I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m awesome at first dates. It would seem that after years of trial-and-error I’ve finally mastered the fine art of presenting ones’ best self over a number of fluorescent cocktails and an over-priced meal. I’m witty, approachable, humorously self-depreciating, engaging, and an awesome listener. I’ll ask you questions, I’ll pay the check, I’ll walk you home and—should the moment presents itself—I’ll give you a kiss with just the right amount of tongue.
Unfortunately for me, after the first date, it’s standard procedure for there to be a second… and that’s where things gets tricky.
I’m not sure what it is about the second date that causes me to mentally trip, fall, and scrape my knee. Perhaps it’s the mounted expectation; the understanding that after a second date could come a third; that perhaps one kiss is all that stands between the safety of disconnection and the murky, often tumultuous rapids of genuine human emotion. Whatever it is, the second date never fails to pull the rug out from under my carefully assembled best-self and—not being one to do things by halves—the real me comes blaring through in all its jilted glory.
It’s only now, as I sit reflecting on my countless dating hiccups, that I feel I’m able to pinpoint a few key areas of weakness and, in doing so, offer a certain level of flawed advice to those like me: the perpetually single modern-day daters.
So here it is, my tried and comprehensive guide to surviving the cursed second date.
Revealing The Second Layer
As Shrek once famously mused to Donkey: “Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. You get it? We both have layers”
I guess the same could be said about humans and our relationships.
The first date sees the introduction of two shelf-ready vegetables, complete with sturdy shells intricately designed to protect us from dirt, insects, and pesticides. In order to properly remove this all-important outer layer, we must first dust it clean with compliments, ideals, and flirtatious small talk. It’s the romantic’s tap water: a bare necessity.
Just as nature intended it, the second date brings with it a second layer—a softer, fleshier one. The second layer is tougher to remove, having always been held so firmly in position by the safety of our shells. Though fuller in flavor, removing this layer is also known for its ability to make one cry, so please approach with caution. Methods for removal include touching on firmer subject matter: the future, family life, growing up. It is, however, vital that one doesn’t cut too deep for risk of prematurely upheaving the third layer and causing “The Onion” to unravel in a messy, tear-inducing heap.
Some third-layer topics to avoid on the second date include: Recents deaths, baby names, previous substance addictions, and undiagnosed mental illnesses.
The Classic Oversell
As previously mentioned, the first date is about presenting your best self: a fancy marketing powerpoint presentation filled with spinning headlines and royalty free sound-effects carefully selected to spark an interest in your chosen audience of one. Approach the second date with the same tactics, however, and you may just fall victim to the classic and ever-destructive oversell.
It’s scary how fast “witty” can become “obnoxious” and “humorously self-depreciating” can become “grossly self-conscious.” Try dialing the quips back a notch, the powerpoint’s already done it’s job and your audience is hooked. They wouldn’t be on the second date if they weren’t, would they? The key now is not to forcefully reassure your attributes, but to display them subtly through your conversation and actions. Your date is probably just as nervous as you are, despite their apparent confidence, so you really want to tread the fine line between appearing undesirable and appearing unattainable.
Remember, you’re not selling a perfect product—you’re selling one that may occasionally break down and need support, one that has a some natural wear and tear on the surface, one that takes a little time and love to warm up and run smoothly. But it is affordable, well-made, and reliable when needed most. That’s what counts.
Finding Your Pace Of Conversation
When we let our second-date nerves take over we risk running our mouth into the ground, and burying those magical sparks of love right along with it.
I guess the goal is to achieve a sort of Gilmore Girls “Lorelai and Rory” pace of conversation: quick and punchy like a verbal tennis match at Wimbledon. If your date drops the ball, give them a chance to collect it and re-serve, or risk coming across as a bad sport. Should you fail to reach a healthy rally, you’re either hitting too hard or simply playing a poorly-paired game—and that’s for you to decide.
The “Second-Date Survival Instinct”
The only thing stronger than the euphoric rush of potential love is the intrinsic fear of having it taken away. Whether we acknowledge it or not, a successful first date gives each party something to lose: the internal butterflies, the fresh burst of optimism, the new seed of hope.
It’s while high on the notion of love that we grow wary of our newly raised stakes and subconsciously hit the defensive: something I like to call the second date survival instinct. It’s an emotional test, a way of making someone earn the ability to break our hearts. We push them away, we gage their willingness to accept our faults, we give them every possible reason not to call us the next day—and, the problem is, it usually works.
Maybe we do it because we’re scared—scared of letting someone in, scared of being burned, scared of the vulnerability that comes with giving yourself to another person. Or maybe we do it quite simply because it hurts just that little bit less to screw things up on the second date than it does on the third. Whatever the reason, it’s essential that we acknowledge this tendency for self-sabotage and consciously counteract it. Don’t make things harder than they need to be!
Second dates are complicated things, filled with mental land mines and obstacles set-up to protect and defend our hearts. It’s a romantic limbo, two parties wanting to let each other in but quietly cautious of being used and abused. If we’re to progress further into the exciting unknown that is a monogamous human relationship, it’s vital that we approach these initial dates with an open mind and clear head—laying down an open, sturdy foundation on which to build the path to that elusive third date.