Yes… Yes I did pull out 90’s rap lyrics for my two-part title. That’s how I roll. Apparently.
Ok – so – we’re going on dates now. (See part I of this post).
But, where to go? What to do? What to talk about?
How to come across the best version of myself that I can?
Whoa, horsie – calm down! I’m not a MIRACLE-worker, for cryin’ out loud!!
But I may have a few tips/tricks up my sleeve. I can’t believe I’m sharing these for free…
Also – if you’re “shopping in my aisle,” I forbid you from using any of these suggestions.
You know what I mean, right ladies? When you’re at the clothing store and you see another woman encroaching dangerously close to the dresses you MAY be interested in – what do you do? You give her a quick once-over to determine if she’s your size. If she’s not, she’s not a threat and you can carry on as you were, at a relaxed clip.
But if she’s a similar shape, then you’ve gotta broaden your stance, assert your alpha female-ness and box her out of your shopping zone. Same goes for dating, doesn’t it? I can bring certain friends with me when I go out, because we’re shopping for different kinds of shoes…I mean, men. But, if I find a curvy, sassy brunette looking for a charismatic, funny, Jesus-lovin’ guy – we will NOT be wing-manning together. Too dangerous. So – like I said – if you’re shopping in the Sarah aisle…move along to another post. These gems are soley intended for my NON-competition.
Where to go.
I can speak to this globally and I can even throw out some ideas for those of you in the Houston area. [see list at the bottom of the post]
Generally speaking, (and remember that I think the first meeting should be easy and quick), unless you’re meeting for lunch, I think you should avoid national chains. Now, obviously, meeting for lunch at Panera or the Corner Bakery is fine. But if you’re doing Happy Hour or drinks/apps – don’t hit up Chili’s. (Unless, of course, you live in some podunk rural area where Chili’s is as impressive as it gets…if that’s the case, get the Southwest eggrolls, and surrender to the mediocrity.) Choose a spot that has a good “vibe” – a healthy enough energy that you can’t hear the guys in the back washing dishes, but not so loud that you have to scream into each other’s ears to be heard. Wine bars are great for this. Restaurants that do Happy Hours are also optimal (and a note for the non-drinkers. Why don’t you drink? No, I’m kidding. My last boyfriend was practically a tee-totaller. I mean, it IS why I finally broke up with him – to be clear, but… he’s a great guy nonetheless. If you don’t drink alcohol, Happy Hour spots are still a great idea – they usually have deals on appetizers and the Happy Hour ‘feel’ makes it not as high pressure as dinner.)
What to Wear.
I wear the same outfit on almost every first date. I’ll just tell you – it’s a black knit short dress – strapless, but with a halter tie with wooden beads. I wear it with black espadrilles – not super high, but a solid 3 inches of “help.” It’s everything you want in a first-date outfit. It’s sassy without looking like I’m trying too hard. It’s an LBD, but because it’s knit, it’s casual enough for Happy Hours, It shows some skin, but not too much. It’s a solid 8-outta-10. It’s perfect. AND – knowing it’s my go-to first date outfit makes it so easy – I don’t have to toil over what to wear.
A note to men – women toil. We worry and obsess and toss-and-turn over what to wear. We want to look attractive, but we don’t want to give off the desperate vibe that we’re trying too hard. We will often consider, if not actually do it – buying a new dress/outfit for a date. And we have to consider the activity too – if we’re playing pool or going bowling, we can’t wear a maxi dress. If we may end up dancing, we have to have the appropriate footwear, if we think there will be any kind of snuggling/hugging/smooching, we can’t be all spanxed-out… it’s a lot to think about! So – if you think a woman looks nice – tell her. And we’ll tell you too. 🙂
Honestly – as long as you THINK about what you’re going to wear and you have a morsel of an “I care” attitude, you’re probably fine. Probably best to stay away from your work coveralls, though… (yes – I actually went on a date with a guy who showed up in coveralls. COVERALLS, people. With the name of the company embroidered on the ‘shirt’ pocket and everything.)
What to order.
I usually commit to one drink and one snack. It doesn’t cost a lot and it gives me something to DO. Plus, sometimes this sparks interesting conversation about wines/beers/teas/food. Now, the biggest problem of date-eating is this…there is almost NOTHING you can actually eat. Not if you want to come across as sexy. Let me unpack this.
You can’t eat a salad because taking bites is cumbersome…pieces fall out, they don’t fit in your mouth in nice neat bites, so you’re rolling along in conversation, and there’s a spinach stem dangling out of your lips or a rogue heart of palm stuck on your cheek…it’s just not pretty.
Then, you can’t eat anything with cooked spinach, broccoli or ANY herbs – because they’ll be caught in your teeth and without knowing it, you’ll smile at Mr. Wonderful only to look like you’re missing a tooth. And unless you’re dating in Montgomery county, that’s frowned upon.
You can’t order anything with onions or garlic. Even if you know there won’t be a kiss, you don’t want to be breathing dragon-burp breath on him while you’re trying to make a good impression.
And lastly, you can’t drink red wine because it’ll turn your teeth an ashy-violet color that doesn’t exactly spell out “come hither.”
So, what’s left? Not much! Cheeses are safe (and delicious).
Then, there’s…well… just get the cheese.
What to talk about.
I would like to, once again, offer up some more of my printable communication materials for my readers here.
Below is a handy list of suggested talking points you can bring with you and hand to your date. Again – make this your own. Feel free to print several of these – even laminate them. Pick things that are so ridiculous that he or she can’t HELP but laugh and then you’ve got things started on a funny note.
talking_points (pdf for easy printing)
[aside…if you are offended by me including Joel in the camp of ridiculous topics, feel free to message me and we’ll go toe-to-toe in a fascinating theological sparring… trust me – it’ll increase your chances at living your best life now.]
Ok, but seriously – here are my three biggest suggestions on this front:
Ask questions, meta-communicate, and don’t set up taboo topics.
First – ask questions. Not in that ‘I’m gonna pepper you with so much interrogation that you feel like you’re in a war-time P.O.W. situation,’ no – just in a ‘I’m interested in you’ way. Now, the true test of a good date is if s/he reciprocates and asks YOU questions about yourself. If they do, just answer them honestly!
Next – meta-communicate. This is a fancy way of saying, talk ABOUT the talking. Or talk above the talking. I’m using the term loosely because literally it means to talk about the nuances of language, so I’m referring more to Meta-commentary, but let’s not get too academic here. This method has worked really well for me in dating because it takes the conversation to a much more authentic place where both people can rest easy in the shared nervousness or unknown. Both of you are trying to impress the other one while still being true to yourself. You’re both excited and nervous. Now, I’m not saying that you need to admit to the other person that you checked out your panty-line in the car window before walking in or tested your own breath while in the bathroom. But, you CAN talk about the fact that first dates are tricky. Talk about the fact that there’s almost nothing a woman can order to eat and still maintain some degree of poise. Talk about the fact that online dating brings with it so much room for disingenuous information. Talk about your own funny or horrific dating stories.
Lastly, if you’re being honest and appropriate for the level of connection happening, you can talk about just about anything. I don’t think certain ‘hush hush’ topics necessarily need to be off-limits. I think it’s OK to talk about your ex. Now, obviously – be smart about this. You’re not gonna blubber into your napkin and whine about how he never really appreciated what he had… But you CAN tell some of the basics of the story or share how difficult it was to get back out there. Chances are your date has been in the same boat in some season and this is a point of connection. We’re all human, right?
And for those of us who are divorced – I dare say this is a GOOD thing to talk about. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s really important to know WHY the other person is divorced. Did he fight for his marriage? What are her views on divorce? How long ago was it and what was the healing process like? How are the children doing? These are all hugely significant to me to learn.
Another side note – a reader asked me to discuss how long to wait after a divorce before getting back out there. And, my answer comes much more from my own personal reflection on this and less based on a therapeutic standpoint. I think this all depends on the nature of the end of the marriage and your own personal grieving time. Some people’s marriages ended with an abrupt quick death – e.g. the husband came home one day to announce that he’s been having a long-term affair, he no longer loves his wife, and he’s leaving her. 3 months later they’re divorced. That woman is nowhere NEAR ready to look for love again – the amount of healing and processing she’ll need is immense. On the other end of the spectrum is the marriage that had been in the relational ICU for so long that it finally died a long slow death. Whatever besetting sins/addictions/issues plauged them had been happening for years, there had been extensive attempts to save the marriage, including therapy, leaning on the community of faith, etc., and then the divorce itself sat in legal red-tape for years. In this case, so much of the necessary mourning had occurred as the couple struggled, that the time of healing may be less. I hate saying it because it sounds so wimpy, but it really is different for every person. Here’s what I DO suggest:
1. Surround yourself with wise counsel, and
2. Don’t open your heart up to anyone new until the ghost of your former failed relationship no longer casts doubt on your true identity and will not haunt the halls of your potential new love story.
Alright – back to the land of first dates…
How to END the date
First – don’t say you’re going to have another if you’re not. Be very careful with your words here. You do NOT have to bring the death blow to this burgeoning friendship while still on the date, but you also shouldn’t inflame false hope. If you know (and – of COURSE you know – if you’re being honest with yourself, you knew within the first 10 minutes) that you don’t want to see this person again, just say something like, “This was really fun, thank you.” You can even say, “Talk to you later!” because you WILL have to talk (or text) to let him/her know that you don’t think you’d make a good match.
Note: The more you date, the easier this will become. People appreciate honesty. No one wants a second date born out of pity. So – if there’s not spark, say so and move on.
Kiss or no kiss? There is no rule here, folks! Now…as many of you have deduced, I’m pretty conservative when it comes to sex, so I can unequivically say that you should NEVER have sex on the first date. That’s not just me being all Christian-prude-y… that’s just good economics. Only 6% of first dates that end in sex actually blossom into long-term relationships. You know what happens to the other 94%? SOMEone (usually the woman, but not always) gets hurt. Like – really hurt. Like – I gave my whole vulnerable self to someone and s/he thinks of me as disposable. Crappy feeling. MUCH worse than walking away sexually frustrated! Embrace the cold shower and be valued.
But, the smooch? Well – I say, if you’re feeling it – go for it. Why not? Kissing is fun and it’s also more information. If you walk away from a first date that’s obviously gone well, wouldn’t it also be nice to know if s/he is a good kisser? I’m just sayin’…
So – there you have it. My thoughts on first dates. Go on a lot. Make ’em quick. Be yourself – be honest. Smooch but don’t give away all the goodies. Rinse, repeat.
Some Houston suggestions for first date spots:
All the restaurants in CityCentre: The Tasting Room, Yard House (take a beer lover here!), Cyclone Anaya’s, Ruggles Green (great for non-drinkers), Flora & Muse (more of a coffeehouse feel), etc.;
Benjy’s (either in Rice Village or on Washington – one of my most FAVORITE places to go -( lots of good energy, delicious mojitos, $5 wines and $6 apps);
Cafe Brasil in Montrose;
The Boom Boom Room in the Heights (very charming and quiet), Boheme (a great hipster/chill feel);
the Arbys in Pasadena…just checking to see if you’re paying attention – ha ha!
No, but seriously, that is a NICE Arbys;
the bar at Vic & Anthony’s downtown (dark lighting, comfy chairs…ahem…);
Absolve Wine Lounge – small, chill – good apps and wine;
Branch Water Tavern in Rice Military;
Max’s Wine Dive on Washington;
any of the cafes in Rice Village (Black Walnut, Mi Luna, etc.);
DownHouse in the Heights;
The Tasting Room in Uptown Park (more single professionals vibe) or on Alabama (more coffeehouse feel);
Vintropolis on the west side,
Winetopia near Memorial/Galleria;
Cedar Creek cafe in the Heights,
El Gran Malo (relaxed patio and yummy tacos) in the ‘dirty Heights’;
Fleming’s steakhouse (Happy Hour only);
the restaurants at West Ave in Upper Kirby: Cru, Ava, Pondicheri;
Anvil (fancy mixed drinks);
Sambuca (bar) downtown;
The Grove at Discovery Green;
OPorto Cafe near Greenway Plaza – fantastic apps and wine in a casual atmophere (basically a less-noisy Max’s);
I could go on and on, but now you’ve got some ideas. And please leave comments with suggestions for other places…after all – I’m out there too!