Dating is like baking – don’t leave the ingredients together in the oven for too little or too much time.
OK, don’t think about the analogy too much, I just had to throw it in, in the spirit of comparisons.
I once observed something very bizarre, and a bit sad. A maidel of 21 years was about to embark upon her first date ever. A typical Touro student from out of town, she spends her sleeping hours in the attic of a Flatbush couple who are milking the fact that single ultra-orthodox women need to live in NYC and attend Touro if they want to have a prayer of getting married. In fact, there was more than one in that attic, which is why I was able to observe this, while lounging about with a good friend.
Maidel left on her date at about 7 pm and was back at around a quarter to 10, very disappointed.
“Two and a half hours,” I noted. “That’s very decent for a first date.”
“It is?” Maidel replied skeptically, still looking very glum.
“Why, it didn’t go well?”
“No,” she said.
I later found out that she told her landlady (or whatever you call these people) that she was expecting to be back at around 12.
Twelve o’ clock? What is she, nuts? Counting on my fingers – and correct me if I missed a digit – that would make her first date five (repeat that: five ) hours long. Allow me to repeat: is she nuts? Knowing what I know about Maidel, I suspect she was also expecting to be smitten at first sight when dating her true love, and when faced with the usual awkwardness that is a first date, figured it was a DOA.
First dates are awkward. Not as a rule, but in general, because you’re trying to interview a person without seeming to. Until you find a point of common interest, it feels as ridiculous as it is, but is somehow too solemn to laugh at. Therefore, there’s no reason to spend more time on them than you need to. When things begin to feel as stretched as a rubber band holding a medical student’s flashcards, end it. You can make up anything you missed on the second date, if necessary.
I once had a guy apologize for doing that. We finished our dinner, walked around the block, and were barely treading conversation as it was, so he drove me home. As he pulled up in front of my house his eyes fell on the clock, and he realized that it had only been 1 hour and 45 minutes. “Is that OK?” he asked anxiously.
“What?” I was bewildered.
“It’s only an hour and a three quarters. First dates are supposed to be two hours long.”
“I really didn’t notice,” I said. It might have been the wrong thing to say; he probably took it to mean that the date felt a lot longer than that (which was the case anyway). But c’mon – dating by the clock? Do what feels natural. If the date feels over, don’t hang on just because your mommy told you there’s a minimum time-frame. There’s no “leave in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes” recipe. If you end a great date early because the rule is 2 hours, you’re no better off than if you drag out a bad date because the rule is 2 hours. When the toothpick comes out clean, take it out of the oven. Which is to say, when it feels natural to say goodbye, say it.