Now I am of the opinion that a gentleman should step up and recommend what it is you should do on said date, but sometimes a guy will want to feel out what you want to do (or he's just lazy). Your phone goes off and you look down to see this text, "What do you think we should do Thursday?" Here's what your response tells the guy:
Date Idea 1: "I haven't seen a movie in forever. Let's do that."
If I got this text I would assume you actually don't want to go out with me. I would be wondering what went wrong with our dynamic that what you really want to do is sit there in silence with me for a few hours. A movie date does not signify to me endless possibilities for a romantic night out. Save the movie date for the third date or later because anything before that the guy assumes you actually don't want to get to know one another or that they are being friend-zoned right off the bat.
Date Idea 2: "Let's do dinner."
No need to mess with a classic; dinner is always a safe choice. A guy sees this response and thinks, "Alright. Her and me. Alone together for a few hours. Get-to-know-you time. Cool." Yes you may find that you have nothing in common with the guy halfway through the appetizer, but you can be polite for another hour, right? When a guy sees this text he will begin brainstorming where you should go. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to dating etiquette and believe that the guy should pick the place, unless you really have a clear idea for somewhere you've been meaning to try. So give him some space to figure that out, as he will likely also at least try to pay and should be afforded the luxury of figuring out what he can afford for a first date.
Date Idea 3: "Let's get coffee"
Oh my god, is this guy some friend you haven't seen since your semester abroad? Your former boss? Do you want to interview him for a job for some start-up that can't afford an office? Why are you going to coffee with him? If I got this response I would assume we're not actually going on a date. I would assume you just want to become friends. Coffee strikes me as something you do for an hour or less, squeezed in between all the more important things going on that day. It's non-committal time-wise, meaning that you could be together for less than a half hour, which also tells the guy that you're not sure you really want to go on a date with him to begin with.
There is an exception to this rule: if I know or am about to find out that you can't drink or for some reason can't be in restaurants (are you allergic to food?) then I would be very sympathetic and think coffee is a good alternative. One time I dated a Mormon and on our first date we met at the Ace Hotel for a drink but she couldn't drink alcohol so we went for coffee. There's something about being at a Starbucks as they mop up and close down for the night that does not scream romance. That connection fizzled as soon as the sign on the door flipped to CLOSED. Save a coffee date for some time down the road when you are more comfortable just hanging out and maybe pair it with a cute spot that has live music.
Date Idea 4: "Drinks?"
In my mind, "drinks" is always the best response. My friends joke that I have a very specific superpower: I am excellent at finding a bar appropriate to a given situation in a specific neighborhood. Text me, "First date spot in West Village" and I'll have the perfect spot for you in a minute. It's not a very good superpower when it comes to crime-solving, but it's applicable for my friends on the market.
Telling a guy you'll meet him for a drink says you're open to getting a little loose over alcohol (mentally, not physically lady!). It says that you want to explore a new spot, be a bit spontaneous, and see where the night will take you. Meeting for a drink at 7:00 p.m. might lead to you parting ways at 8:00 p.m. or going out for food, more drinks, a show, anything (wink). I'll admit that meeting a woman for drinks does lead the guy to the "wink" I just mentioned; there's more possibility for hooking up with a girl if you're going out for cocktails than if you're going to a movie, not just because you're both lubricated from alcohol but because you're not set on being in one location for an extended period of time.
Date Idea 5: "My friends are planning to meet at this bar. Want to join?"
If I was a guy who had been flirting with you for a while and had said, "Hey, let's go out sometime" I would be turned off by this suggestion. It's impersonal. It says to the guy that you don't really care to spend time with him alone, or that you're too socially awkward to not roll with a posse when attempting to date.
This text makes me imagine going on a third date at a fancy restaurant and all your closest girlfriends hovering over your chair, interrupting us whenever they get a new match on Tinder. Not appealing. If you want to go on a date with a guy, you need to do it one-on-one. That being said, the "want to join me and my friends" move is acceptable as early as the second date in my opinion. That's saying to me, "I like you and want you to meet my people. Yes they will be testing you to see if you're right for me, but you'll also learn a lot about me through meeting them." A very different message than saying this on the first date: "I'm scared to meet you in public. Maybe you're a serial killer. Maybe I have nothing to say beyond five minutes of one-on-one interaction."
Date Idea 6: "I've always meant to…"
This response is what I call the Activity Date. The Activity Date is anything you have always wanted to do, or something you used to love doing, and wouldn't it be nice if the guy joined in on that for a date idea? This is a big umbrella date that includes ideas like ice skating, rock climbing, a picnic, going to see the Statue of Liberty, and fat suit sumo wrestling. In other words, any activity you will see on a reality dating show.
Last weekend my friend met a girl he liked, hung out with her, and they made plans to hang out the next day. "Let's do a picnic," she said. A nice idea but when it came down to it the whole planning process became a huge hassle and the date fell apart, leaving a sour taste in both of their mouths. For a first date, sweet and simple is the way to go. What you are doing with an Activity Date is memory-creation. Save it for the fifth date. Think about it: a picnic on the fifth date? Well planned, maybe after you spent the night together for the first time? That's something you will both look back upon and remember fondly years later. Ice skating on the first date? With him falling down a lot and feeling embarrassed and you not having a lot of time to get to know each other? Maybe not a good idea.
Don't try to create ever-lasting memories on the first date. Don't shunt him into time limits with coffee and location limits with movies. Make that first date count: choose a place where you can talk freely, shift gears with little notice, and relax into enjoying one another's company without restraint.