After the recent Sir Hugo saga (as well as the ever-so-slightly unhappy situation with Sean O'Sean)--not to mention some other Internet first-dates that were a bit too mediocre to mention--I decided it would be wise to take a break from the Internet singles world. Though I seem to be more comfortable than the average person when it comes to making small talk with strangers, even I have been feeling a little burned. Time to get off the online personals merry-go-round! I thought.
But when I mentioned my malaise to OkCupid Matchmaker Extraordinaire Meghan Beresford, she had some words of wisdom about how I (and you) can make every first date a positive experience--even if it doesn't lead to TRUE WUB.
Here's what she had to say:
#1) DO view every first date as a mini-adventure. At best, you'll meet someone you want to see again. At worst, you'll meet someone you find unattractive or strange, and you'll get to excuse yourself after a short period of time--in which case you'll have a story for brunch with your friends this weekend.*
#2) DO expect to be surprised. He may be less (or more) attractive than his pictures suggest, or more shy or geeky than he seemed during chats with you. Why? Because he posted his most flattering shots and busted out his wittiest quips to impress you. You probably did the same. The transition from online to real-life can be jarring, but if you head into it without pre-set expectations, you won't feel the jolt so much.
#3) DON'T think of dates in terms of success and failure. A bad first date doesn't mean you're unloveable or that you attract losers and weirdos. It means that there is a vast sea of people out there who aren't right for you, and you're going to bump into a bunch of them before you find the person who is.
#4) DON'T "fall in love" before you meet. Avoid too much time emailing, texting or talking to him before you meet. Doing that can set the stage for huge disappointment and discomfort if you show up and realize, for instance, he's about 100 pounds heavier than he'd indicated--or that the two of you simply don't have any of that mysterious chemistry.
#5) DO consider the venue. Pick a low-pressure location where you'll be able to hear one another. If he's 'meh' on anything but casual drinks, don't take it personally: some guys say that doing activities on first dates feels too 'couple-y', while others can't think of anything better than meeting a strange chick for bowling and beers. Feel him out and decide together what would be fun and comfortable for both of you.
#6) DO be a good listener. People feel a stronger bond with those they've shared personal information with, compared to those who've talked their ear off. So empower yourself--and come off as more attractive--by listening more than talking. To get the person across the table from you going, ask SPECIFIC questions, rather than vague ones (or worse, those that require a yes or no answer). Aim for a series of easy-to-answer queries on a familiar topic. Location, for instance. Try: "What hood do you live in?" ... followed by "How long have you been there?" & "Isn't that awesome burger place down there?" & "Do you want to stay when your lease is up?" Those kinds of queries will cause more chatter than "So how do you like living in New York?"
#7) DO accentuate the positive. Complaining about your job to your friends is one thing--and perfectly fine (up to a point)--but it rarely comes off well when you're too negative during a first date. Make a great impression by waxing enthusiastic about upcoming events you're excited about, some awesome movie you just saw, or the great family (or goldfish) you have.
#8) DO have an escape plan. Rather than lying about how you have to be some where, and bolting, a smarter approach is to make REAL plans with friends for after your date. Mention those plans either before the date starts (possibly via text) or first thing when you show up; it's good manners and will make your eventual disappearance easier. At the same time, you should give the date at least an hour. Sometimes people need a little time to loosen up and hit their conversational stride. If the person is absolutely intolerable, stay for a drink's length (30 minutes or so) and then find a way to excuse yourself.
#9) DO offer to split the check. And if he takes you up on it, don't be offended. It doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't like you; it could just be that he doesn't want to come off as old-fashioned.
PS: Commenters: I'm glad you're all with me, when it comes to pics of hot chicks!
As for my therapist: I-Heart: I'm kind of with you on the cynicism ... although I don't think my shrink would try to tell me I needed to stay if she didn't really believe it. But I question her judgement--and wonder if the therapy hasn't already done whatever it's gonna do. And Raye: I do question her efficacy. But she is trying to argue that I am pulling away from her because we're finally getting really close--and I'm scared of that--and my fear of getting closer to her mirrors my fear of getting close to someone in a relationship. Uh, mind f*ck, anyone? I feel like I'm in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest sometimes. Oh well.