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Surviving The First Date

[BY CARA BAKER]

Anybody who’s been single for more than a year has doubtlessly been the target of a set-up. A couple of years ago a married friend of mine set up my best friend and I with two guys in town helping her husband with business for the week.

A blind date.

Sure, the mention of blind date has disaster written all over it, but Sandy and I were up to the challenge, it having been a while for either of us to date. Plus, it was a great excuse to go shoe shopping.

A pair of wedge-heeled sandals and a phone call later, we were to meet our dates the next night at the restaurant. The next 24 hours we obsessed over what to wear, how to do our hair and what to order when we got there. Sandy obsesses way more than me with her hair, so naturally when the hour approached, we were running late.

As we pull into the parking lot, my phone rings. There was no answer; the call was evidently lost. We nervously make last-minute adjustments to our hair in the rear view mirror and ask each other if we have anything in our noses. I tell her I’m about to throw up I’m so nervous. Suddenly I hear a voice coming from the cell phone in my lap.

"Hello?! Hello?!"

Doh! The cell phone was on the entire time we’re talking about boogers and vomit. The date hadn’t begun and I was already tragically embarrassed.

We walk in and meet our party who was noticeably frustrated from the wait. Sandy and I are nothing short of giggly; the guys were nothing short of non-conversational. Soon Sandy quit talking altogether. I think she began Tibetan meditation to escape the awkwardness. I was left fighting a losing battle to carry on the conversation. My only consolation was that we wouldn’t have to pick up the tab for this disastrous evening. Two half-eaten chicken salads and fruit teas later, Sandy and I were left with our own bills to pay and a terrible blind date experience.

Blind date or no, we all have dating horror stories. My experience has been for every good date, there are five bad ones. Why do we put ourselves through such torture? Dating has become a necessary evil in our society. But there’s hope. Not all dates are destined to fail. Some could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Here are some suave suggestions from our freelancer, Josh Hatcher, to survive—and perhaps even enjoy—your first date experience:

[CHECK THE BREATH]

Altoids, peppermints, gum. Choose your weapon.

[CHOOSE YOUR DESTINATION]

Don’t go out for fried-chicken, wings, spaghetti or sloppy joes. You’ll look like an idiot. Don’t waste three hours at a movie, because you won’t get to know each other … you’ll get to know Ben Stiller or Matt Damon or Julia Roberts.

[DRESS FOR SUCCESS]

Don’t be Britney, Don’t be James Bond. Be yourself. If your date doesn’t like yourself, then they won’t like you.

[LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS]

Our culture romanticizes everything. Don’t expect to feel butterflies. Don’t expect a diamond ring. Don’t expect a whirlwind romance to develop.

[ESTABLISH A FRIENDSHIP]

Isn’t that why you are going on a date? To determine compatibility? To have fun? Don’t view it as the "be all and end all" of a potential romantic relationship. Just try to have fun, and make a friend.

[DOUBLE DATE, BUT WITH CAUTION]

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Don’t date with an already existing couple. It makes you feel pressured to get all snuggly. First Date snuggliness is dangerously risky. Snag about five or six good friends, and go to a concert and a coffeshop together. The more people, the less pressure.

[KNOW WHEN TO SAY WHEN]

Know when to end it. Read the signs. Watch the body language. Listen to what your date tells you. If you or your date is obviously uncomfortable, or not having a good time, be honest and deal with it. If it means dropping them of early and watching reruns of "I Love Lucy” alone at home, then at least you can have a good time with Nick at Nite.

[FOLLOW UP]

"I had a great time tonight. We should do it again some time," means just that. Drop an email within a week. Make sure you go out again. If your date was a dud, don’t give false hope. Give them a call and say, "Y’ know… I’m really not into watching the cheetahs mate at the zoo again next week. " Most people would rather know up front if you don’t want to date again. Not much is worse than waiting by the phone waiting for the person of your dreams to call you back, while they found a much better companion.

[ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JOSH HATCHER]

RELATED LINKS:

CHEAP WAYS TO SAY ‘I LOVE YOU’

TOP ROMANTIC MOVIE CLASSICS

DATING AND DOLLARS: NEW RULES FOR NEW TIMES

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