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The Do’s & Don’ts

Blair Garrett

Let’s talk all about first dates.

One of the most anticipated and tumultuous times in our lives is the lead-up to a first date.

A litany of things can go wrong, from rambling word vomit to downright embarrassing mishaps.

First dates are a giant soup of emotions, swirling around our brains and stomachs before the ice is broken. It’s an emotional jambalaya of nerves, filled with bits of excitement and anxiety, until you jump in the deep end of the pool to find potential compatibility with a new person. It’s probably a myriad of other food metaphors, but let’s jump right into the do’s and don’ts, and explore what makes or breaks a first date.

Most of us know someone with a first-date horror story. Blind dates are likely a huge source for that since there is virtually no way to vet whether or not you have a romantic interest in a person, but there are plenty of other red flags that tip off if someone may not be quite the match for you.

Some telltale signs a date may not be headed in a successful direction can be subtly picked up or not so subtly picked up.

If your date asks zero questions about you, your goals, your work, or your life, your date may be more interested in the sound of his or her own voice than getting to know you. It’s not an uncommon thing to run into, but it’s a clear sign that your interests are likely better suited somewhere else.

Being on time is a super simple but really important detail to securing a second date. If your date is late, they either have terrible time-management skills or doesn’t value your time like they should. A few minutes isn’t a huge deal, but if you’re left at the table placing drink and appetizer orders before your date makes their appearance, chances are that a second date has no shot at happening.

Another huge flag to watch out for is how your date treats the people around you. Food-service workers are some of the most underappreciated people in this country, and if your date is rude to restaurant wait staff or other people in general who happen to be around, well, they will have no problem being rude to you down the line.

The biggest indicator for someone who is going to flake out is all in the communication. If you aren’t getting direct answers or hot and cold responses toward meeting up for the first time, it’s better to take it as a lack of interest than string things along with the hopes that eventually you’ll get the attention from this new person that you need.

Now that we’ve got some of the main things to watch out for out of the way, it’s time to look at what you can do to ensure your dates go smoothly.

It’s important to always have backup. That doesn’t necessarily mean having a chaperone tag along, but letting someone you trust know where you are and who you’ll be with is a good idea in case things go south. That means if your date is giving you flashing signals to head for the exit, you’ve got someone ready to call if needed.

Having the first date in a public space with other people around can deter some of the crazy behaviors that people might be more inclined to have in a private setting, which will give you ample time to make sure the person you’re choosing to spend your time with is someone who is worth it.

Most second dates happen because both parties felt comfortable and interested enough to pursue a round two, so a popular drink or food spot is a common way to help put the nerves at ease during the first go-round. If both of you are doing an activity together that you’re familiar with, that helps the conversation flow better. For example, a hiking date for people who are outdoorsy or something like a coffee date for those of us who prefer a more relaxed, casual approach.

Obviously, simple things like being clean, smelling nice, and not showing up with a pound of dirt under your fingernails are a given, but they are surprisingly overlooked by daters who may have been out of the game for a while or are inexperienced in general. Take the time to clean up, trim your forestry of facial hair, and brush your teeth thoroughly. Trust me, your date and others around you will greatly appreciate the effort.

The final piece of the puzzle to make a great date is getting over those pre-meeting jitters. Online dating has become such a huge part of how couples in today’s world initially meet, and having the first time you meet someone in person be an official date can really be nerve-racking. You want the person to like you, and the big unknown is how they react to your personality, mannerisms, and appearance. It can be a scary thing in the hours leading up to the first date, but, luckily, there are ways to circumvent that anxiety.

Talking on the phone or FaceTiming can give you a good sense as to whether or not you should keep pursuing the relationship. If all of your conversations are over text, it can be difficult to know really important details about your potential partner. You can’t exactly gauge who someone is over texts.

If they have a piercing cackle like a parrot with hiccups over every one of your jokes, maybe that person isn’t for you. That’s not a deal-breaker for you? Well,  it’s still best to know something like that before plunging into an evening with them. The fewer surprises, the better.

There is not enough importance placed on having a clear mind before the all-important first date. First impressions are everything, and if you’re exhausted or bringing emotional baggage into the night, it’s a recipe for disaster. That means leaving the phone on silent and taking time to mentally prepare yourself to get to know someone.

One of the most intimate things you can do with someone is to spend your time with them or share a meal with them. If both of you are choosing to take time out of your lives to see if something might work out, the least you can do is give it an honest shot.

Dating can be fun, exciting, and even scary at times. With the right tools and a clear mind, you can ensure your future dates go right according to plan. Or, at least start out that way.