair." When the colonel goes a little further, she brushes him off with, "I have to wash my hair."
- In the episode where Kelly Kapowski didn't want to go to the prom with Zack because she couldn't afford a dress, she used this one so often Zack told her she'd caused a drought in California.
- The Big Bang Theory "The Cushion Saturation", Penny tries to excuse herself saying she needed to wash her hair to save herself from Sheldon's wrath when he was about to discover his self-designated couch cushion had been disturbed.
- An episode of Diff'rent Strokes had Willis' girlfriend blow off a date with him by saying she had to wash her hair. He goes to the movies anyway and sees her there with another guy.
- In the extended Glee pilot, Emma pulls out several of these excuses (i.e. "I'm allergic to nighttime") to discourage Ken from asking her out.
- How I Met Your Mother has a cast-wide version. One character wants to get out of something unpleasant and she says she's washing her hair. Another in the group says "running the water," the third says "holding the towel" and the fourth simply says that he'll be at home, trying to cope with not being invited to the hair-washing party.
- Arrested Development had a straight example and a subversion in "Ready, Aim, Marry Me!":
- Lucille Ostero tells Gob "I have to go to spin class." Lucille has vertigo.
- When Michael drops by Sally Sitwell's work to ask her out, he sees her facing away from the front desk in the next room. When he asks the receptionist to get her attention, she makes a phone call, then tells Michael she's not there. After Michael leaves dejected, it's revealed that the figure in the next room was simply trying on a wig that looked identical to Sally's hair.
- In the second Bottom Live show, Richie tells Eddie to invoke this after he gets an invite to meet with "Mr. Big". Eddie points out that he doesn't have any hair.
- In Im Alan Partridge, Alan casts around wildly for an excuse to leave the house of a swinger couple who want to have sex with him and comes up with "I've just remembered that my father is...still dead".
- Used in 'Allo 'Allo!. Lieutenant Gruber wants to spend some quality time alone with René. This follows:
René: No, Lieutenant. I have to put the cat out.
Lt. Gruber: ... I could put it out with you.
René: No, your medals might frighten it.
- Relient K's song "Mood Rings" - "She likes you Wednesday, but now it's Friday and she has to wash her hair."
- A different excuse in Kirsty McColl's "In These Shoes";
He said, "Let's make love on a mountain-top,
Under the stars, on a big hard rock"
I said "In these shoes? I don't think so"
- ...Also a direct subversion, since the next line is "Let's do it here".
- Lily Allen's "Knock 'Em Out" is essentially a string of these, ranging from the girl saying she's getting married next week to claiming she has to go because her house is on fire.
- Used in a Dilbert comic strip in which the titular character asks a girl out. She gives him this line and offers coffee at the workplace instead. Dilbert declines, preferring someone with "clean hair."
- Another woman blows Dilbert off with the excuse, "I have to wash my goldfish."
- Clue for the Clueless gives two versions of this excuse: The first is vague but plausible, such as "I have 'plans' this evening", the second is specific and implausible, for example "I have to wax my cat", and is generally reserved for losers.
- A Garfield book listed this line as a way for a girl to refuse a date offer from Jon Arbuckle, adding onto it "each one individually".
- The others in that book would mention listing here if they didn't venture dangerously close to I Have to Go Iron My Dog lines, especially if one considered the many, many, MANY rejection lines Jon's received through the years...
- One Concerned strip has Gordon trying to ask out one of his female co-workers at the Combine Citadel out on a date, and she gives him this excuse. The catch here is that the coworker, who was a normal human in the previous comic, is now a transhuman Combine soldier instead.
- Subverted in this Questionable Content strip, where Faye has a legitimate reason for having to wash her hair: bubble gum.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, this is Molly's excuse for standing Rocko up for a date bearing in mind that Molly is completely covered with pink hair. "I had to wash my hair. All of it."
- The ladyfolk of Loserz would rather, amongst other things, paint the Cistine Chapel, Lick their own asshole or eat babies than date Erik or Ben. Disco Jesus, however... doesn't date boys.
- Poor David of Ow, my sanity gets his share of lame excuses. Including this one, from a shaved girl.
- Darths & Droids parodies it.
- The Spill Co Host 3000 uses the excuse of needing to wash his hair in order to avoid seeing "Gamer".
- The Spoony Experiment: The Spoony One once reviewed a Klingon language instruction CD where I Have to Wash My Hair is said to be a perfectly valid way of dealing with an unwanted Klingon suitor. A disbelieving Spoony responds "Oh come on, if that's a pussy line on Earth, it's gotta be a pussy line on Qo'noS!"
- The Nostalgia Chick is on the receiving end of this line when she tries to hit on Todd in the Shadows, who runs off claiming that "I gotta go wash my feet or my car or something."
- This post on Gaijin Smash discusses the cultural gap on date excuses.
- Keep in mind that when this excuse first appeared, it wasn't outlandish at all. Back in the days when women generally wore their hair very long and in elaborate hairstyles, and before such things as showers and hair dryers, washing one's hair, drying it, and then putting it back up was a major undertaking. It was a legitimate excuse then.
- It remained a legitimate thing right up until the widespread availability of commercial shampoos and conditioners. Washing hair with plain soap leaves a residue, so it was wash, rinse, change the water and add a little lemon juice or vinegar (to remove the residue), then change the water again for the final rinse. Even when hair styles became generally shorter prior to/after World War II, it could still be a long and occasionally arduous process. See here.