9 Fine Lines for a Great First Date
We're ripe for a return to old-fashioned courtship courtesies. And yes, you can even apply them to digital dating!
Many of my older singles (and a surprising number of young ones as well) have been lamenting that dating “isn’t what it used to be” or “not like the last time I was single.” Since anonymity, ease, and efficiency seem to rule the day when it comes to online and offline connections, dating might be feeling a little cold, soulless and full of opportunities for missteps and misunderstandings.
Here are the standards you might adopt (and it’s OK to adapt) if you desire a return to old-school courtesy and civility in order to pave the way for smoother, more intentional interactions. These are the nine “fine lines” to toe:
1. The gentleman asks for the date (unless it is arranged) by either calling or asking in person several days in advance. This requires planning, but planning shows consideration for the other person’s time and is flattering to them. Since most people live busy lives (and the most in-demand individuals are usually living busy, rich lives) last-minute requests for a lady’s time are discouraged.
2. Though we live in a casual culture, elevate the way you dress in order to distinguish yourself. It doesn’t mean you need to completely transform who you are and how you look; it does mean you can think about how you present and strive to be yourself — only a slightly elevated version of yourself. This may mean going upscale casual or “casual elegant” for early stage dates.
3. The gentleman pays for the drinks or dinner, opens doors, etc. If you’re uncertain about manners or social graces, err on the side of being too old-fashioned. An entire article could be written about gender and economics and how various women feel about their ability or desire to participate financially in the date — and there’s room to nuance this as you’re developing a relationship — but this is a simple rule that keeps confusion to a minimum.
4. Mind the martinis! Nerves or awkward tension can tempt one into drinking too much or too fast. A good rule of thumb is to stick to a 2-drink maximum if you’re also eating. If you’re on an empty stomach, then 1 drink for the lady and 2 for the gentleman is a good guideline.
5. DO NOT talk at length about:
- ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-husbands, ex-wives
- the particulars of a breakup or divorce
- pet peeves that bother you about men or women in general
- how much money you make, how much you spend, or how much you give/share
- time spent in counseling/therapy or rehab
- disease, illness, or health failings you are currently experiencing
The first date should be light and lovely. You’re simply looking for indications of whether or not you want a second date. The above topics are better reserved for a later stage of dating and developing intimacy.
6. It’s a date, not a marathon. That means the first date should last a few hours. Leave some stones unturned and leave each other wanting more. Disclosing too much too soon can lead to regret and can also truncate “the chase!”
7. If you like him/her suggest you exchange numbers. If you had a good time and would like to see your date again, it’s OK to say so. “This was fun, I hope we can do it again soon!” is all the prompt they should need. And if you’re being truly “old school” the gentleman asks for the lady’s phone number.
8. Do not go to your date’s house or introduce your date to your friends, family, or children before, during, or after the first date. That’s an activity for at least a few weeks in. We live in an era where people tend to share a great deal of information publicly and incorporate people into our lives quickly, but just because it’s common practice doesn’t mean it serves YOUR dating purposes. It’s OK to take it slow.
9. Concluding the date: If you’re feeling some chemistry and attraction, go in for the kiss! Ladies, you can invite it with your body language and facial expression — especially the type of eye contact you make. Gentlemen, you’ll need to be tuned in and watching for these cues! Unless the date was a bust and you’re trying to indicate you do not wish to repeat the experience, shaking hands is too formal and business-like. If you are feeling warm and friendly as you depart, a hug goodbye is fine. And please, even if the chemistry is palpable — no groping, fondling, undressing, or sex on the 1st date.
Whether you’re 35, 55, or 75, I hope this “throw-back” code of conduct for first dates helps you to feel safer, more secure, and less confused about norms and expectations. Let your date know your attitudes or values around this so that they’ll know why you do what you do. Few people will be offended or put off by the idea of cultivating an environment of respect in the dating experience. And if they are, they are probably not a match for you.