How to behave on your first date

What everyone (geek or not) should know about first dates.

  • Be punctual. Arrive within 5 minutes of the agreed upon time.
  • Agree on a short first date – coffee or drinks. No movies, you can't talk at a movie.
    • No commitment beyond it by either of you
    • To reinforce the idea that it's a short date, plan on a weekday night. That gives you both the opportunity to end it early because you have to work (or do something) the next morning.
    • IF you think it's going well, suggest the next part to continue the date – which you already had in mind. Maybe dinner. Know beforehand the types of food your date likes and have a restaurant picked out that serves it.
    • Goes something like this, "Are you hungry? There's a great Chinese restaurant a few blocks away." This gives her the option, she can say she's not really hungry (meaning, she's not interested) and beg off, or she will agree, and you can keep the date going.
    • Then again, if it's definitely NOT going well, say goodnight and make sure your date makes it home ok. This isn't your fault; not everyone gets along.
  • Agree ahead of time on the dress code. You don't want to be in jeans while your date is wearing business casual.
  • Don't answer your cell phone while on the date.  

In fact, if it rings, make a point of turning it off in front of your date, showing that they're more important than any call (You might even want to set this up to happen by having a friend call you at a pre-determined time).

  • Plan ahead with two or three things to talk about that are of interest to you AND YOU THINK THEY WILL FIND INTERESTING TOO.
    • Things NEVER EVER to talk about on a first date:
      • Politics
      • Religion
      • Previous relationships
    • Things ok to talk about
      • Job (or school)
      • Future plans
      • Hobbies
      • Books, tv, movies, music
    • Balance between talking and listening. Don't hog the conversation, but always be ready with something to talk about when there's a lull.
      • This could be just asking a further question about the subject if it's interesting to both of you
      • Or, have in mind a "speaking of that..." segue into a new topic.
  • Saying goodnight
    • To kiss or not to kiss: Totally optional. A LOOSE hug and MILD peck are best (no tongue, unless you really clicked, in which case you don't have to ask.) If you're unsure, simply say, "Would it be ok if i kissed you?"
    • What about the future? Only bring it up if you want there to be one. This can't be stressed enough. It's better for both if either one isn't interested just to say you're not interested than to get someone's hopes up only to be ultimately let down. That doesn't mean you should be cruel about it. Just the opposite. The "It's not you it's me" approach is good in these cases.
    • So,

While you might think it's the compassionate way of letting someone down, it's actually the opposite, like slowly tearing off a bandage over days.

  • When should you make the phone call for the next date? THE NEXT DAY. Not that night (too early and it might be inconvenient).
    • Don't think you're playing it cool by waiting past the next day. You're not.
    • Don't think you look over-eager by calling the next day. You're not. It shows that you're interested as well as considerate.
    • Besides, if you're really going to make the call, why keep fretting about it? Get it done and allow both of you to move into the next phase of your relationship.

A general discussion of gender roles in the first date.

Here's the problem. While society has moved far forward in gender equality, when it comes to dates, it's generally still the responsibility of the guy to ask the girl out, plan the agenda, pick her up, pay for the date, and to initiate the goodnight kiss. Not that there's anything wrong with either party if any aspect of it& goes the opposite way -- but that implies a great deal of self-confidence in both people to be comfortable with that "role reversal".

That being said, gentle nudges on the part of the girl can be helpful to the guy. And the guy who makes all the arrangements without considering input from the girl is either a total egotist or just not very smart. And, it's a nice gesture for the girl to offer to pay for some part of the date, maybe drinks or the cab ride. Most likely, he'll say no anyway.

Have a comment? Or a different opinion? Write us.


Comments received:

I can agree completely with most of the advice you gave in your column on first-date etiquette and activities, but one part I have a question about:

Things NEVER EVER to talk about on a first date:

* Politics

* Religion

* Previous relationships

Why do you say that politics or religion should be off limits on a first date? I can kind of see how previous relationships ought to be, but why these two? This also brings up two supplemental questions: If they must be off limits on the first date, when would be a good time to permit them?

And if the other party brings up an "off limits" topic, do you have recommendations for how to gracefully deflect such inquiries?

Actually, I have always considered those first two topics good first-date material, if only because (a) everyone has opinions on them, and (b) opinions that clash, on such hot-button topics, can very quickly identify someone as not worth a second date, much less a relationship investment, and I feel it is best to learn such things as soon up front as possible.

Mind you, I'm not necessarily vehemently opposed to your restriction here, but I'd like to know your reasoning to see if it might change my own perspective on the matter. I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Well, I'm glad you agree with most of the advice. As to the politics and religion, I think it's a bad idea because you might be missing out on a great person if you bring them up too soon. In my own case, my wife and I strongly disagree on both subjects, at least certain aspects of them. Until I got to know more about her other good qualities (and she mine), it would have, I'm sure killed our chances of becoming a couple had we argued about these on our first date. Essentially, I advocate avoiding confrontation on the first date, and these two subjects are ripe for creating confrontation.

I think that answers the first of the two supplemental questions, bring it up when and if you feel that the chemistry may be right overall between the two of you, and then, bring it up diplomatically, not confrontationally.

And, if the other party brings it up on the first date, and insists on talking about it, then, I guess there's nothing you can do about it but to respond. How you respond is up to you, and maybe is best determined by how the date's going so far. Obviously, if you think there's no chance that there'll be a second date, by all means, fire on all eight cylinders with your opinions. But if there's some chemistry, again, that's the time for some well managed diplomacy.

I've seen so many heated arguments between people about these two subjects, with resulting loss of friendships that I just know they're not good first date material.

About how long you should wait before returning a date's phone call for another date? If you call back too soon won't you sound too interested? If you seem too interested, it tells a woman that you're not worthy of her, and she loses interest in you. You have to act mildly interested, the way you are when you look at a car. If you show too much interest the salesman knows he's got a live one and is now in charge. That's how you've got to act about returning phone calls. Not too soon. I believe waiting 2-3 days after your current date is best.

Well, I guess if the purpose of dating is to make sure you've got the upper hand in negotiations, then maybe it isn't a good idea to look too anxious. On the other hand, if you're looking to make a good impression and be a "mensch" (look it up on Wikipedia) playing games isn't the best approach to dating. And what's written above is all about NOT playing games in the dating scene.

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