Sunday, July 20, 2008

Go where you can talk without getting thrown out

I know America’s favorite date is a movie, but if you talk in a movie, I will personally come and haunt you. Not only is it rude to the other customers, but it puts your date in the awkward position of either siding with the people who are trying to shush you, or talking with you and getting the usher to evict you both. See the section “Good places for a first date,” later in this chapter, for a list of places that are cheap and fun and where you two can chat happily away. When in doubt, take a walk.

Do something that doesn’t require new clothes

New clothes are often uncomfortable, and can unexpectedly bunch, rip, or gap. Besides, why add the worry about spilling red wine on your new outfit to the other stress of a first date? Why worry about clothes when there are more important things to worry about, like the broccoli between your front teeth or whether your date really likes you or is just being polite. Wear your happy, easy-to-wear, good luck, appropriate-to-wear clothes. If I ran the world, I’d make sure that on first dates, everyone would wear his or her oldest, most comfy clothes; women would not shave their legs; men would not buy new after-shave; and all men and women would be who they really are, right from the get-go. Obviously, I’m not in charge. Shoes should always be shined, cuffs unfrayed, and everything neat and clean — not rigid, new, starched, and impressive.

Pick an activity that you can easily afford

Don’t try and snow somebody on the first date by spending gobs of money. First of all, how do you keep that type of spending up? The dangers of throwing money around are that it makes you look cheap later, when you scale back your spending to accommodate your budget, and you never know whether your date likes you or your wallet. Also consider your date’s finances before suggesting an exclusive new restaurant, any formal event, dinner and dancing, or a weekend for two in the Bahamas. Even if you are footing the bill, you don’t want your date to feel like she’s out of your league. I have a friend who likes to rent a limo and take first dates to the opera and then out for a fancy dinner. All this works out to a $500 first date. Then he wonders why women are always using him. Puh-leeeze. It’s much better to start small and build so that your date assumes you’re more invested in both of you together instead of showing off.

Pick an activity that you enjoy

A first date should be something that you like to do. Do not pick something you hate just because you think your partner will enjoy it. Although this may be a good strategy later on, the goal during the first date is to set the tone. If you choose something you like, at least you have that in common with your date (presuming, of course, that your date accepted the invitation because he or she likes the activity, too). If your date hates the idea, hopefully he or she will say something like “I really would like to spend time with you, but I hate jazz” or “I’m allergic to Chinese food” or “I get claustrophobic (car sick or whatever) in submarines.”
Picking something you enjoy has a few advantages: First, it ensures that at least one person will be having a good time. Second, it offers an insight into who you are — you know, that honesty thing. Third, it means that you’ve set the stage for something you can afford — since only a phony or a masochist or a nincompoop would break his or her own bank on a first date.

First Things First

First date magic . . . flowers and chocolates, pin-striped suits and off-the shoulder dresses, cologne, waxed legs, champagne, linen tablecloths, romantic music, candlelight, violins, laughter over lobster . . .


If this is how you envision a first date, add “disappointment,” “ulcers,” “financial ruin” to your list, because you’re setting yourself up for disaster. The ideal first date should let you get to know the other person and let other person get to know you, without doing irreparable damage to your nervous system — or bank account or stomach lining — in the process. A first date may never be a relaxing experience (after all, no matter how down-to-earth you are, you’ll still worry about the broccoli in your teeth), but it doesn’t have to be ulcer material either. This section outlines the rules. In fact, these rules are so basic, they sound silly, but you’d be surprised how often they’re disregarded, with dire consequences. So a word to the To make your first date as comfortable as possible, follow the ten rules outlined in the following sections. Doing so will increase the probability that you’ll have fun — not teeth-clenching, knuckle-biting, stomach-hurting that may (or may not) get you to either date two or heavy sedation.

Rules for getting, giving, and using phone numbers

The following are the rules for getting, giving, and using phone numbers:
  • If you want a number, ask and be willing to offer your own. _ If you don’t want to see the person again, don’t ask for a number and don’t give a number.
  • If you’re not sure, build a time frame into your response so that nobody is sitting around waiting for you to call.
  • Exchanging phone numbers is the fun, easy part, so relax a bit and don’t get too involved before you’ve even had a first date. It’s not worth the stomach acid.
  • Calling and hanging up is not okay; neither is driving by. All states now have anti-stalking laws, and they are enforced.
Playing games can get you into serious trouble, so don’t be silly here. Plus, caller ID has made hang-ups traceable. You don’t need police on your doorstep as part of your dating experience. In a nutshell, a phone is quicker than pony express, less traumatic than a telegram, more personal than e-mail, more fun than smoke signals, and the first major step toward moving from strangers to something much bigger and better.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Talking Once You’re on the Phone

Talking on the phone is a nice way to begin getting to know one another. It’s personal without being overly intimate: You’re at arm’s — or, literally, at phone’s — length from one another.

During the first conversations, keep things short and casual. Those let’s-putthe-phone-on-the-pillow-and-listen-to-each-other-breathe-as-we-fall-asleep things come much, much later. So don’t worry about the sweaty palms (as long as the phone doesn’t slip), don’t hang up, and don’t try too hard. Never make a date with a machine. Whether it’s the first date or the fiftieth, unless it’s an emergency, get in touch with the person mouth to ear so that you know the message has been received loud and clear.

Decoding Girl Time versus Boy Time

Girl time is quite different from boy time. When a guy asks for a girl’s number, she assumes that means he’s going to call on the way home from the party. She checks her machine twice an hour, has the phone company check to make sure the line is okay, and won’t take a bath for fear she’ll miss the call. If Mom calls to talk about Dad’s surgery, she’ll politely mention that she’s expecting an important call and will call back.
Guys, on the other hand, will almost never call on the way home from the party or even the next day. They think it makes them look too needy. Because nobody ever calls near a weekend for a first date, the better part of a week may pass before a guy even thinks about calling. If he left the number at home or gets busy or gets a cold, well, it may be two weeks before he calls. By this time, the woman is just plain furious.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
If you really like a woman, it’s okay to call the next day. It’s also okay to make a date. Just don’t stay on the phone too long and keep the patter light. Cool your jets a bit. You’ve been smart enough to get his phone number, so you can wait this one out a while. If he hasn’t called in a week or so and you want to give him a ring, fine. Just keep the conversation light and short and don’t ask why he hasn’t called.

Phone number alternatives

There are a number of ways to give out a phone number without actually giving out a phone number:
  • I’m listed. If you want the person to get in touch, make sure you’ve made the listing clear as it appears in the phone book. In many cases, though, directing someone to the phone book means you’ve given out your home address as well. You can be a bit suaver but if your name is hard to spell, you may have blown the deal.
  • Business card. A business card usually has a work phone number, often a fax number, a business address, and an e-mail address. If you don’t have a business card, for very little money, you can have one printed up that gives out whatever information you want to share. (You can usually get around 500 business cards for between $15 and $25 or less.) If you are self-employed or work at home, having a business card can make you feel a little more professional as well.
  • Home address. Giving out a home address is a bit risky. Of course, sooner or later, if the two of you hook up, you’re very likely to exchange home addresses. The question is, sooner or later? My advice is later —when you’re sure this is someone you trust to behave respectfully and appropriately after he or she knows where you live. If you have even the most minor inkling that this person may surprise you by lurking on your doorstep, trust your instinct for heaven’s sake, and don’t give out your address.
  • E-mail. For many folks, giving out an e-mail address is a safer alternative than giving out a phone number. Of course, you have to balance your sense of safety and your need for intimacy. I may be old-fashioned, but I think that actually hearing a voice is a nice way to begin to connect with someone.

Life-saving cellphone

When it comes to dating, cell phones are really lifesavers, allowing you to remain coy about home and work numbers. Giving out a home number is giving an awful lot of information to a stranger. Giving a work number may compromise you at work because when they call, the timing may be unfortunate due to lack of privacy, running afoul of company policy, or any one of a number of constraints. An operator or a voice mail may identify the name and/or address of your workplace, which may be more information than you want a stranger to have about you initially.

Ta-da — cell phones to the rescue! Among other things, cell phones have caller ID and are mobile, thus not identifying any geographical location where you can be found. The disadvantage of a cell over a land line is you can’t block a cell number, but you know who it is before you have to answer. Also, if someone is sneaky enough to use “restricted,” you can just let it ring through to voice mail. In a worst-case stalker scenario, it’s a lot easier to change your cell phone number than your home or office phone. As long as we’re talking cell phones, just a note of caution here: If there’s somebody in your life who has access to your cell phone bill, your entire life will be laid out, chapter and verse. Ma Bell has single handedly wiped out adultery as we know it with the combination of itemized bills, star (*) 69, and caller ID.

Home phone or not?

Many women are reluctant to give out home numbers for safety’s sake and are much more willing to give out work numbers because they’re not alone at work and they (generally) work during the day. Work phone numbers create their own problems, however:
  • At work other people are around, which feels safer, but it’s also less private.
  • Many if not all businesses frown on personal calls during the workday. If you’ve been given or are giving out a work number, understand that the conversations have to be shorter than they would be if you were using a home number.
Of course, not all home phone numbers automatically eliminate these problems. Sharing your home phone number with roommates or family can limit the length of the calls. If the phone has extensions, you may find that you restrict the content as well because you never know who may be listening in.

No way, Jose

If there is no way that you’d ever want to see this person again, don’t be tempted to give your number. Doing so may be easy for the short term, but it actually makes the situation more uncomfortable because you’ll end up causing yourself and the other person heartache not very far down the line. Even though it’s difficult, it’s better not to mislead them or give false hope. If you’re not interested, be (gently) upfront about it and say, “Listen, I’m going to be very busy,” or “You’re very nice, but I’m going through a tough time right now,” or “I’m about to move,” or “I’m joining the French foreign legion.”
The main point is don’t give someone your number if you don’t want the person
to call you.
Don’t you dare give a wrong number (and yes, deliberately mixing up any two numbers in the sequence counts as a wrong number) or your mom’s — or your best friend’s or an old boyfriend’s — number. Come on, this is dating, not terrorism.