Friday, May 23, 2008


Shortly after Mary got out of a long-term relationship (3 years and a dog) she went on a date with a guy she met on one of the well known dating sites. Jack was handsome, successful, and judging from the exchanged e-mails, utterly charming. It was the first post-breakup date for both of them, and Mary felt very out of practice. At the restaurant, they made awkward small talk about the bread, ("love the smell of bread right out of the oven"),the latest debate between the two presidential candidates ("he's not much on detail"), the weather, ( too hot for this early in the season"). After comparing their opinions on the salads, desperation set in as the entrees arrived. That's when Mary made the new to dating scene's most fatal conversational gaffe: she asked Jack about his recently broken marriage. After that, it was all about Jack and the years he'd spent miserably married to a woman who treated him like a piece of furniture that needed to be reupholstered. Mary tried to change the subject, but Jack was not going to move on to any other topic until Mary said to herself she'd had enough. She looked at her watch. "Oh my goodness, I'm going to be late for my next appointment. She opened her wallet, pulled out a twenty and said, "This should take care of my portion. I've got to go."

Forget romance. A first date is like a job interview--except it works both ways. When you tell a story about your friend who's dating a guy of a different race, your date should know you're testing his views on social politics. When you say that you can't believe how badly some people treat waiters, you're assessing your date's level of empathy. When you say you went to a new exhibit at the museum and loved the impressionist paintings, you're judging your date's appreciation of the arts.

As in a job interview, the goal is to impart general information without imparting too much information. Don't go into great detail about previous relationships or your intimate health history or the trouble you're having with your kids, if you have kids. Of course, it's natural to want to break the ice and let your guard down if you hope that this person will become your lover at some future time, but the details should wait for a second or third date. At the very early stages, you're not you--you're the ambassador of you. So the rule is: BETTER LEFT UNSAID.

You don't have to fill every silence. Just chew your food and sip your drink. And don't seem to be interrogating your new friend as if you were getting ready to take his or her polygraph. The first date should be more surface using the time to see if there's any chemistry in what you see, providing what you hear doesn't turn you off.

Sometimes actions speak louder than words. A soft glance at your date, a smile, a nod at something he or she said that appeals to your senses. Like at the end of the date, instead of mumbling some lame version of "I'll call you," just go home and pick up the phone to say how much you enjoyed meeting her or him. Either one can do this. We do live in an equal society now, and a man who just took a new woman to lunch might like the encouragement of a phone call to thank him. Because beneath the surface, that what the entire first date conversation was about: would there or would there not be a second date.

All the rest is filler.

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