First Date Etiquette

First Date Etiquette

Even without the common preventable stumbling blocks, first dates can be a nightmare. Once you have found someone who wants to go on a date with you,

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Even without the common preventable stumbling blocks, first dates can be a nightmare. Once you have found someone who wants to go on a date with you, then you plan, you fork over some money, and you allow yourself to be vulnerable. In this situation, you want to make sure that you are not getting in your way. Keep reading for ways to reduce some of the social obstacles and mishaps that often characterize first dates.

Offer to pay for the first date.

If you cannot afford to pay for the date you have in mind, plan something cheaper, or else save up first. It would be embarrassing, as a first impression, to not have enough money to cover the date you yourself planned. If the date goes well and the relationship progresses, it will be necessary to have a conversation about who pays and when, but for the first date, you want to present your best self.

If she wants to help pay, let her. If you tell her you would like to cover the bill, she says no, you insist once, and she concedes, that is a perfectly acceptable and non-aggressive way to approach the concept of payment. She may be offering just to be polite, or to communicate that she does not subscribe to outdated views of gender roles. (She may prefer that you pay, despite her offer, and by insisting just once, you allow her to feel she has behaved respectfully while you maintain your own chivalry.)

Conversely, even if you mean it in a positive way, refusing to let her help pay may be perceived as a microaggression. This is because the practice of paying for women on dates harkens back to an era when women did not work, made lower wages outright, and were viewed as men’s property and responsibility. Even if you disagree with the concepts that led to this practice and consider your own action just as one of chivalry, know that for some women a refusal to “allow” her to help pay feels like a misplaced sense of authority. She may also think that by demanding that you pay for the entire meal yourself, you are pushing her to return the favor in another way. Though all women do not feel this way, it is best practice to leave the option open. In any case, it is most important to be flexible. Do not come across as domineering from the first date if that is not your intention.

Select your topics wisely.

Though it may seem obvious, it is worth mentioning that most women do not want to venture into sexual discussions on the first date. Unless it has been agreed upon that the two of you are meeting primarily for hooking up, do not assume that she is comfortable getting raunchy. (And even if you are both planning to hook up, if she looks uncomfortable or will not look at you, back off sexual topics.) The issue with these types of conversations is that even if you are excited at the prospect of a sexual encounter, she may not be on the same page yet. She might get there eventually, but from the very beginning, you have a higher chance of success in dating if you focus on learning about who she is as a person.

Similarly, it is dangerous territory to ask her about where she lives. Many women may privately feel that early meetings are risky, especially in the era of online dating and dating apps. She has heard stories of women who met with men from the Internet and never came back, and although she does not want to accuse you of violent or aggressive behavior, she has no proof as of yet that you do not have those intentions. Unless you already share a few personal connections, or you have known each other for an extended period of time, do not ask her where she lives. When you are planning a location to meet, it makes sense to ask her what town she lives in. In this case, she may give you a vague area, or even lie. Do not push her to disclose more information. She is doing this for her safety, not out of any inherent distrust or dislikes for you as a person. If you push for this information, she may find you creepy, and there may be no chance of a second date.

Though it is common, especially in networking situations, to ask new people where they work or what they do for a living, it is important not to put excessive weight on this point during a first date. This is for several reasons. The first is that in a sense like the previous point, she may not want you to know where she works. If your relationship turns sour, or you turn out to be creepy, she will not want you to know that she works at the flower shop on South Street. Even if you are not creepy, some men are. Allow her this sense of security in knowing that work may continue to be a safe place.

Next, though knowing a person’s profession and aspirations are instrumental in determining long-term compatibility, it is essential that you do not allow your conversation to revolve around work. Work talk is not sexy. Unless you are both highly passionate editors at competing firms, or you both have highly unconventional jobs, talking about work will almost definitely bore her or you at best, turn you off at worst. Show her you have a personality outside of your job description.

Building a connection depends less on the exchange of emotionless, objective information than it does on building subjective webs. If she starts talking about work, ask her a question that directs her back to her feelings on the subject.

Do not take up all the air space.

You want to impress the woman; she knows this. Talking nonstop about yourself and your accomplishments will not impress her. It will make you seem both insecure and inconsiderate. What will serve you better is careful listening, follow-up questions, and authenticity. Though you want to present your best self on a first date, make sure that you are giving your true self. And if you want a relationship, show her that there will be space for her in it alongside you.