Saturday, March 28, 2009

Great dating in movies or plays

This dating venue is a double-edged sword. On one side, you’re creating a “shared experience.” Good for bonding. One of the stepping stones of intimacy. On the other side, most of your date will be spent in the dark staring not at each other. Not the ideal way to get to know somebody. To make the most of a movie or play, be open to discussing it afterward. You can talk about the plot, the casting decisions, the money it cost to make it, other movies you’ve seen that you like better, childhood memories this movie evokes —anything. If it was horrible, you can talk — and laugh — about that as well. I know I already mentioned this in Chapter 10, but it’s worth checking to make sure that your date approves your choice. Surprises will be more effective once you are more certain of each other’s tastes!

Great Dating in Restaurants

Food is part of a time-honored traditional date activity, so figuring out how you can make eating out a delicious experience is time well-spent since eating “in” is for later on — after you get to know each other.
Order food you eat with a fork
Forget about sandwiches (unless that’s all there is — in that case, the fewer ingredients, the better). Food you lift with your hands can easily fall from your hands. High-rise sandwiches are notorious for collapsing on the way up to your mouth. Stringy pizza cheese dangles from your lips like you just swallowed twine, sushi is rarely served in petite bite-sized portions, and tacos spill.
Don’t drink
I know, I’m going to lose a lot of you here — if you’re nervous you might be trying to relax yourself. But Miller Time can become mildew time before you know it. Be very careful about alcohol. If you’ve ever had a problem with alcohol, fuhgettaboutit — don’t drink. I can already hear you muttering, “Hey, a drink or two will relax me. I can handle it,” but it’s you that I’m talking to here. Moderation when you’re nervous is difficult to achieve, so err on the side of caution here and believe that alcohol on a first date is dangerous for several reasons:
  • Nerves magnify the effects of alcohol. You get drunk faster.
  • Alcohol has been proven to dismantle your appetite control. While one of you is ready for the check, the drinker is ready for a second round of desserts.
  • Too much alcohol creates a sort of “tunnel vision.” You can’t see or fully
  • comprehend anything that’s not right in front of your face. That’s why it’s so dangerous to drive, handle heavy wallets, or — heaven forbid — open up your body and soul.
  • The risk of drinking and driving is huge when you’ve been drinking . . . and nonexistent when you haven’t.
  • Alcohol is the solvent of the superego. Suddenly, you’re saying, doing, and feeling things you’d never say, do, or feel if you were sober.
  • All your guards are down when you’re tipsy, including your sexual judgments. The chances that you’ll say “yes” when you really mean “no” or hear “yes” when you’re told “no” are much greater.

Okay — so I’ve put alcohol off-limits, but it’s okay to indulge in dessert calories. Most men are much more comfortable with women who eat reasonably rather than the “Oh, I’ll just have a small salad with the dressing on the side” syndrome. (Surveys show that women put much more pressure on themselves to have a “perfect” body than men ever put on them.) It’s okay to share a dessert. First of all, you’ll find out if he works and plays well with others. Secondly, it sends a loud and clear message that you’re not anorexic or obsessed with your weight. Watching your waistline is one thing, entering a convent is another. Eating is a sensual, pleasurable experience that’s meant to be savored. I’m not saying you should throw calories to the wind and use date night as an excuse to imitate Miss Piggy, but enjoying yourself means letting go enough to enjoy your date, the conversation, the location, the colors, the smells, the sights, the sounds, and the meal — the whole enchilada or creme brulĂ©e.

Tip well
I’m talking 20 percent. At least. Generosity is attractive. Trust me, the miser never gets the girl. He may keep a few extra dollars, but a person who is tight with money is unlikely to be generous with time or self.

Mind your manners
Good manners count. Make no mistake about it. Nothing is a bigger turn-off than seeing food churning round and round inside your date’s open mouth. Ugh. Or being rude to waiters, talking too loudly, picking up peas with a knife and sliding them down your throat. Think Jane Austen or Masterpiece Theater or that guy who pulls up in his Rolls and asks, “I say, have you any Grey Poupon?” You want to be prim and very proper. At the very least, do these things:
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Be polite to the waiters.
  • Talk softly.
  • Use your napkin.

Listening Attentively and Effectively

Trust me on this — I make my living listening to others — your date will tell you everything you need to know about him or her in the first 15 minutes. Not 50. 15. Train yourself really to hear what your date’s saying (and believe it). Of course, therein lies the rub: While love may be blind, dating is almost always deaf.
My friend Elaine “bought” a date with a soap star at a charity auction. She could scarcely afford her winning $250 bid, but she had such a crush on the guy she was willing to brown bag it for the half year it would take to make up the deficit. They met at a trendy New York restaurant. He looked incredible. She was flushed with the thrill of it all. Their first minute of conversation, as she later relayed it to me, went a little something like this:

HE (laughing): I can’t believe you paid so much for me. I’m not worth it.
SHE (also laughing): It went to a good cause — me.
HE: I’m really not into the dating scene. I barely have time to learn my lines and go to bed.
SHE: Thank you for squeezing me into your busy schedule.
HE: I barely made it. I’m leaving for L.A. tomorrow.
SHE: Business?
HE: Hopefully. I’m up for a series.
SHE: Good luck. I hope you get it.

Of course, she was lying, and he was telling the honest-to-goodness truth. Elaine thought their date went smashingly well and was devastated when he didn’t call her again — which she could have known he wouldn’t do if she’d listened with open ears instead of a too-wide-open heart. He’d told her flatout he wasn’t worth it, didn’t date, and was going to move 3,000 miles away. And he’d said it all in the first 30 seconds of their evening together. Learning how to listen is not easy, but it is simple. You have to train yourself to focus on the present moment only — not on your witty comeback, the followup question, the stupid thing you can’t believe you just said, the parsley you can feel lodged in between your teeth. You have to be in the now. Period.
If you want to be a good listener, you have to
  • Train yourself to stay with the talker, word for word, until he or she is finished. Simple concept, but really difficult to practice.
  • Suspend judgment and open your heart and head, as well as your ears. Listen to what the person is actually saying — not what you want to hear; it’s crucial not only to dating but to all human interactions.