1. Canceling right before your date.
There should be a special place in hell for people who think it’s okay to break off a date ten or fifteen minutes before you are supposed to go out with someone. In no universe is someone going to be thrilled with the fact that you just killed their evening because they were unable to make plans with anyone else, and now they are going to be stuck at home watching Katherine Heigl movies, as those seem to be the only ones on TV. If you respect someone you’re dating, you respect their time, and the easiest way to do that is to recognize they have a life outside you. If you’re busy, it doesn’t mean they have to be busy wallowing at home over you. Let them be free for evening by giving them advance notice. Because I know if my “boo” and I aren’t hanging, I’m going out, gurl. Let’s do shots.
2. Repeatedly breaking plans.
I hate it when people apologize for being a flake — because they know it’s not okay to just blow someone off on a regular basis. It’s like they feel sorry about screwing up, but not so sorry that they want to change or to actually spend more time with you. They just want you to forgive them for the person they are. Personally, I see nothing wrong with the alternative of not seeing each other that often (e.g. once a week) and then not having to break plans all the time in the first place. If you need to always be canceling on people, it’s a sign you’re either overextending yourself or don’t care enough about your plans to keep them. You need to figure out what your priorities are, and if dating isn’t one of them, don’t date.
3. Always making the other person pay.
As a queer person, figuring out who pays is always a tricky matter and is usually solved by the going Dutch method or the every-other-date system. But with straight folks, you get into that patriarchy shit, where either the man a) expects to pay or more often b) insists on it as a way to affirm masculinity bullcrap. (Read Steve Harvey’s Think Like a Man, Act Like a Lady for more on the subject. Then promptly wash your brain out.) If you want to be the person that pays all the time, go ahead, Daddy Warbucks, but know that it doesn’t buy you any privileges. You don’t get a magical access to sex just because you paid twenty dollars to see Identity Thief—money and time you will never, ever get back.
If you really want to get laid or get dat connection, stop worrying so much about who pays and focus on the person you’re with. The only thing you have to prove is that you’re awesome, and they don’t have a credit card for that.
4. Talking about your exes too much.
Everyone knows this is bad, yet everyone does it. Why? As human animals, we tend to be associative, looking for connections and drawing parallels in our lives. If we are on a date with someone we like, they are bound to remind us of the ghosts of girlfriends past and we make associations. We say something like, “This reminds me of the time that [insert the name of Dreaded Ex] and I…” as a means of comparison. We can’t help it. We are drawn that way. In nature, making connections helps us make tools, build civilizations, feed ourselves and procreate, but on a date putting two and ex together is always a bad idea. It means the only procreation you’ll be doing is with a fleshlight. No one wants to be compared to your exes.
This is why we learn to speak in generalities and why Mitch Albom’s books sell so many copies. You can say things like “The past has taught me” or “This reminds of the time” without needing to associate it with anyone or reminding your date that you used to have sex with other people. When you’re on a date, just pretend you’re the only two people in the world. It’s more romantic that way.
5. Too much PDA.
No, you should not be making out in a restaurant. Eat the food, not each other’s faces. Other people need to have dinner next to you. No exceptions. No more discussion. We’re done on this subject.
6. Never contributing date ideas.
I once dated a guy who would never tell me what he wanted to do on a date. He would say, “You pick. We can do whatever you want.” Look, I’m fine with making decisions. I am type-AAA. Making decisions is my shit, but I don’t want to be the Tracy Flick of a relationship. When you’re dating someone, you have to get to know them, and an easy way to do that is to let them pick the movie or to go to a restaurant and make them order for you. I do this every once in a while, just to see what my date thinks I would want. It’s an interesting glimpse into how someone else sees you, and they’re almost always wrong.
If you wanted to decide all of your date time, you would just stay home and have a date with yourself. You would go to the grocery store, buy all the junk foods that begin with S and finally start watching Alias, which you’re only a decade behind on. But you don’t want you time. You want us time, which requires both parties be present in the planning. It’s more fun when it’s their party, too.
Also, be spontaneous. There’s a reason people find it sexy. (Hint: Because it’s sexy.)
7. Showing up in less than appropriate attire.
One of my best friends dated a guy who would show up to their dates high, usually in some combination of mesh shorts or sweatpants. One time he showed up in pajamas to a moderately fancy restaurant. If that isn’t a dealbreaker, I don’t know what is.
8. Complaining endlessly.
There’s room for complaint on a date. Once I made the mistake of ordering spaghetti at a gay-owned sandwich place in Chicago, which is like shopping for a sailboat at American Eagle. It tasted like cold worms. I had to make the awkward move of ordering something else, while indicating to my date that I’m not some jerk who thinks the waiter purposefully messed with my food. Because people who are dicks to servers just deserve to be poisoned in the first place. But I had to make a choice: Would I be the person who politely speaks up when there’s a problem or passive aggressively grins and bears it? This is relationship metaphor material, so I chose the former. I still think he cursed me all the way to the kitchen anyway, but I didn’t blame him. Serving sucks. I’d hate me, too.
However, there’s a difference between being someone who has an opinion and someone who rudely derails a date by never being satisfied with anything. Have you ever seen the show Becker? If you have, there’s nothing sexy about Becker. Becker’s a lonely guy who is never happy about anything, thus making himself more lonely. He alienates those around him by being purposefully unhappy. That doesn’t exactly sound like a turn on to me. Thus, the next time you’re going to be mean to your waiter on a date, do yourself a favor and spit in your own food. Save him the energy.
9. Texting on the date.
Obviously, this isn’t absolute. Important texts should be absolutely responded to. If your father texts you to say he’s experiencing liver failure and your text message will miraculously save his life (science!), go forth, George Clooney, and be with this man. If your mother calls on our date, take it. It’s great that other people, especially your family, are a priority in your life, but that priority shouldn’t take away from the fact that I, luminous creature filling my face with burrito before you, am also a priority.
Things that are not priorities on a date: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace (if that’s still a thing), Livejournal (by God, I hope that’s still a thing), Reddit or any other form of social media that does not include conversing with your date. That tweet can wait until tomorrow. Because the last time I checked, Twitter can’t fuck your brains out. But your date can. Choose wisely.