Dating is a bit like joining the circus. First dates often seem more like an audition than a night on the town, and that get-to-know-you dance can be quite dizzying, especially when you don’t have all the right moves. I got the goods from relationship experts, dating coaches and a slew of singles on how to sidestep common first date showstoppers and how to earn that much-deserved encore.
• Facebook, text messages, Tweets - oh my! In today’s networked society, it is easy to get the skinny on your date with a mere click of a mouse. Amid all of the latest technology, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on your cyber-self. A flirty wall post, questionable photo or late night text can sometimes send the wrong message.
• Personal hygiene – it matters. Bad hygiene or a sloppy appearance can put a damper on first date romance. No matter how cute you are, bad breath, broccoli in your teeth or a stained shirt can be an unnecessary distraction on a date. Pop a mint, take another peek in the mirror and put on a clean shirt before leaving the house so you can relax and enjoy your night without worry. (Oh, and remember to use basic table manners like chewing with your mouth closed, swallowing before you speak and everything else your mother taught you.)
• Don’t be late. Being on time is of huge importance to both parties involved. Being anything more than 10 minutes late is considered rude and doesn’t make a good first impression. Think of it this way, would you be late to an important job interview? The same rationale applies here. Be punctual and if you are going to be late, be sure to check in with the person you are meeting and let them know.
• TMI! Don’t reveal too much too soon. Nobody is saying honesty isn’t a good thing (it’s a great thing!), but revealing too much about yourself too soon can be a big turn off. Those stories about your psychotic ex, your abusive childhood, your recent bankruptcy or a detailed account of how you lost your virginity (seriously folks, I couldn’t make this stuff up) are not ideal dinner conversation. Besides, you never know how these stories will be interpreted by your date who doesn’t yet know how amazing you are. It’s best to take your time and reveal things more organically as you get to know each other better.
• Chivalry is alive and well…or at least it should be. This may seem like an obvious one, but despite these modern times, chivalry is not dead. Guys, be sure to hold the door for a woman and be willing to pay for dinner. Although you may have read that going “Dutch” is all the rage, don’t assume this applies to a first date. And gals, be sure to say “thank you.” That’s just good manners.
• Master the lost art of conversation. Talking too much, talking only about yourself (without asking questions), talking only about money and material things, talking badly about your ex or having nothing to talk about are all first date faux-pas. You want to show that you can hold an intelligent conversation, and also possess a genuine interest in getting to know your date. First date banter often thrives via a delicate sportsmanlike volley. Go for it, you got game.
• Avoid discussing politics or religion. Well, duh! OK, ok, but this includes avoiding topics that might be too controversial or that your date might feel strongly about. Conflicting opinions over hot button issues are a sure fire way to squelch any flames. Do your best to respond to any controversial questions with an open mind. A first date is not the time for salesmanship, religious conversions or a campaign rally.
• Be confident, but not cocky. Confidence is sexy, but arrogance is not. In fact, a little humility can be quite charming. Making eye contact, initiating conversation, discussing personal goals and aspirations (not just financial achievements and personal conquests), and even offering to take the reigns and proposing something adventurous on the fly can all be attractive to a potential mate. On the contrary, excessive fawning, blatant insecurities or extreme neediness should be checked at the door.
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And just for a little fun, here are a few real life dating disaster outtakes from my research that I just had to share:
“A big turn off for me is bad shoes...if I can't get down with your shoes, I can't get down with you.”
“On a first date I'm sitting with this guy in his car and he offered to show me his gun. I'm thinking…is he being literal or figurative? Either way, it's inappropriate. Sure enough, he opens the compartment between the two front seats and pulls out an automatic weapon! I was like: ‘Oh my God, please put that away!’”
“I was out with a guy who told me in a very nonchalant sort of way that, back when he was in college, he and his friends robbed a few convenience stores for fun. I was horrified. The man at the table next to us overheard this conversation and saw the disturbed look on my face. The man got up, approached us and asked if I needed assistance. I took this as an opportunity to excuse myself and caught a cab home. My dumbfounded date even texted me later asking if it was something he said.”