Dating is hard.
I realize that this bit of wisdom is at the same level of “Duh George” as “rain is wet” and “The sun rises in the east and sets in the west”, but stick with me here.
When you’ve made it from “Hello” to “Here’s my number“, you know you’ve made an impression on someone. Naturally, you’re going to want to reinforce that impression as quickly as possible. Whether you’re a dating newbie or an old hand, there’s nothing quite like a first date to stir every anxiety and worst-case scenario you’ve ever had into a wild froth.
Now, I’ve talked before about first dates and how to prepare for ’em… but hey, sometimes that’s not going to be for everyone. Sometimes you just don’t have the time or resources. Sometimes things move too quickly for the prep-work involved. And sometimes, just because you have the Standard First Date set up, you may still get things wrong.
Because you psyched yourself out. You need to understand what makes for a successful date.
Better do it quick too. That cute co-ed at the Barnes and Noble just asked if you wanted to do something on Saturday and now you’ve got to scramble to look like you know what you’re doing. Think think think, panic panic panic… Small wonder that so many people default to “coffee” or the dreaded “Dinner and A Movie”. It’s an understandable mistake. It’s the old standard… which is exactly the problem.
Let’s break down some dating philosophy, shall we?
The Basics of First Dates
The first mistake people make is treating dates like an audition. Yes, you want to get to know each other, but more than that, you want to have fun. You want to follow up a good impression with a memorable time, possibly even bonding over the course of an afternoon or an evening. The coffee date can start feeling like a job interview and the less socially accomplished will start feeling the tension and awkwardness beginning to mount until it gets so thick that you could cut it with a sharp cliche. When you’re dating, you’re looking for a partner in crime, not another Quality Assurance specialist to file their TPS reports by Friday.
Meanwhile, dinner-and-a-movie is not only the most common date ever, but it also sacrifices half of your time together; instead of flirting, laughing or touching, you’re supposed to sit silently next to each other as you both wonder whether you’re going to make the second-most-common-date-trick of trying to fake a yawn.
Now, don’t get me wrong: movie dates can be excellent… when you’re further along in the relationship. But for a first date you want to stand out. You want a little playful friction, a chance to flirt and tease each other, maybe even have a little socially acceptable physical contact. And while you’re on a date, you don’t want the focus of the evening to be “We’re on a date”, you want it to be “I’m having an incredible time with this person!”
So with that in mind, let’s look at some awesome first date ideas… and the underlying mechanics of why they work.
#5) Pub Quiz/Trivia Night
British style pub-quizes and trivia nights have been cropping up in bars all across the US, combining social drinking, competitive spirit and collecting random and heretofore useless factoids – perfect for geeks. Participants form teams and compete for bar credit, comped drinks and bragging rights. Some are as simple as a guy with a microphone and worn copies of Trivial Pursuit and Scene It. Some, such as Geeks Who Drink are incredibly organized groups with franchises all across the country.
Why In The World Would I Want to Do This?
To start with, pub quizes are a perfect time to put the geek tendency to absorb random information and memorize obscure movies to good use; your ability to quote Mystery Science Theater 3000 may well be the critical factor that leads to getting your bar tab for the evening comped. Not only do you get a chance to show off without coming off as bragging, it encourages you and your date to work together as a team, fostering an exclusive club. Remember what I said about looking for a partner in crime? Before, the two of you were a couple of individuals; now you’re a dynamic duo against everybody else in the room.
Not to mention, the enthusiasm and excitement that comes with a little friendly competition bleeds nicely into physical attraction. Racing heartbeats, high-fives that turn into locked fingers when you get the questions right, the excited hug when you realize you’re in the lead… you may be getting that first kiss long before you’re saying goodnight on your date’s doorstep.
#4) Cooking Classes / Food or Wine Tastings
The Food Network taught us two things: 1) butter makes everything better and 2) food is awesome. There’s something almost magical about watching a meal form out of disparate ingredients. In fact, when done right, cooking for someone can be an incredibly intimate experience… so why not do it in front of a bunch of strangers? In all seriousness, almost every major city has a number of “cooking for couples” classes, one-night classes for learning how to prepare a particular meal in a social atmosphere.
Don’t have one in your area? Then look for food or wine tastings; the idea is similar – you learn more about a particular dish, food or wine than you would ever thought possible in an entertaining way. And most of these aren’t for the food snobs – there will be tastings focused on chocolate, beer, even comfort foods.
Why In The World Would I Want To Do This?
One word: class. Anyone can take a girl out for sushi… it takes someone special to take her out to learn how to make sushi. You may love French cuisine, but learning how to make it yourself will bring a new level of appreciation to it while making you look sophisticated as hell.
You’re taking advantage of the power of the shared experience; you’re learning something together, something that neither of you (in theory) has done before. It also gives you all of the benefits of making a romantic home-cooked meal without any of the drawbacks – minimal prep-time, no clean-up and someone on hand to make sure you don’t set the place on fire or turn that coq au vin into coq au briquette.
Not to mention, women appreciate a man with skills… and ladies, we all know the saying about the fastest way to a man’s heart1 , don’t we?
Food tastings, while lacking the same participatory element, bring many of the same advantages. You’re learning to appreciate food or drinks in a way you may never have considered before and exposing yourselves to a wider world, with the benefit of a local guide to point out all of the really cool stuff along the way.
- Between the third and fourth rib on his left side at an upwards angle, just FYI [↩]