Sunday, September 21, 2008

Have I figured my date into the equation?

Dressing for your evening out is primarily about making you feel like a million bucks, but while you’re at it, throw a few cents of sense your date’s way. Tom Cruise and anybody aside, most short guys feel a tad shy with an Amazon woman at their side — especially if he has a bald spot previously seen only by birds or passengers in low-flying aircraft. Date night may not be the right night to break out those four-inch heels. Grungy rock stars aside, most women prefer a gu who at least ran his fingers through his hair — unless, of course, he’s been working on the car or in the garden or out in the stables and his shower is broken. (In that case, the whole date will be a wash, so you might as well reschedule.) The point is, a date is a twosome. Some consideration on your part can help make it one heck of a great time.

Think about what your date will probably wear. If you’re beaching it, lose the tie. If you’re going to a barbecue, don’t wear something suitable for a funeral. Dress age- and place-appropriate so that you’re not likely to be taken for her

father or his baby doll. This is also not the time for gender-bending outfits. When in doubt, think about both your comfort and your date’s. Remember that it’s easier to remove a tie than wish you’d worn one, and overdressing makes you look elegant, and underdressing makes you look sloppy, so if you can’t hit it exactly right, try a bit over rather than under. My aunt has always
maintained overdressing will get you taken to a better restaurant.

Did I pay attention to detail?

Shine your shoes. Press your collar. Check for errant threads. Rub the lipstick off your teeth. Tuck in the tag. Clean under your fingernails. Sniff for excessive aftershave or perfume. Unstuff your purse. Freshen your breath. Match your socks. Check out the rearview in a full-length mirror (don’t forget the back of your hairdo). In short, pretend you’re going to Sunday school and grandma’s watching.
  •  Department store dressing rooms are notoriously overlit. If you look good in there, you’ll look good anywhere.
  •  Bathroom mirrors are typically underlit for bright, daylight makeup. If you can, apply daylight makeup close to a window flooded with natural light. If you can’t, recheck your makeup once you get outside and blend in any areas that look a little thick.
Unless you’re covering surgical scars or other major skin care challenges, you should always be able to see your skin through your makeup. Foundation is designed to improve Mother Nature, not replace her.

Where am I going?

This point is simple, but often overlooked. Ask yourself, “Did she really ‘We’ll grab a bite to eat’?” If so, case closed: Wear a catcher’s mitt. But if you’re not entirely sure, there’s no harm in asking, “Is this a casual affair?” — only, leave out the word “affair” so he won’t get the wrong idea.

What do I feel good in?

Comfort is crucial. You’ll have enough emotional turmoil to grapple with without fussing over a shoulder pad that keeps slipping or a silk shirt that suddenly feels like a plastic bag.
  • Select cozy fabrics. Cotton or velvet or any other material that feels soft against your skin is a good choice.
  •  Make sure that the fit is fabulous. Take the penny test: Drop a penny on the floor; then pick it up. If your waistband is too tight, heels too high, skirt too narrow, slacks too snug, shirt too short, or gold chains too heavy, rethink your look until you can easily scoop that penny off the floor. If your outfit doesn’t pass the penny test, put it back in the closet.
  •  Wear what you already own. The temptation to rush out and buy the perfect outfit will be strong. Resist it. You don’t want to take chances with an outfit that hasn’t already proven itself at least once. “New” doesn’t necessarily mean “flawless.” Hems fall, button threads unravel, perspiration shows. Again, play it safe and go with what you know.

What do I look good in?

A date is a time for the tried-and-true: the outfit you already know inspires everyone to ask, “Have you lost weight?” — or the male equivalent, “Have you been working out?” If you find yourself musing, “You know, I’ve always wanted to try spandex,” immediately do the following: Drop this book, run to the bathroom, turn the faucet on cold, and shove your face beneath the icy stream. If no water is available, a gentle, but firm, slap on both cheeks will do.
Save your experimental urges for dark, stormy nights full of lightning when you’re trying to jolt a green-faced monster with a giant flat-top back to life. If you’re not sure what you look good in, put on a potential outfit and stand in front of your mirror. Then really look at yourself, from head to toe to the back of your heels. You’ll be tempted to be judgmental. Don’t. This is a time for
honest appraisal, not nit-picking. If you’re not good at figuring out what looks terrific and what qualifies you for arrest by the fashion police, ask a best friend to be brutally honest (if one isn’t handy on the day of the date, do this beforehand). Friends see stuff you’ve been overlooking for years.
  • Select substance over style. Style is great, and great style is truly fabulous. Often though, the latest, latest, latest style is a tad too trendy for anyone other than the very young and very hungry. Again, go for it only if it looks good on you.
  •  Pick the right color. Yeah, I know. You guys aren’t about to hold an orange scarf up to your face to tell whether you really are an “autumn” instead of a “winter.” I don’t blame you. Who needs the devastation of discovering you’ve spent your life as the wrong season? Yet, a little color savvy goes a long way. Often, it’s hard to tell if a color really does look good or the salesperson was pulling your leg when she said, “Puce is you!” Once again, a trusted friend can come in handy. One quick rule: If your skin has a yellowish cast to it, you probably look best in soft browns, golds, and reds. If your skin is more pinkish, try grays, blues, and purples. When in doubt, hey, there’s always basic black.
  •  Consider the breadth and scope of the entire date, not just the sashay to the car or to the table in the restaurant. If there’s dancing after dinner, for instance, that jacket’s going to come off, so you’d better make sure it isn’t the cornerstone of your look (or at least that your shirt is ironed).
  •  Choose fabrics that wear as well as you do. Satin? Linen? Fuhgettaboutit unless you’re dating a Shar-Pei who loves wrinkles.

Dressing for real-world dates

When it actually comes time to choose an outfit, what do you put on? Well, if it were up to me, everybody would have a first date in their grubbiest, most comfortable clothes (grubby in terms of well-worn, not dirty). Men wouldn’t shave, and women’s legs would remain bristly, and new clothes wouldn’t even be contemplated. This non-dress code (or dress non-code) would complement the activities planned, which, if it were up to me, would be active and fun and casual. None of this fancy restaurant stuff, worrying about prices and the right fork and not dribbling and stray bits of broccoli between your teeth and a snooty waiter and tight shoes or collars or tables.
But, since I’m not in charge of the universe, I promise to help you get through getting dressed for your date in the real world. Understand that no one, not even cute little ol’ me, can or should tell you exactly what to wear on a first, second, or fifth date. You already know. Just trust yourself. Use that three-pound blob of gray matter sitting atop your neck (no, you don’t have something large caught between your teeth). In other words, if you use your head — and not your credit card or your Vogue or your MTV or your rose-colored glasses or your mom — you’ll look and feel just fine. But don’t panic. I know it’s hard to keep your head on straight, let alone your wardrobe pulled together, when you’re prepping for a date. But if you keep the following in mind, you’ll do just fine:
  •  Rule 1: Preparation before, comfort during. Worry a lot about what you’re wearing and how you’re smelling and looking before you leave the house so that you never have to waste a moment thinking about it after you’ve left.
  • Rule 2: There is no one right way. Creating a look is very different from the way you would sound out a word or learn to dance or memorizeFrench verbs. It’s not like “Put your left foot here and your right foot there.” Dressing yourself up to go out is a recognition of who you are, your personal style, what you want to say about yourself, how you want others to see you, and, in a way, a reflection of your unique sense of yourself. You go, guy. You go, girl.
A surefire way to make sure you end up in the right outfit is to think about your outfit in terms of what looks and feels good on you, how appropriate the outfit is for the activity, how your date is dressing, and so on. The following sections lead you through this examination.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Preparing Wears and Outfit for Your First Date

Because your date evaluates your appearance from the outside in, I’m starting with the least important part of you, but the most important part of an initial impression: how you look — what you’re wearing, how you smell, your haircut.
What you wear — your “costume” — counts. A person dressed as a clown is seen as silly; a clown dressed as a judge is taken seriously. Think about the clichés that apply: You are what you wear. Clothes make the man. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There’s a reason these clichés, hackneyed as they are, stick. Though everyone hates to admit it, we’re an externally-oriented society. So expecting (hoping, praying, making a deal with the dating gods) that your date will look beyond your favorite sneakers with the toe hole or that muumuu you bought at the souvenir hut in Hawaii, to the deep, spiritual, real you hidden within is spitting into the wind. In other words, you’re all wet. Get over it. Looks matter . . . no matter how much you wish they didn’t. You can do something quickly and easily without working out, consulting a plastic surgeon, or spending a fortune. The place to start is with your own sense of yourself — your personal style — your statement about yourself. Yeah, you do have one. Your handwriting, laugh, and sleep position are all uniquely you. Guess what? Creating an external, aware style can be really fun. See Chapter 2 for tips on developing and revealing your own style. When you think about what you plan to wear on your date, keep the following points in mind:
  • Comfort is key. Even if your attire makes a fabulous first impression, avoid any outfit that pinches, binds, rides up, or threatens to burst at the seams. Believe in the Law of Murphy: All these things can and will happen at the worst possible moment.
  • Plan to perspire. Even the coolest cat sweats on a date. Even in winter. It’s nature’s way of lowering your overheated body temperature. Choose clothes that are loose in the armpits and on the back. Let air get in there and dry you out before the fabric presses to your flesh like a wet tissue.
  • Save the skin show. Your date doesn’t need to know if you’re an innie or an outie just yet — unless, of course, your date is at the beach.
  • A date is about getting to know you, not your outfit. Yes, what you wear is right up there with remembering to brush your teeth, but if the first thing he sees is your ostrich feather, or she has to don sunglasses to look at your day-glo polyester pants, your outfit may never be asked out on a second date.
  • Avoid “get-ups.” If your mother would dub your date outfit a “get-up” (as in, “You’re going out in that get-up?”), play it safe and get up and get something else on. Moms, after all, do occasionally know best. This is no time to test the truth of the theory.
Now is the time to control your urge to splurge. I know it’s tough. (My favorite four-letter word is “sale.”) But beware of the 50-percent trap (if you wouldn’t buy it for full price, don’t buy it at half price). Ostensibly, this is the first of many dates. You don’t want to rope yourself into a lifetime of revolving debt or watch your date’s face fall after your horsemen have turned back into mice and your carriage is one big fat pumpkin again.

First Impressions Count

You can visually absorb someone’s appearance in two seconds. Two seconds! Talk about your once-over. That’s exactly what’s going to happen in the vibrating, potential-packed few moments between the time you open the door, flash those pearly whites, and say “Hi.” Ba-da bing, ba-da boom. An impression has already been burned into your date’s brain, so you may as well make sure it’s a great one. Even if you’ve seen each other before, the context has changed. Now it’s official. It’s a date. That two-second stare, called the copulatory gaze, triggers a primal reaction in the person being gawked at: advance or pull back. It’s a biologically buzzed moment. Pupils are dilated, and heart rates are up. Staring too long is threatening, so take it easy. Take a look and then look away before your date runs away.

Considerin Cosmetic Improvement for Your First Date

Before we focus on the prosaic of what you can do to get your outside ready, let’s talk for a moment about a rather alarming, expensive trend: the idea that somehow a person is not going to be lovable unless completely and forever wrinkle and cellulite free, gorgeous, and hard-bodied with an adorable upturned nose and a full head of luxuriant hair. Okay, before you accuse me of being hopelessly old-fashioned, if you have a bump on your nose that you’ve always hated and you’re deciding that now you have the time and the money to get it fixed, so be it. It’s cool with me.
But if you think changing that bump on your nose is going to help you find love, forget about it. You’re likely to be disappointed in not only your nose job but the rest of your life. Plastic surgery is no longer only for movie stars and international socialites; today people in all socioeconomic classes are undergoing cosmetic surgery. The largest number of people getting plastic surgery make less than $30,000 dollars a year, which I find vaguely terrifying. If you want to have plastic surgery, it’s okay with me, but please don’t do it to increase your chances of finding a date. If you want to think about a chemical peel to make your skin look better, no problem, but it won’t make you more lovable or a better conversationalist or less angry with your mom while looking for a date. If a cosmetic surgery procedure — or Botox injections or hair replacement treatments — makes you feel better, so be it, but if your entire sense of self is based on the smoothness of your skin or more hair, we need to talk.
Before you decide that I’m the spokesperson for ugly, I’m the first to admit that confidence is attractive and that a good haircut, a flattering outfit, or gaining or losing a couple of pounds can boost your confidence. Well, terrific, and I am actually in favor of a couple of new cosmetic procedures that are relatively inexpensive, noninvasive, and easily available, including those that literally put your money where your mouth is: tooth whitening or, if the enamel is hugely discolored, veneers for your teeth, both of which are becoming more popular and both affordable and available. One of the top turn-offs for both men and women is bad teeth. If you haven’t had those choppers looked at and cleaned recently, start with a routine checkup and cleaning; it’s cheapest, easiest, and healthiest place to start. If you’re feeling that your smile isn’t as vibrant as you like, teeth whitening is a relatively inexpensive and common procedure. Inner beauty is truly something that may need work and can’t be bought, but giving Ma Nature a minor shove in the smile department is quite kosher.

Enjoyment and Anticipation of a First Date

Think of the astronauts suiting up for launch, your first day of school, the moment just before the curtain rises — we’re talking the thrill of possibility, and with it, adrenaline, anticipation, action. Even though your palms get sweaty and your tummy may hurt a bit, you feel alive and ready, especially if you’ve practiced your landing sequence, packed your lunch, and learned your lines. If so, anticipation is a wonderful thing. It’s the perfect imaginary meal you can almost taste when your growling tummy notices it’s been a while since you last ate. It’s the white sands of Tahiti that inspire you to see your boss about that raise, the bacon you can see sizzling when that first whiff wakes you up in the morning.
If you handle it right, anticipation is not only a motivating factor (“I think I’ll call a friend for lunch, write a memo to my boss, haul myself out of bed”) but also a way to enjoy an experience twice: You can enjoy it in your imagination, and you enjoy it again when it’s real. That’s really good news. An emotional twofer. Two for the price of one. The not-so-good news is that anticipation can backfire if you’re careless with the way you handle it. It’s up to you: You can poison a neutral or even positive situation by being negative, by building up the dreaded worst-case scenario. Or you can choose to be delighted about your upcoming date and focus on doing what you can to make things click. You can choose to label your nerves “excitement” and look forward to having a great time.
Once you’ve decided to enjoy the tingle rather than let your nerves become hives, the adrenaline-jazzed anticipatory period before your first date is the perfect time to get yourself, your mind, your body, and your soul into the “date state.”
In this chapter, referring to “date state” focuses not on cosmetic surgery before a first date (can you say overkill) or why your wardrobe doesn’t need an immediate major overhaul but why your teeth, hair, and pits need to be squeaky clean. It also includes advice on what and what not to wear. Time, transportation, money, and directions require the same attention before you head out. Finally, tada, a handy checklist of smart things to do during those final ten minutes before your date arrives.

More about figuring out who pays for the first date

Used to be easy figuring out who paid, because men paid for everything (of course, they were the only ones doing the asking), and women kept their mad money tucked neatly in their little velvet purses and paid for nothing. Of course, after so many eons of men feeling that they had to pay and women feeling that men expected something for their money, women got a bit more aggressive about paying their share (rather than being fearful that the guy would “take it out in trade”).

But it gets pretty tedious figuring out what your fair share is when you order the salad and your date orders the prime rib, and you still have to figure in the tip. My solution was to play liar’s poker, which is a game played with the serial number on dollar bills in which bluffing is allowed until you are called. Whoever lost had to pay for dinner. I got really good at offering and really good at liar’s poker, which seemed to cover all bases. These days, it’s okay to offer to pay the tip, buy the popcorn, pay for the next date, bring the picnic, pay for the gas, and so on, not only on the first date but as an ongoing statement of equality, friendliness, and generosity unless it drives your date nuts.

Who pays for first date?

In deciding who pays for the date, follow this two-part rule:

· The person who asks, pays. This ensures that whoever does the inviting knows what things will cost and has budgeted accordingly. As the person extending the invitation, if you can’t afford the activity, scale down and figure out something else to do.

· The other person offers but doesn’t insist on helping out. No empty gestures please. Don’t offer to pay unless you can and are willing to do so. No fights to the death. It’s charming to offer, but don’t push it, and be willing to treat next time.