I’ve had my share of miserable first dates.
Last fall, a guy I’d recently met took me to the movies. After a preview for the documentary Waiting for Superman played, he turned to me and whispered, “I wonder if that was based on a true story.” I smiled, then saw he was serious, and stifled the urge to laugh behind an awkward cough. After the film, he picked out a semi-expensive restaurant for dinner. The bill came and nearly grew dust lying on the table. Finally, I suggested we split it. He agreed, then realized he didn’t have enough money to cover his half of the tab.
I never saw him again, not because of his inability to differentiate documentaries from dramas, and not because he “accidentally” left his debit card in his “other wallet.” There just wasn’t any spark. He never called me again, and I never called him.
What makes first dates so awkward is that, to some extent, both parties are looking for the same thing. Sure, maybe one person just wants a one-night stand, while the other is already planning the monogramming on His & Her bath towels, but when it comes down to it, both people involved are looking for that spark. If it’s not there, it’s just not there.
But when it is, that's when things get difficult. You try to think of fun and witty things to say and worry they come out weird or lame. You’re conscious of every body movement, wondering what to do with your hands while sitting next to the person, coordinating logistics of how, when, and if you should make the first move.
All that nervous tension at least means the date is going well. And it can be conquered. Recently, I did a little barhopping in Ferndale to find out some inside tips on a successful first date. At the , work colleagues Jackie and Isaac -- who didn't want to give their last names -- had insights to share.
“I think the first date depends on your clientele,” Isaac said. “You should ask a couple probing questions to find out the girl’s groove, and that determines where your first date will be. I like sports bars, but she might not be into that. If she likes Italian, then Italian it is. I hate to admit it, but it’s a woman’s world.”
“On a first date, I’m looking for someone with good conversation, someone who can connect to the same values as me," she said. "And someone who makes good eye contact. I have to make that connection.”
Friends Dorey Mesleman and William Adams agreed good conversation was essential to a worthwhile date. “When (your date) doesn’t talk, that’s f---ing creepy,” Mesleman said.
But saying the wrong thing can also be problematic. “Don’t talk about past relationships,” Adams said.
“I hate when someone asks, ‘What are you?’ in reference to my ethnicity,” said Mesleman. “It’s really bad.”
Still, not every relationship kicks off with an official first date. Jacqui Diach, who's been with her boyfriend Johnny Ill for three years, doesn’t remember the first time they went out. “We were friends first,” she said, “ and lived next door to each other. Then I broke up with my boyfriend, and it just happened.” As for finding someone who clicks, Diach said, “Be as open and forward as you can be about who you are.”
So it seems the best advice is not to stress over the details. Plan only the where and when of the date, not every word you’re going to say, who’s going to pay, or whether you should kiss at the end of it.
“You just gotta be spontaneous,” Isaac said. “Don’t think about it too much, and don’t come in with expectations.”
And remember, a good night out doesn’t have to be romantic, impressive, expensive, or unique.
Adams described his ideal first date as being “anytime I’d want to see the person again.”