sent via email by Dr. Matriarch
I’ll admit it: I have a first date outfit. A black skirt and a particular top that’s cute (but not too cute) and funky (but not too funky). I even know which pair of colorful earrings I wear to match. Shoes depend on the season. Six minutes to do makeup, five to straighten my naturally straight hair. Then I transfer stuff into my first-date purse (nicer than my usual denim one, but not too formal). I give myself about half an hour total to get ready, so that I can proceed at a leisurely pace and make sure that I’m not forgetting anything. A few minutes before the pick-up, I usually check myself out in the mirror too many times and start getting that jittery feeling in my stomach. Then I remind myself that I’m being stupid and it’s no big deal, and I go babble to my roommates as a distraction.
I’ve only ever dated from an apartment/dorm, which makes things much easier. The guy loses points for being more than five minutes late, unless he has a foolproof explanation or calls in advance to let me know. I make sure to be ready on time, and I think that he ought to pay me the same courtesy. In general, I think lateness is very rude. In a few situations, I met the guy at the date location. I don’t mind bending protocol on this when it is much more convenient for the guy to meet me there, but it bothers me if he doesn’t even offer to pick me up at my apartment. We see each other, we say hi. I’m usually focusing on what I’m saying, negotiating the moment, and don’t reflect on his appearance much until the date is underway—though I notice height immediately. I’ve been pretty fortunate, overall, with the guys I’ve dated, so I don’t really have any traumas to record in this area. I make sure to smile when meeting the guy—I think it helps put both of us at ease.
Usually, we’re walking or taking the subway. I don’t mind either one. In my experience, guys always offer to swipe their Metrocard for me, which I appreciate (though I also always offer to swipe myself). Guys also tend to open doors, and I think it’s polite and gallant, though it can occasionally be slightly awkward to maneuver (depending on how deft he is at negotiating it). Conversation during this part of the date usually begins with “How was your day?” Then the question becomes: how much detail do I provide? I don’t want to say “Good,” and end the conversation there, but I also don’t want to launch into a detailed description of my classes and academic pursuits, which would be better suited to later in the date. I try to achieve some sort of happy medium and return the question. Then we usually have to pay some attention to where we are going, because my sense of direction is easily diverted, and the guys I’ve dated have been even worse than I am at knowing where to go. Luckily, it doesn’t bother me much, since it’s a failing with which I can sympathize.
Rule for guys (listen up!): always tell the girl where you are going in advance. Please. If you’re someone who likes to give her a choice (which I don’t prefer, though I know some girls do), that’s fine, but do it on the phone before the date. It is very disconcerting to show up without some knowledge of where we are headed. You don’t need to specify the exact location (name of restaurant, for example), but tell me that we’re going out to dinner, so I know not to eat beforehand. Okay? Please? I really don’t think there’s any exception to this rule, or any negative to keeping it. That said, my first dates have mostly been dinner, and I think that’s fine. It gives us something to do besides talk (or rip up a straw wrapper, which I did once for lack of other employment). While Starbucks is understandable (if a guy is reluctant to spend $30 on someone he’s never met), I’d generally prefer ice cream: it costs about the same and tastes much better.
I try to talk as openly and non-awkwardly as possible. By nature I’m somewhat shy at first, but have worked very hard to overcome that. I’m also an active listener, so sometimes it will feel to me as if I’m talking more than I am, in which case I might come off as slightly quiet. In any case, I always listen attentively to whatever the guy is saying (whether or not I’m immediately interested) and try to add my input without censoring myself (I think it’s important to give an honest representation of who I am). I do as much as I can to find points of humor and to make the interaction feel comfortable and normal, because I think that all the protocol and formality is ridiculous. I also try to make it clear that I am not looking to judge the person, and especially not based on relatively insignificant details. I find that while there may be some awkward moments or contrived conversation, there is generally something to learn from everyone.
I wait until the guy suggests that we go back. It’s easier on a dinner date, because the end of the meal is a natural stopping point. I hate the shidduch system and have never said no to a second date, so I prefer when the guy either asks me out again or says that he’ll call me. I say thank you, smile, and hoorah, it’s over! First dates are incurably lame, so it can only get better from there. 🙂