Rules For Dating

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There was a time when dating was simpler; courtship was a very structured and ritualized affair where everybody’s roles were clearly and carefully delineated. Guys were supposed to do X, girls would do Y, a chaperone would try to keep them from doing XXX in the parlor when nobody was looking. Everybody knew what was expected of them and pretended to be happy as long as you were willing to ignore the rampant inherent sexism, the commodification of women and sex-negative attitudes of the time.

With time, enlightenment and a considerable level of progress towards sexual equality the social structures regarding dating loosened… and yet vestigial traditions and attitudes have held on with the tenacity of especially stubborn barnacles, leaving everybody confused and frustrated. Further attempts by well meaning souls of both progressive and conservative origins to clarify the so-called “rules” have muddied the waters with a morass of conflicting rules and regulations. Are women supposed to ask the man out, or does making the first rule mean she’s a hussy? How many times a week are you supposed to see someone you’re “dating”? And are you “dating” if you haven’t had the exclusivity talk? Who pays for dinner, the one who initiates sex or the one who’s shelling out for the hotel room? If he buys the lobster thermador, does that mean he’s guaranteed a handie afterwards or should you hold out for after-dinner champagne too? Is someone who goes on dates strictly for the meals a prostitute or a clever person subverting the dominent patriarchal paradigm and saving some money to boot?

It’s enough to make a guy want to give up on the whole dating thing all together and just try to lead a lifestyle of nothing but shallow sexual encounters with women.

Do yourself a favor. Toss all the crap about dating out the window. Here’re the new rules to keep in mind to make dating simpler, more equitable and easier all around.

Who Asks Out Whom?

This one’s simple: if you like someone, ask them out. I don’t care if you’re a guy, a girl or a three-breasted, four cocked hermaphrodite from Venus with a glandular problem and daddy issues. Waiting for someone else to do all the work for you is for the weak and cowardly who are afraid to take the initiative for fear of being rejected. Rejection sucks but you’ll get over it and while you were busy hoping that Mr./Ms. Right was going to make the first move, someone who did have the confidence to make the approach has stolen your date out from under you.Nice going. Next time understand that s/he who hesitates, loses. Fortune favors the brave. Excelsior, True Believers!


"Man, I didn't realize I could have fear boners..."

Ahem. Sorry. That ran a little out of control there.

And please, can we as a species dispense with the antiquated notion that guys are supposed to be the ones to ask girls out? It’s the 21st century goddamn it, and if a guy has an issue with women being assertive then I can assure you that you probably didn’t want to date him in the first place.

What Do We Talk About? What Don’t We Talk About?

One of the most common problems people encounter on dates – especially first dates – is “what to talk about?” Over the years this has become one of the areas obscured by the accumulated cruft of conflicting and contradictory rules. Don’t talk about money, talk about religion, don’t talk about religion, don’t talk about sex lest he think you’re a slut, do talk about sex lest she think you’re a hopeless virgin, don’t talk about your exes, don’t bring up politics, past dates, sports teams or the fact that you’re on a date in the first place. What’re you left with? Ah, movies. Movies are fine. Movies and the weather.

The fact of the matter is, the only thing you want to avoid while on a date is being boring. Boredom is the sex killer, boredom is the death of the little death. If you want to avoid anything while on a date, avoid the standard first date questions that every woman has heard on every first date ever: who are you, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living, etc. These “getting to know you” questions are the lowest common denominators of dating; they’re non-threatening, easy to bring up and – in theory – can lead to conversational topics. They’re also ones that your date will have heard so many times that she’ll have a rote response to them, which doesn’t do much for inspiring engaging conversation.

So don’t worry about whether or not a topic is “appropriate” for a date as long as a) you aren’t being rude, bitter or whiney and b) you aren’t being creepy. Part of the art of conversation is demonstrating social intelligence; you want to show that you’re socially aware enough to not only understand the so-called rules of polite society but that you understand when you can bend or break those rules.

As an example: one of the most common rules about dates is “don’t bring up exes,” as though we are supposed to pretend that we are blank slates, free from previous dating experiences both good and bad.  I freely ignore this; I’ve told stories on first dates involving my ex-girlfriends or dates I had been on previously… because frankly those stories were hilarious and got the response I was looking for: a genuine laugh and engagement on the subject.

The key to making this is in the presentation. Rather than my waxing nostalgic about my ex – and giving the impression that I still had residual feelings for her –  it was a story about myself that my ex was a part of; the ex was for all intents and purposes the guest star of the story rather than the focus.

Talking about ex-girlfriends – in a mature, funny way – is a way of indicating pre-selection: the idea that other women have found you attractive, which in turn is an attractive trait. Having been pre-selected by women says: “I am a man whom other women have found value in, ergo you should find value in me as well.”

What don’t I do if and when I talk about ex-girlfriends? I don’t whine about them, nor do I rant and rave about what horrible bitches they were; these forms of behavior are are indicators of low social intelligence – an unattractive trait – and and a preview of what someone might be like in a relationship. A man who can remain on good terms with his exes is one who is capable of an emotionally mature relationship. A guy who has nothing but a string of horrible exes who have done him wrong is someone who is painfully unaware that he is the common denominator in all his failed relationships.

What if you have no idea what to say? What if you run out of conversational topics? Well, if your environment doesn’t give you any inspiration – and there’s always an interesting scene to observe and comment on – I recommend The Question Game.

Present it this way: you’re going to get to know each other by playing the Question Game. The rules are simple: first, you alternate asking a question back and forth – real questions not just things like “what’s your sign?” Second, you can’t ask a question that’s already been asked; if you ask how many brothers your date has, she can’t turn around and ask you how many sisters you have. And third: your date goes first.

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  • Lilac

    One thing that ALWAYS bothered me for first dates was when the guy who asked me out proceeded to make me choose what we were doing. I know it seems nice and like you're giving the woman the chance to do something she wants, but nothing says, "I haven't given you any real thought," more than not putting thought into a date you've initiated.

    Choose to do something. Even if it's just going out for a few drinks and some chit chat, you've at least shown her that you can make decisions. She can choose what to do on the date she asks YOU on.

    • FilmKiller


      My line: "Why don't we get together at [neutral ground], unless you'd be more comfortable somewhere else."

      Their answer is always: "That'd be fine."

      This is a good rule with just anybody really. Assertive people don't have any issues stepping into the opening provided and saying they know a better place. You certainly wouldn't plan a business meeting without at least suggesting a setting.

  • E

    The woman in that photograph looks like a carnivore defending her catch from scavengers.

  • room temp

    I still say for the first date do something fun. Dancing, bowling, mini golfing something along those lines. Being creative would help as long as you clear the basic idea with her. Movie is not enough talking and dinner is too awkward and strict besides its easy to have something stupid ruin perception during a first date dinner like a food spill on your clothes or a piece of food in your teeth sometimes petty stuff like that sticks especially when still forming an opinion about someone. I mean I guess if you are rich something rich but understated might be fun but I don't think anyone reading this has that kind of money

    • Cat

      You never know… A couple of months back, I saw a dude in an Audi dealership wearing his best Legend of Zelda T-shirt and matching hat, with his cell phone in a holster, who was in desperate need of this blog…

    • kschenke

      And honestly something more public and casual is a good way to go. You can still be flirty but it puts the woman at ease and shows you're interested in getting to know her. Another idea is something like Dave and Busters if you're both into video games.. still more public but you can share in the friendly competition (although I would suggest going easy on the drinks and especially easy on ordering drinks for both of you).

  • Gentleman Horndog

    A young lady recently introduced me to The Question Game on our first date. It lasted for hours, well after dinner was done and into a stroll along a scenic view of the city. It went until I decided to roll the dice on whether I was correctly interpreting her body language, and asked her:

    "Would you like to be kissed?"

    The Question Game is AWESOME.

    • Gentleman Horndog

      The game has been ongoing ever since, culminating recently with "Will you marry me?"

      Which, by the rules of the game, is kind of a lousy question, seeing as it's Yes/No and all.

      Somehow, nobody minded.

  • Aurelia Verity

    Personally I've always been uncomfortable with the idea that someone MUST pay for me on a date, especially the first date. First, now i must watch what i order so that i don't rack up the bill and second, now i feel like i owe the guy something. not necessarily sex or but something. what if the date goes wrong and we didn't click but he paid for an expensive meal? it would feel twice as bad to say that maybe I'm not interested in seeing him.

    Also, i think age (or more specifically, point in life) should matter. if two thirty somethings, both with a decent job and disposable income are going on a first date, that's one thing. the guy can pick up the check and not feel broke, the girl and let him and not feel opportunistic.

    But if you are in college/university the difference between $25 and $50 or $60 dollars is more acutely felt regardless of sex. it just feels not fair to make the guy pay in this situation. odds are he is in the same (more or less) financial fix as you. if you're both going to university you will have the same stipend, or more likely same amount of student loans to pay back, i feel that the honest and considerate thing to do for the girl is to pay for her share, especially if you like the guy you're with.

    Also, to guys, don't rely on cultural stereotypes to dictate if you should pay the bill or split it with your date (if you asked someone you know to be an immigrant). i come from a culture in which it is HEAVILY expected that the guy pays for everything, i don't think my mom has paid for a date in her life despite the fact that she had more disposable income then my dad did in their youth. and yet I've come to feel the complete opposite after living in North America.

    Anyway, that's my opinion anyway, cheers Internet!

  • DazzOne

    Okay, damn. I wish I read this years ago….

  • Matt

    I always split the bill, no matter what. And the two women I was dating, and the other two I dated briefly, did not mind splitting the bill at all.

  • Vicki

    Well, I'm a southerner, and I would be really shocked if the guy didn't pay. Not to mention insulted. 🙂 I guess it's cultural, and people on the West Coast or East Coast (wherever most nerds reside) are more likely to split the bill. I like the man to pay, it's just more chivalrous, and makes me feel more cherished and cared for. Also, the man asking for the date, doing the pursuing and paying for the dates is the dominant role. Not in terms of bdsm, but just in general terms of dominant and submissive, the way David Shade talks about it in "Select Men Wisely" (and also in his ebook for men, "Select Women Wisely"). I'm more conservative than Mr. Shade (I'm not into all that kinky stuff), but I agree with his assertion that the vast majority of women aren't dominant, and prefer to take the more passive role of being pursued in the relationship. When the girl pays, or the couple splits the bill, the subtext is that either she is the dominant one, or the relationship has a sort of neutered feel to it. When it comes to dating, I'm definitely not a feminist. Men pursuing and women being pursued is genetically/biologically hardwired, and who pays for the date is a big indicator to both parties of how the relationship will proceed. It just sets the tone. That's my two cents.

    • Anthony

      I'll preface this with the fact that I didn't grow up in the south, so our cultures were very different. But I really, really get on edge when it's said that a man should pay because that's how he cherishes and cares for a woman. One small issue – is paying $10-$20 bucks for your food really a big show of caring? I spend a lot more than $20 on things that I cherish, and I feel like that's devaluing a woman's time and presence. Significantly. But there is the inherent, "He cares, and you can't put a price on that" argument that I can't refute (although I can dislike). So, I guess we can ignore that.

      But the main issue that I have is that men are expected to pay for what reason? Because they are dominant? I don't like that. Now, obviously I'm not a representative of all guys by any means, but I don't want to be with a passive lady. I tried that, it was terrible (this is by no means a shot at you – you are probably wonderful, but my experience with a passive woman was negative). I want someone who is my equal. I want someone who is going to be honest and respectful of me, two things that my passive ex lacked at times. Anyway, this is getting away from my point. I want a give and take in a relationship. I'm an adult who takes care of his own finances. I want to be with someone who can do the same. Especially for a first date, I think each person should pay for themselves. If the guy pays, I feel like it's creating some kind of inequality in the relationship. Not that she owes him anything – far from it, I am not suggesting that.

      It's more along the lines of, "Well, the woman deserves to be paid for because she's the woman." Pardon me, but fuck that. There is nothing inherent in being a woman that means you can't take care of yourself – which, again, I'm not applying to you personally or saying that it's true. But this kind of thing perpetuates that idea. Putting forth the idea that women are generally passive makes it incredibly hard on the women who don't want to be passive – and there are a growing number of these women. Part of the reason women are passive is because of society. It can be argued that a large part of the reason that women are considered passive is because of the society we live in. We train our women to be passive, from media, to competition, to even parental care. It's so ingrained at this point that it just feels like that's the way it's supposed to be. Well, maybe it is. But maybe it isn't, and I think there is pretty decent evidence to back me up. There have been a lot of different societies in history that have been matriarchal. I am not a historian, so I'm going to stop before I say more that is going to guarantee I that I am an idiot (if I haven't already convinced you). But I am pretty up to date on my science, and I don't think there is anything genetically that pegs women as the passives and men as the dominants. Men have probably always been more aggressive, and men are clearly bigger and stronger. But that doesn't mean that they have always run the show.

      Just to wrap this up – I don't mean to say that you can't be passive, or shouldn't, and that you can't expect men to pay for you. You live your life as you wish, and do what works for you. But it would be cool if you rethought the whole "men are dominant, so they should pay" idea. As a (white) man, who generally is the benefactor of this idea, I really hate it. I wish it would die a cold, chewed-up death on the 9th circle of Hell where it belongs, treacherous as it is. Gnaw on dominant men for awhile Satan. Gnaw on them.

    • Commonly known as X

      David Shade sounds like one of those people who are projecting their sexual preferences onto everyone else. I mean if someone wanted that kind of relationship, where she was going to be the kept woman of the dominant man or whatever, go ahead, but thats a choice. Its not some sociobiological imperative. Of course we are not all hardwired into 1950's idealized gender roles. That kind of crap doesn't even work for chimpanzees or wolves (post 60's research shows wild wolves become alphas from breeding and acting like parents – not get to breed because they are alphas. Beta wolves breed and form new packs all the time. Cool research paper on what it really means to be an alpha here:

      If a man was really insistent on paying it would creep me out. I really don't like the idea of a man putting himself into a position of "dominance" with money – that has nasty overtones of prostitution for me, just without an upfront transaction and agreed terms.

  • gloria

    Ok, I am a woman (europe). Living my life, earning my money with the work i love, single dating, sleeping around and etc for 2 years. very sort of feminist and was for sharing things in half for 10 years… until now.

    And I tell you this out of my experience not prejudices: until sex is not 50/50, i am not paying for restaurant or anything like that 50/50. That is it. I am very tired of egos/machos in my bed. Where equality as a concept vanishes away, PATRIARCHATE IS STRONGEST IN BED, NOT POLITICS. So learn to F*** EQUALLY before you want to split the bill guys!

    • Emil1986NL

      I get your feelings (I haven't got enough experience to tell if you're right about sex not being 50/50), but I don't think this is the solution. Basically you're saying men have the pleasure in sex, so you should have something in return. First of all: you won't know how the sex will be. Maybe this one guy ís "f***ing equally", are you going to offer to split the bill after he's given you a good time?
      But most dangerous: doesn't your argument work both ways? If I paid for your dinner, do I have the right to have sex with you? If I paid for dinner, and you agree to fuck me, does that mean I get to enjoy most of it?
      Or should we all try to strive for a society where men and women make love because they both want to? And both should try "f*** equally"?
      I get your gut feeling, but this "solution" just keeps the status quo

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  • Emil1986NL

    For me, the most important point about who pays is that it shouldn't matter. When I'm with friends in a bar, we usually alternate rounds of drinking. And everyone present makes sure they pay their part. Or if we leave early, and I haven't bought anything, I make sure I'll pay extra the next time we are together. And sometimes someone gets drunk and forgets to do their part. Overall, I think we share most of it. But maybe I'm not paying attention, and someone is sneaking out. Or paying more then they should. But we're friends, so as long as I don't have to pay much more then my share, I'm fine with it.
    I think the same should go with dating. It's a little different because there's alwasy the possibility there is no 'next time', but I think it's most fair if everything is approximately split. But most important: it shouldn't really matter, as long is no-one is using their partner. If I'm having a date, it means I want her to be my friend (and more), and I'm willing to pay those extra $20 to ease things. So as a starting point, I'm offering to pay the bill. I'm hoping she offers to pay (half of) the bill too, but if she doesn't, no big deal.
    On the other hand, if a woman would date me and DEMAND I pay the bill (because she is a woman, there are of course legitimate reasons not to (be able to) pay), well it is a big deal. If a woman can't be bothered to pay something in order to date me, is this date worth something to her? Is she not simply using me? I'd like her to want me for who I am, not for the fact I'm giving her some food.
    So for me the general rule is: I offer to pay, and I'm hoping she returns the favor.