Lately, I’ve realised that despite his obsession with turning off lights, ability to chain-eat cookies without putting on weight and habit of talking over the television when I’m watching Teen Mom 2, I’ve grown rather fond of my boyfriend and am somewhat excited by the idea of spending the foreseeable future with him. One result of this, as I was discussing with a friend the other day, is that I may quite possibly never go on a first date again. My friend wrinkled her nose up and proclaimed that she couldn’t imagine that because she LOVES dating.
REALLY? I hated dating. More than anything, I hated first dates – whether it was the awkward ‘dinner with a male friend – is it a date or isn’t it?’ trauma, or the stuttering conversations with that fit bloke you met in a bar who on closer inspection looks more dirty than indie, or the worst of all – the boring stagnation of a blind date that really isn’t ever going anywhere, a bit like when you are taken to view a house that you know on first glance you’re never going to live in, and you spend a lot time saying ‘mmm’ and wishing you were at home in the bath.
Having said that, over my many, many, many years of unsuccessful dates and failed relationships, I have discovered there are ways to make (some) first dates a bit more bearable. So I will dispense this advice – now.
1. Don’t get hammered
I tend to drink wine. Men generally drink beer, which is less strong and takes longer to drink a pint of (unless they’re downing them, which is another issue really). Being tipsy and feeling warm inside is a good thing. Being wasted is not. You might really like a guy, and embarrass yourself – I have a friend who got so drunk whilst matching a German man drink for drink that she passed out and fell down a flight of stairs. Alternatively, you might not like your date, but drunkenly decide you do, and go home with them, and then you just have to have the awkward sober conversations that you should’ve had last night in the morning with mascara halfway down your face and a headache and bird nest hair.
2. Don’t tell weird lies
I cannot count the amount of times I have told utterly pointless and inexplicable lies on first dates. ‘Yes, I’m in a local hockey team.’. What? Why did that just come out of my mouth? I then spent the rest of the night praying he wouldn’t ask what position I played in because I haven’t touched a hockey stick since I realised you could get out of PE by faking injury in Year 9. I know that this all comes from a mixture of nerves and a desire to impress but really, you just have to own up to it in the end (or spend every Tuesday night for the rest of your life sitting in Starbucks, because that would be less terrible than actually joining a hockey team), so it’s probably easier not to bother in the first place.
3. Don’t sleep with someone on a first date if you really like them
Not because I’m old fashioned. I know some lovely girls who slept with men on first dates and they’re now in lovely relationships. It’s more about self preservation. If you really like someone and you sleep with them immediately and they don’t call you, it’s going to hurt anyway, and on top of that you’re now going to feel all used and stupid and you’ll sit around saying things to your friends like ‘Did he just think I was cheap?’ If you fancy them and you are really sure you won’t get upset about it afterwards then go for it, just be careful and look out for your own feelings, and if you’re not sure, just don’t.
4. You can kiss, though
I think this clarifies whether it’s actually a date or not. Maybe that’s just me! However, try not to do this in public, because there is quite literally nothing worse than sitting next to two people in a bar who look like they are trying to eat each other.
5. Look at the menu at least once
If you go for dinner, try to at least glance at the menu so that when the waitress asks you crossly what you’d like for the third time and you really can’t ask for another minute, your response is something normal. I once accidentally ordered a caeser salad with no chicken and when the waitress asked if I wanted dressing I said ‘err…no.’ Do you know what that is? A plate of leaves. Have you ever tried to choke down a plate of leaves when you already have nervous dry-mouth? It’s not pleasant (why does the restaurant even sell it, actually?!)
6. Don’t talk about your ex
This should be so obvious and yet so many people do it. It’s okay to talk briefly about when your last relationship ended, but if you want to rant for half an hour about how your ex cheated on you with his neighbour, or get into a deep emotional conversation about how you’re not quite sure why your last relationship ended because you were definitely soulmates, then you are not ready to be dating yet. Beyond that, even little things – ‘oh, this was Liam’s favourite bar,’ or ‘Fred used to love this song,’ makes you look hung up on someone even if you’re not, so avoid it if you can. They shouldn’t talk about their ex a lot either, and you’re entitled to abruptly change the subject if they do.
7. Don’t go on an overly complicated date
You know on television when people go on first dates to, like, a cocktail making class or round a peacock farm or inline roller skating or something? Yeah, don’t do that. It’s hard enough to get to know someone at the best of times, let alone trying to talk about what they do for a living whilst also trying not to look like a complete fool. Also, where possible, don’t go to the cinema or to see a show. It’s basically like sitting in completely awkward silence for three hours, wincing every time there’s a sex scene. Dinner or drinks is traditional for a reason. Try not to pick somewhere so loud that you have to yell and ‘So, what films do you like?’ sounds like a weird threat, but equally not somewhere so quiet that the bar staff might as well sit down and join you. Just…normal.
8. Don’t be late
If you’re genuinely late, text ahead. But it’s rude to be late just to make a statement. It’s fine to be five minutes behind to make sure they’re already there, or to spy from a bar across the street and then casually turn up when they’ve been waiting for a minute or so (but don’t let them catch you doing this – awkward).
9. Don’t mention things you read about them on social networking sites
Even though it’s completely normal in this day and age to stalk your date on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and literally know more about them than their own parents, it comes across as weird and creepy to drop it into conversation. The further back in time this goes, the weirder it gets – never admit to looking all the way through their photo albums back to ‘2007 Christmas Uni Times!’ For example, if he says ‘I went to see Muse last week,’ you’re entitled to say ‘oh, I saw on Facebook you said you were there!’ But don’t use the first names of his dogs, or in fact his friends, before he’s mentioned them…it’s alarming.
10. Don’t be shy
It’s impossible not to be a bit nervous, but at the end of the day, you’re just meeting someone and that should be an enjoyable occasion! Try to relax, and have fun! And if all else fails, then let me add that I never really had a first date with my now-boyfriend and I’ve never been happier. So maybe it’s all a fool’s game anyway…