The Golden Rules of Great First DatesCarrie Eden
Why the Essential "C's" Spell the Recipe for First Date Success
How are you feeling about this imminent first date? Excited, apprehensive or totally blasé because it’s really no big deal – just spending time with a prospective soul-mate? Although, if you’re bothering to read this I guess you might not be as relaxed as you’re pretending!
A basic no-no has to be not taking your mother along. Mums are great but have an unnerving instinct for causing the sort of embarrassment only surpassed by seven year old kid brothers and parole officers!
Whatever your situation allow neither relatives nor even your best pal Felix (humanoid or feline) to cross the threshold – they can drop you at the corner of the street. Save them all as a (pleasant?) surprise for later.
You should choose to meet at some sort of eatery, easily accessible, within your budget, with a varied menu, tables for two (avoid communal benches) and unlikely to be invaded by a crowd out on a stag night or, even worse, a hen-party!
Of course there are plenty of other meeting places but it really is best to avoid graveyards at night, deserted underground car-parks, anywhere derelict and your grandmother’s living room.
A friend of mine swears by the bowling alley, another likes ice-skating (it’s a good way to “accidentally” fall into each other’s arms) and, if you’ve the wherewithal, casinos can be great fun. The problem is that one’s competitive spirit is not always one’s most attractive feature so it might be better to leave games to a second or third date to avoid damaging their sweet little egos.
Let’s examine the essential “C”s: caution, cleanliness, comfort and confidence, conversation, courtesy,
CAUTION: is sensible. Whilst most people totally genuine, take a few basic precautions. Tell someone where you are going giving them the basic contact details including, if possible, your date’s cell phone number. Meet somewhere very public; under the station clock is a cliché but a good standby although it’s best to meet at the venue. Never, ever get into their car nor go to their home however tempting.
If you feel the slightest bit threatened, remember that you are entitled to leave and get a friend to ring your cell-phone about thirty minutes into the date so you can make a polite excuse. Always take this call either to reassure them saying, ”Hi, can I ring you tomorrow?” Or, worst-case scenario: “What? Don’t panic, I’ll be there in ten minutes!” and disappear without taking questions.
CLEANLINESS: Maybe you’re, to put it politely, scruffy, believing deodorant damages the environment, hair will ultimately clean itself with its natural oils and that the removal of egg yolk globules from your faithful gardening cardigan is a bourgeois trait. You’re an uncompromising “love me, love my armpits” kinda person wanting to be appreciated for yourself. Ok, go for it. Stick to your principles – someone somewhere must like the vagrant look.
But maybe you could at least scrape the grime from under your fingernails and have a go at removing a fair proportion of last night’s chowmein from your beard. Being yourself is one thing but whilst natural pheromones can be attractive, stale sweat is rarely an aphrodisiac. However, there’s no need to dive into a bath of neat cologne – unless you want to risk spending several hours in the emergency room sorting out your date’s anaphylactic episode.
COMFORT EQUALS CONFIDENCE: so never wear brand new shoes on a first date – unless you’re after the sympathy vote by limping like Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy!
Both sexes should definitely avoid six-inch stiletto heels and although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend turning up wearing your cosy carpet slippers do remember that blistered feet really hurt like hell and only poets need look anguished.
In fact I don’t recommend wearing any brand new clothes especially if you’ve optimistically bought a size too small.
As a general rule if the garment leaves a red welt around your waist it doesn’t fit and there’s nothing quite as unsavoury as a belly protruding from between shirt-buttons. A zipper you can’t re-fasten after a trip to the restroom can at best lead to embarrassment.
The current fashion for wearing designer’s labels on the outside of a garment is fine but having the price tag in full view smacks of carelessness. Save some mystery for second date and then, when you’re more certain of the investment potential, you can if you must, splurge a week’s salary on cute designer socks.
CONVERSATION: can at first feel a little awkward which is another reason I like restaurants. At least you can discuss the menu, especially if it’s slightly pretentious even if it is only to exclaim, “Pan-fried scallops! Really! I mean, cereal-bowl fried scallops just doesn’t work, does it?” Other reasonably good ice-breakers are general compliments, current movies and, if you live somewhere like the UK, the weather.
Please minimise the topic of your ex whatever the cause of the break-up might be. There’s many a date been ruined by comments like, “Oh, you’re having the lasagne! My deceiving, manipulating, drop-dead-gorgeous ex made the most wonderful pasta!” If you really find that you can barely utter a sentence without referring to that bitch who over-watered my geraniums or that pig who ran off with my step-mother’s hairdresser then perhaps you’re not quite ready to date again.
COURTESY: may seem an old-fashioned concept but all it costs is a tiny bit of effort and a bit of cosseting can certainly add to the enjoyment of the evening whatever the outcome. Thus be punctual, make some sort of genuine compliment to begin with but don’t go over the top. It’s sufficient to say, “Great to meet you. What a lovely jacket!” Don’t do, “Goodness, what fabulous eyes you have; your beauty is equal to that which launched a thousand ships” unless you’re either Italian or masquerading as Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.
Whilst your own style will determine your etiquette, basic table manners make for a pleasant atmosphere. It’s frightfully impolite to flirt with the waiting staff however dreary your date may seem and if you really feel that there is absolutely no way you’d want to see them again then the “do unto you would be done unto” mantra is just pure kindness.
Finally, don’t take yourself too seriously and try to keep calm about the whole experience. A couple of hours out of the house is a positive step and even if love fails to blossom you might just make a new friend. At least you’re reassured that you’re not the only unattached soul in the city and, you never know, you might just subtly score with the maître d'.