I’ve been on a fair amount of first dates in my life, some ending well, others… ending. And like any human emotional endeavor, there is a certain amount of risk involved that you will reveal your inner sociopath far sooner than intended. Having made that particular mistake myself, the following is a list I’ve compiled of things I’ve learned the hard way not to do.
1. Be emotionally slutty. This is perhaps more often a female problem, although I have myself seen a man go on a 20-minute diatribe on his ex girlfriend’s habits before the appetizer arrived. In any case, don’t let a few glasses of wine and the overwhelming pressure bear down on your carbon-based soul until you become diamonds of terrifying emotional information. My personal poison of choice is the whole “I Want a Family” spiel. Many times now, I have been on a date and temporarily blacked out, coming to only when I’m halfway through a sentence about how “I want to be a writer because it will allow me time to be with my children. Children are very important to me, I’d like two ideally.” The man sits there, looking painfully polite, glancing at his watch, beads of sweat forming at his temple. It’s as though I’ve reached down and pulled out my ovaries, placed them on the table between us, then asked him about his day. No big deal, I’m just reminding you that I have a biological clock and it’s ticking. Generally, when you are just getting to know someone, playing it coy seems to be the better way to go. If, unlike me, you are capable of stomaching your innermost fears and personality tics for the evening–you’d be well advised to do so.
2. Talk too much. This is a specific kind of talking here, and one I am quite guilty of myself. You know how in movies, often at the end of the date, one of the partners will charmingly go off on a little tangent of the “Well, if you’re free tomorrow I’d love to see you, but I know you’re probably busy, but I’m busy, too, well, you let me know. I mean, if you want to, no big–” variety? Right. Well, invariably, the other person will cut them off mid-sentence in a romantic, sweeping kiss and they will embrace there on the sidewalk, stars twinkling above them, moon giving them that “You go, girl” look and the soft summer breeze handing the guy a condom. Yeah, that doesn’t happen in real life. You just stand there, rambling, getting progressively more awkward and uncomfortable until you cut yourself off with an “Umm, goodbye” and walk hastily in the other direction. Better to just keep quiet.
3. Get drunk. The temptation is obvious. You’re in for some rough human interaction, and there’s alcohol everywhere. Let’s lubricate this thing before we both realize how uninteresting the other person is. Unfortunately, there is a very precarious line between “a glass of wine giggly” and “six tequila shots sloppy,” and in the moment, it’s disastrously hard to see. One moment, you’re coquettishly rimming your martini glass with your finger, batting your eyelashes, and laughing at all the right jokes–then suddenly you’re crying on your floor and your roommate is stopping you from sending him a tenth text message apology of the night. We also have the unfortunate predicament of feeling like we come across as incredibly seductive when we just look like the oldest kid on the playground–a bit sad, out of place, and all our clothes are dirty. If possible, stick to a two-drink maximum.
4. See a movie. This has just got to be a matter of principle. If your first date consists of seeing a movie, even for part of it, it has already been ruined. Could you imagine saying to your partner, “I’ve only just met you, I know almost nothing about you, I would like to spend these magical first few moments with you in a dark room where we are not allowed to interact and are facing a screen in front of us”? It’s so…lazy…to think that anyone would want to miss out on these first few conversations where everything is so goddamned interesting for no reason. Who says to themselves, “That’s okay, I’ll let Matt Damon do the talking for me tonight”? You took this person out, at least pretend to be interested in them for a few hours.
5. Don’t offer to pay. This goes for both parties. I have known girls who proudly state that they don’t bring a wallet on first dates, and any man that would let them pay even a tiny bit is not one they would consider going out with again. For those girls, I hope the man accidentally left his at home and, on realizing how much of a gold-digging bitch she is, drives home without her and leaves her with the bill and trying to find a way home with no money. I always go into dates with a full intention of paying at least my share, and would never order things if I wasn’t prepared to pay for them myself. Usually, the man will insist on paying–and that’s fine. I get the gender roles, I appreciate their desire to be a gentleman, but I am honestly willing to pony up my share. There are so many girls that do the fake-out “reach for their wallet” move (their hands have never moved more slowly) as they pretend that they would ever consider putting a monetary value on the food they’ve just eaten. The man, of course, stops them mid-reach and they do that airy giggle of, “Oh! Well, if you insist!” I picture them all taking up Georgian accents circa 1870 and referring to their dates as “gentleman callers.” Quick tip, ladies: It’s nice, if you have the time, to take the man out for a gelato or a coffee as you walk after and insist on paying. It’s a little nothing, but it shows that we do occasionally open our wallets and the credit card/woman going down ratio isn’t so prostitutionally high.
Don’t worry, though, if you make it through these five rules, you’ll still have a whole relationship to ruin.