First dates can be rough. Mary Ann Lomas gives advice on how to make the most of your first date
For many people, dating is a science and an art, an intricate set of incredibly complex rules, most of which can be broken under certain circumstances. There are so-called dating doctors, tens of thousands of articles on dating, TV and radio-shows, blogs and guides in every shape and form for successful dating. And the list keeps getting bigger and bigger. Even this little article will be labeled as another dating guide. We have to ask ourselves a simple question: why are we so fascinated with dating? Surely, with all the information available on the subject and the sheer diversity of writers contributing to this conversation, we should have exhausted the subject by now.
The answer lies in human nature. Looking for someone to share your life with is extremely difficult (and is getting harder and harder due to our frantic lifestyle and the double-edged sword of technology that is very useful and practical in everyday life but also alienating too). It makes sense why someone might turn to a “12-step guide for successful dating” article to get some answers. Being a woman, I can’t avoid such guides, as the whole world seems to think women just want to read about dating and shoes. As a man, the situation is probably exacerbated by the continuous depiction of women as obtuse, complicated, and overemotional. And yet, many of us still have more questions than answers.
First impressions are important in the sense that they cannot be avoided. It’s worth remembering, however, that first impressions go both ways. It’s all too easy to get so caught up on our own—or our date’s—fear that we can stunt the date before it even begins. Dates are about discovery, and to dwell on anything, whether it’s a first impression, a certain comment, or preconception, will make for a stuffy, uncomfortable date. Even if the first impression you get from your date is extremely negative, don’t overthink or get anxious, as the date will only get worse. Likewise, if you feel you’ve given off an awful first impression, roll with it. Things might get better.
With dating, men often have a sense of focus, strength, and single-mindedness that many women respect and admire (myself included). There are times, however, when that sort of intensity gets heavy and makes men dwell too much on negative things or stick stubbornly to a conversation topic when it is naturally shifting. A date should be a flow of conversation, ideas, and atmosphere. You wouldn’t let a slip-up by a friend ruin your time together for the whole day, so be as accommodating (if not more so) with your date. Even the greatest relationships have sticky moments, the difference being that in healthy relationships, couples move past them. Women can be harsh judges, but they’re also very forgiving. Showing that you can move past your slip-ups or first impressions is impressive and won’t go unnoticed.
Ask questions, be patient, and be genuine. Those things may sound simple and easy, but you would be surprised how many men talk only about themselves. Some men are overbearing in conversation, or they talk about things that they think their date is interested in instead of what they really want to talk about. Men who do this don’t realize what they sound like to their dates. As dynamic as masculinity is, it’s worth recognizing that some things are better approached differently.
For example, some men still treat women like their audience, rather than their equal. As women, we want to engage with you. Most of us want you to share as much of yourselves as you want (and we want to do the same). If you find yourself talking about the meaning of life or our place in the universe, that can be great sometimes but it can also slow down the momentum. There’s plenty of time for intense and deep conversation, but a first date doesn’t have to cover everything. If you’re smart, funny, and interesting, it will show naturally in the details. I’ve seen a lot of guys talk about going on dates where the girl doesn’t offer much to work with, but if your date is quiet or unresponsive. the chances are she’s not relaxed or comfortable. It doesn’t necessarily mean she doesn’t like you (only time will tell). Rather than panic, try too hard, or get offended, try to understand her and take your time. You may find she opens eventually when the circumstances are right.
Hiding and Revealing
We all want to accentuate the positive and hide the negative. A big part of being able to enjoy ourselves though is coming to terms with our own limitations and not trying to falsely represent ourselves when talking about something important. Of course, you are not obliged to tell your date that you sometimes snore or fart in your sleep in the beginning. There’s hiding, and then there’s timing. Everybody has faults and imperfections, but you can’t hide the important things for very long. It’s better to communicate them on your own terms when the time is right.
What To Do
It’s easy to fall back on what a stereotypical date should be like: A movie, nice restaurant, and a peck on the cheek. Indeed, some girls may still want the classic date. Even so, it’s important (and also polite) to give the girl a choice. The key is thinking about what both of you want to do. Even if you’ve spoken very little to your potential date, there are always clues about the best place to go together. Give a little thought towards it. If your date is open and talkative, it probably isn’t a good idea to go to the cinema, where you won’t get the chance to converse for at least an hour or two. If she’s shy, however, it can be quite a nice to have this time together without pressure.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that ambiance matters a lot to girls too. A nicely arranged restaurant with tasteful decor and a pleasant atmosphere can be the perfect place for romance for many of us. An empty eatery with glaring waiters and traffic noise is not as easily ignored by women as it is by men. It’s an oft-ignored trait of women that things occur slower, and more progressively with us. Guys would do well to remember that it isn’t so much what you do, it’s where, how, and when you do it. That sounds insufferably picky, I know, but think of it this way: instead of focusing on that one gesture, joke, or activity that will win us over, simply being aware of the subtle things around us, or in the background, can clue you in a lot more, and improve the date dramatically.
There’s so much advice out there for guys who are dating, and it’s probably confusing assimilating all of it whilst still retaining your own sense of self. Should you be a gentleman? An alpha male? The quick-witted funny guy, the sensitive type or the strong silent type? Assertive, intuitive or accommodating? There’s no one right answer. If it’s any consolation, women have just as much date-related baggage on our shoulders. We worry about whether we appear prudish or slutty, whether we should respectfully disagree or play the demure listener, we worry about how much to laugh at your jokes, how much we should reveal of ourselves, and how every little thing we might say could be interpreted (whilst interpreting all the layers of meaning of what you said!). This fretting and planning causes more problems than it cures, however, and the sooner men and women can relax and forget their preplanned bullet-point strategy, the sooner they can create genuine relationships and deeper connections.
So don’t hide! Get out there, reveal your best side, be authentic and have fun while exploring. After all, dating is supposed to be about having a good time with somebody, so make sure you do just that.
image credit: Flickr/Emily1957