Largely thanks to online dating, we single folk are going on more first dates than ever. This could be viewed as a good thing or a bad thing—but for now let's say it's a good thing. We have more chances and opportunities than any previous generation to meet new people. Of course, websites and apps (and even your friends, let's be honest) will inevitably offer you a few bad apples. But, if you use your better judgement, exhibit patience and allow yourself to take a few risks, you might find yourself sitting across from someone wonderful.
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10 THINGS A FIRST DATE SHOULD BE...
1. ARRANGED IN ADVANCE: Working up the courage to ask someone on a date is not easy. The fear of rejection is real. I can say with a fair amount of confidence that if you request a date with someone on a specific date that is at least two days in the future, your odds of being rejected go down. People like to feel special; to feel like they are worthy of making plans around. A last minute reach-out can imply insecurity, insincerity and laziness. Most of all it can imply apathy—the most dangerous attitude towards dating, ever. On the other hand, it can also be as simple as a Hail Mary from someone whose night just opened up. I don't think there's anything wrong with agreeing to a last minute plan if you're up for it—and I think women especially should be wary of the trap of "not wanting to seem too available." I have it on good authority that this isn't really a thing. A date planned in advance is best, but a spontaneous meeting isn't something to snub your nose at, either.
2. PLANNED & PAID FOR BY THE PERSON WHO DID THE ASKING: There are few things that cool my romantic fires faster than being asked out by a man only to then be instructed to choose or suggest a location for the date. Perhaps it's old school of me, but I'm okay with that. Remember, a date is not the same thing as meeting up with friends. A wishy-washy text exchange over timing and location will leave both people feeling ambivalent and bored and has the ability to remove every ounce of sexiness from the experience. *Note that if you're a ballsy lady and doing the asking yourself, be prepared to treat the situation the same way. Your date may pick up the ball (and the check)—but don't expect it.
3. AFTER DARK: Okay, so in the height of summer when the sun doesn't set until after 8 p.m. this isn't necessarily true. But, generally speaking, I think a first date should be an evening event. We all deserve the flattering glow of candlelight the first time someone lays eyes on us. Plus, giving your limited evening hours to someone is like an unspoken offering of respect. We're all busy people with friends to catch up with, hot bods to maintain at the gym and Netflix queues to watch—so when you agree to meet during those precious free hours, it makes the occasion special. Lunch is not special. Lunch is not sexy. And sorry, neither is "meeting up for a coffee sometime."
4. LIKE A TENNIS MATCH: I'm talking about serving, rallying and scoring points. Serve up questions that require more than a yes or no answer as well as interesting, funny anecdotes that add color to the exchange. Rally the conversation back and forth—never hold onto the ball for too long. Offer up a topic or idea that can be tossed back and forth with a playful, spirited rhythm. Score points with impressive eye contact, thoughtful comments and flirtatious body language. Score more points by showing genuine interest and exhibiting gracious behavior. You know what they call a tie game in tennis? LOVE. (Jk jk I know that's not how tennis works but come on.)
5. A PHONE-FREE ZONE: For me this is manners 101 no matter who you're with. Do not put your phone on the table. Don't put it on the bar. Not even face down. Unless you're looking up something, illustrating a story with a photo or trading music recommendations from Spotify—keep that thing in your pocket or your purse. When a potential romance could be blossoming before your eyes, isn't it ideal to have them looking in the right place?
6. LESS THAN 5 HOURS LONG: I've fallen into the trap of the endless first date so many times. Drinks leads to dinner leads to after-dinner drinks and then it's 2 a.m. It happens, and it can be wonderful. And, when you've been on enough dates you'd wished were over after 15 minutes, that feeling of excitement when you actually want to keep seeing this person is intoxicating. However, curtailing your first meeting to allow for more discovery, a little mystery and tons of anticipation for date #2 is a good thing.
7. NOT AT SOMEONE'S HOUSE: As appealing as the idea of a home-cooked meal is, save that for date three or four. A first date should be in neutral territory—not just for safety, but for a level playing field. Go out into the world and see how you both react to it. Does your date open doors for you? How do they treat waiters, bartenders, and even strangers? You'd be surprised how much you can learn about a person just from observing the way they behave at a restaurant or on a crowded subway car. Additionally, no one needs to be seeing anyone else's personal bathroom on a first date, amiright?
8. FREE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: I do not think a first date should include a selfie posted to Instagram. Nor should it include any exchange of social media accounts whatsoever. Your IRL self and your Internet self are not the same person. Leave that element of discovery for later on. And on that same note, why not skip the pre-date social stalking all together? If you're genuinely concerned about who this person is, who they know and where they've worked in the past 10 years and thus feel the need to Google the hell out of them... Maybe you shouldn't be going on a date with them in the first place.
9. A LITTLE DRESSED UP: I'm a big proponent of honoring an occasion. Just because a first date is easier to procure than it has ever been before doesn't mean we should forget the power of the word "date" all together. This is a meeting built on the potential for romance, flirtation and courting. Putting your best self forward is important, and so is making a great first impression. Like it or not, that impression is largely shaped by how you dress. The point I'm making isn't to try and be stylish if that's not your thing—always be yourself. But, be yourself and a little fancy. If you don't want to wear a dress (I rarely do), go with a silky, pretty top and skin-tight jeans. For the guys, wear a sweater or collared shirt with slim-fitting pants and shoes that are not sneakers. Easy enough, no?
10. FUN: What? Fun? Yes! Don't let the pressure to be appealing ruin what should ultimately just be an enjoyable conversation with a romantic undertone. If the thought of saddling up to a bar for drinks (again) sounds like too much to bear—suggest something out of the box. Play mini golf. Go bowling. Take a picnic to Governor's Island and rent bikes. Even if it's not a love match, it's nice to walk away from a date feeling like you did something worthwhile with your time.
Whether you're a guy or a girl dating guys or girls, the above are all elements that you can control. A good first date doesn't happen completely by chance—there's got to be effort on both sides. And while it's true that sometimes no amount of conversational tennis or on-point manners can brew chemistry where there is none—hopefully keeping these ideas in mind will set you up for success the next time cupid comes calling.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES OR BREAKS A FIRST DATE?