Sunday, July 13, 2014

Advice for First Dates

It has been a few weeks since we've done any of the random, non-politics/entertainment style posts, so I figured that since we've done a post about online dating, I might as well make the plunge and do the post about if you have successfully navigated the waters of online dating and have landed your first date.  Herewith are my ten pieces of advice for how to successfully handle a first date.

1. Drinks or Coffee-No Dinners or Movies

This may be the only time I ever give this advice, but I do not recommend seeing a movie or entertainment-related event on a first date.  It's funny, because probably on your actual first date ever you probably went to a movie, but in that case you were thirteen and you already knew the person extremely well so the new element to the date was just the dating, not the new person.

As an adult you are likely meeting someone or getting to know someone for the first time, and so a movie is not conducive to that (movies are a really great third date option, for the record-if you want to know why, leave a comment-incentive!).  Coffee or drinks (if you're old enough and are smart enough to not have more than two) are perfect for a first date.  It makes the entire focus of the date getting to know the other person.

One could argue that dinner also lends to this, but drinks and coffee also have a more open-ended time aspect to them than dinner does.  Most people make the argument that coffee or drinks are good because the date may be terrible and dinner is longer, but the opposite may also end up being true-drinks and coffee are an indefinite amount of time, and the date may be going awesome, and with dinner it's really obvious when the date will end (when the food is done), so overall dinner is not a good idea until at least a second date.

2. Be on Time

First impressions are lasting ones.  Most people think this means that they should look as awesome as possible, and in some ways they are right, but you can't always control that you have a pimple or that you weren't able to get your hair cut before a date.  You can, however, plan if you're going to be on-time.  Traffic and the like are always a factor, but being on-time is literally an impression you're going to make before the first impression, so build in some driving time and if you cannot meet at 6, don't be afraid to push to 6:30 in order to have the punctual box checked on the mental checklist your date has in their head.

3. Know Your Dealbreakers

This is an important one, particularly if you don't know the person that well.  You need to know what is going to be extremely important to you, and which things are "nice to haves" and which are "have to haves."  Everyone has a picture of their ideal mate, and for you single people, I'm going to level here-that perfect on-paper mate doesn't happen.  Prince Harry is going to marry only one person, and it is sadly not going to be you.

But the person you fall in love with and end up with is going to be better than that imaginary person in your head, even if they don't check every box you were hoping they would initially.  Know what your dealbreakers are (which can range from something society considers to be a traditional dealbreaker like religious views, views on monogamy, and the "children question" to something that is more personally-based like interests in sports or pet preference) and keep them in mind as you're starting a relationship.

4. Don't Be a Snob

Being nice and funny and yourself on a date are all great pieces of advice, but I feel that occasionally the snob card reels its ugly head, or that we don't know exactly how to deal with strangers anymore as adults (this is something that I noticed a lot more in my post 25 phase of life than the pre-25 stage, so if you're scratching your head I'll explain, but you might be too young to have had to deal with this yet).

As you get older there are less-and-less instances where you are put in an intimate situation (like a date or a party with new friends) and have to converse with a perfect stranger without a social construct like work or church to rally your conversation around.  As a result, you may tend to treat the person like someone you've known forever.  This is a sweet thought in theory, but people who have known you forever are going to find some things endearing that initial strangers find off-putting.

So as a result, it's probably best (even as a joke) not to mock someone's job or educational background or opinion on a first date.  You can disagree with someone on a first date (no point in saying you're pro-life when you're pro-choice...though bringing up controversial political conversations on a first date is also ill-advised), but don't mock them.

And this goes double if you have a server.  I once went on a date with a guy who said something disparaging about our waitress and her job, and for me the date was done right there.  I know on a first date you're going to be nice to me, but if you're a jerk to the only other person that I've seen you have an interaction with, the second date is never going to happen.

5. Bring Up Things You Actually Enjoy

This goes along with the dealbreaker thing, but don't avoid a topic that you love when you're on a date if it's something really important to you.  I love movies (clearly), and every first date I have gone on or will go on will have at least a little bit of cinematic-related conversation.  Movies are important to me, and if they are something that another person hates, I'm going to want to know that (you may think that everyone likes movies, but you are wrong and a dealbreaker for me would be "all black-and-white movies are stupid" which has been uttered on at least two dates I can recall).  This also goes for if your love is hockey, ballet, astronomy, or whatever floats your boat.  If this is something that is a key part of your life and is a hobby, bring it up and see what the other person's reaction is.

This is also important because one of the things I've noticed on first dates is that people come across a lot better if they have an interest that isn't just their job or hanging out with friends or merely travel.  Even if it's an interest that I don't care for or follow, I'm much more likely to be intrigued by you if you show a passion for what you do in your spare time.  If you get nervous on first dates (and who doesn't, honestly?), this is a good way to make sure the date goes well.

6. Don't Bring Up Your Exes

I'm trying to think somewhat outside the box here with advice, but I'm going to bring up this tired chestnut because for some reason no one actually listens to it.  There are only two reasons that you should bring up an ex on a first date.  One is if they are still in the picture (the date is during a legal separation or this is an Ashley Madison style situation), because that's important information the other person needs to know.  And two is if you have children and you share custody with the other person (because again, information they would find integral to know).  And in both of these situations this shouldn't take longer than sixty seconds to get across and then steer the conversation away.  And don't get into the details of your breakup.

Because the reality is that there is no way to bring up an ex on a first date without losing some points.  The reason for this should be discussed, since you do want to open the "ex files" at some point earlier on in the relationship (like a fifth date).  Why you shouldn't talk about it is the person across from you is still forming their initial opinions of you, and you are nearly as much of a stranger to them as your ex is.  Therefore, complaining about an ex or talking about some fun vacation you took with an ex is going to leave a different impression than you were hoping to get out of the conversation.  Just don't do it-if the only thing you find you can talk about on a date is your ex, you probably aren't ready to be dating again.

7. Don't Ask About Their Dating History

So important do I find Rule #6 that I'm going to include the flip side here.  It's important to not ask about someone else's dating history.  This is because A) it means you're going to be bringing up your ex fairly quickly and B) it's WAY too personal for a first date, which should be more about discussing pet preference and what movies they've seen recently than planning out whether you're going to get married (not putting too much pressure on a first date is also good advice, for the record).

8. Mention Another Date, But Don't Press It

Honestly, unless you both are clearly having a wonderful time, don't stand awkwardly and try to hammer out the details of the next date.  Say "I had a really great time, we should do this again sometime" if you think that would be a good idea, and then if they say "yeah, absolutely-I'm free blah blah blah" maybe go with planning it, but don't awkwardly stand there at their car and try to figure out if you're going to get a second date.  You'll find out soon enough, and it totally kills your last impression you're going to give to them.  Plus, you should be figuring out whether to go hug, handshake, or kiss, not trying to uncomfortably act like their Microsoft Outlook.

9. Don't Say You'll Call if You Won't

I am always reminded of the Friends conversation between Chandler and Rachel about saying you'll call whenever this subject comes up, but I am firmly Team Rachel in this instance.  Don't say you'll call if you don't plan on it.  Admittedly, there are times when this is so ridiculously awkward that you have to agree to letting them call you (them asking "can I give you a call sometime?" is a question you almost have to say yes to given the uncomfortable silence that would come from saying no...though I have heard of people brave enough to say no there, so there's that), but you can always lead with an "it was really nice to meet you" rather than giving someone false hope for four days as they wonder if they're getting a second date.  Saying you'll call and not actually calling is bad dating karma, and I'll have none of it.

10. The Three Day Rule is No Longer a Thing

I used to follow the three day rule, but with Facebook, texting, and online messaging being far more likely avenues of communication than actually picking up a phone and talking to the other person on the line, the three day rule is way too slow.  I personally go with a 24-hour rule where I text the following evening not necessarily to ask out, but at least to confirm that I had a good time or not.  Waiting three days makes you seem kind of like a tool and uninterested with modern technology, and is probably going to hurt your chances more than help them.

And those are my first date pieces of advice.  What about yours?  Share in the comments some of your personal do's and don'ts for a first date.

No comments: