Friday, December 31, 2010

The First Fifteen Minutes of a Second Date

Unlike the extensive pre-planning that goes into a first date, less is needed for a second date. But there’s a lot more at stake, so a bit of forethought will help you and your date relax. You want to solve any potential problems involving the first 15 minutes of your second date before you get underway. The immediate decisions to be made are these:

Question: Do you kiss your date on the cheek when you first meet? On the lips?
Answer: Cheek, okay. Lips, no way.

Question: Do you take your date’s hand? Put your arm around his or her shoulder?
Answer: No hand, no arm, no proprietary touching just yet. Handshakes are okay if you opt for no kiss.

Question: Do you talk about your last date together? Or stick to the present moment?
Answer: Continuing a previous conversation or asking about the status of something you already talked about is great. It’s a real intimacybuilder and lets your date know you were listening.

Question: Do you go to someplace different from the first date?
Answer: Yes. Especially if date number one was a date-ette. The location reflects a lot about you and how you feel about your companion. You don’t have to spend a bundle, but if your goal is getting to know what makes your date tick emotionally and spiritually, a loud concert may not be the best way to go.

Question: Does money matter?
Answer: Money always matters to some degree. But don’t let a lack of the green stuff freak you out or keep you from asking someone out. A walk in the park can be a better second date than dinner at the Ritz. What’s most important is picking a place that lets you feel free to be you and lets your date feel free to get to know you. Just don’t look cheap —make sure you have enough to cover any expected expenses, plus $20 tucked in a secret compartment.

Old patterns, new people

Behavior patterns — acting in a characteristic way — begin to take hold on the second date. If you tend to be a relationship sprinter rather than a longdistance runner, you’ll continue to quickly fall in and out of love with each new person unless you do something to change it. If you typically scare the dickens out of your dates by confessing true love on the way to the car, you’ll probably act it out again unless you do something to change the pattern. Or if you’re so scared of intimacy that it takes you ten years to trust someone, you probably won’t change unless you make a conscious effort to do so. If you don’t already know your dating patterns (everybody has patterns of behavior), I want you to pay attention on the second date so you can uncover your tendencies and know what to watch for in yourself. If you’re already aware of patterns and like what you see in yourself, don’t change a thing. But if you’ve noticed a destructive dating style in the past and want to change it, follow these steps:

1. Identify the behavior.
As soon as you experience one of those there-I-go-again moments, pretend you’re a school kid at a crosswalk: Stop, look, and listen to yourself.

2. Define the behavior.
Mentally describe your behavior in a specific sentence like, “Whenever I’m nervous, I tend to be sarcastic” or “As soon as it seems like someone really likes me, I get turned off.”

3. Place it in the moment.
Try to pinpoint what set you off this time. Was it her arm brushing up against yours? Was it something he said?

4. Put it on hold.
Patterns don’t change overnight. They especially don’t change smack in the middle of a date. What you want to do, once you’ve nailed down a behavior pattern, is to relax, file it away in your brain, and look at it later on when you’re alone.

Mind over what’s-the-matter

Getting all stressed-out is easy if your second date doesn’t measure up to the notion you had of the way things should go or if you put so much pressure on yourself that nothing you do or say is going to be good enough. Don’t go there. You won’t have any fun. Your date won’t have any fun. Everybody loses. Instead, if you start to feel tense, take a breather (literally) and do a quick reality check. Ask yourself the following:
  • What’s really bothering me here? Am I blaming my date for my expectations? Am I bringing up past history? Have I jammed a couple of unrelated memories and fears together to make a stress sandwich? If so, pull yourself back into the moment and deal with the here and now.
  • Am I trying to make sure my date doesn’t get too close? Intimacy is a scary thing, particularly in a second date where, presumably, you two are revealing more about yourselves. If you find yourself mentally running for the dugout before the seventh-inning stretch, get back in the game and see how it ends up.
  • Is this just old news? If you notice that you seem to be falling back on tired old patterns to make yourself feel comfortable, knock it off. Tell yourself you’re safe, that it’s okay to feel a little afraid, and not to worry —you’ll hold your hand every step of the way.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Date Expectations

One of the biggest differences between any first date and second date is expectation. Be very careful here. You don’t want your expectations to be sky-high any more than you want them to be so low you’re grateful for the slightest crumb your date flicks across the table. I know it’s hard trying to enter a date with a blank slate, but you really owe it to yourself and your date to try to enter with your eyes, heart, and mind open. Expectation is no simple matter. The dictionary defines expectation as looking for what’s “due, proper, or necessary.” Interestingly, the word comes from the same root as “spectacle,” the Latin spectare, meaning “to gaze at.” What this all means is that you form your expectation of any event by instantaneously “gazing at” your past experiences, stuff that’s happened to your friends or your parents or your family, what the media has convinced you is proper, and what your peers have convinced you you’re due. So you walk into any situation with at least some expectation as to how it would, could, or —worse — should turn out.
Trouble is, your date doesn’t have your same history. Your date isn’t carrying the same baggage. He has a whole different set of luggage. That’s when expectations can get a bit dicey. You expect your date to think and feel as you do. When it doesn’t happen as you anticipated, feelings get hurt and tempers flare and the whole experience takes a kamikaze nosedive. Don’t fall into this trap. You can’t erase expectation completely — it’s okay to expect to have a good time with someone you already like — but try to identify what your expectations are before your second date begins. That way, you’ll recognize immediately when (or if) your expectations are dashed, and you can put the whole thing in perspective. You may want to refer to Chapter 17 to understand your dating expectations.

In Between One and Two

Everything that happens between the first date and the second has an effect on date number two:
  • If it was lust at first sight and you both have been whispering sweet nothings over the phone all week, your second date will look much different than it would if your date took ten days to call you again. Bear that in mind when you embark on date number two. Your second date may seem either more intense or more subdued than it actually is. There’s simply no substitution for time when it comes to really knowing someone and understanding how he or she will (or won’t) fit into your life. Don’t short-circuit the time you really need to tap how you really feel.
  • If more than two weeks have passed between date number one and date number two, your second date is likely to feel more like a first date. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Good places for a second date

Given that a second date is about delving deeper, getting to know someone better, flirting a bit more, and just plain being more intimate, pick a place that lets you do those things:

_ Quiet restaurant or café
_ Public park
_ Sporting event
_ Museum

Following are some not-so-good places to do those things:
_ Noisy bar
_ Quiet bar
_ Movie marathon
_ Your parents’ house
_ Your date’s parents’ house
_ Your place

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Anatomy of a true second date

A first date is takeoff — your seatback is in the upright position, your tray table is stowed, you’ve buckled your seatbelt and are listening intently to make sure that the engines are on full throttle. A second date is climbing to cruising altitude. You’re on the way to your destination. You’re up in the air. You hope the pilot didn’t have a martini with her lunch, the flight attendant didn’t have a fight with his girlfriend, and the skies are not cloudy all day. In other words, a second date is the beginning of a settling-in period. Sometimes, a second date is wishing you were there already. Mostly, it’s trying to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight. Whereas your first date is about fantasy — getting your hair done, being on your best behavior, and looking at your date through rose-colored glasses — your second date is the beginning of reality. You let your hair down a bit; you reveal the real — or realer — you; and you see your date through a magnifying glass, if not reading glasses.
The beauty of a second date is that real personalities can begin to emerge. Your date’s nervous laughter mellows into a great sense of humor; his or her personal résumé becomes a story of a life. Of course, the potential downside is that real personalities emerge. The date you thought was a friendly overtipper who dressed impeccably and arrived on time suddenly morphs into a flirtatious spendthrift who is narcissistic and obsessive. Oops. The important thing here is to take a second date for what it really is — namely, the next leg on your journey toward getting to know someone better. Period. On a second date, there will be more . . .
  • Communicating: You move from neutral conversational territory, like census data, to more personal stuff like family history, favorite movies, the school you went to, school you go to, hometown, work life — stuff you’d put in a personal ad, stuff your next-door neighbor knows but not the ultra sensitive stuff you tell only your best friend. It’s also a good time for follow-up. You asked the opening questions on your first date; now get a bit more detail.
  • Testing the compatibility waters: You want to make sure you and your date are a good fit. Your attention shifts away from how you look, act, feel, talk, eat, and slurp to the kind of person your date is.
  • Probing for shared interests: While you want to express yourself on a first date, a second date is for allowing, encouraging, desiring, and listening to your date express what he or she likes and dislikes.
  • Sexual innuendoes: Nothing overt, but playful flirting is good.
  • Gazing into each other’s eyes: Most importantly, a second date is one step further along on the intimacy scale. It’s about stripping away the outer layer of superficiality and beginning to know your date’s soul. Few things are more intimate, or soulful, than prolonged eye contact. Don’t stare. But don’t be afraid to connect with the window to your date’s soul — the eyes.

Dates versus date-ettes

A date lasts at least three hours, is planned ahead of time, and takes place after noon in ironed clothing. A date-ette is spontaneous, can last a few minutes or an hour or two, takes place day or night, and doesn’t even require a shower. This distinction is unimportant until we begin speaking about second dates, because you have to know when the first date occurred. So first get clear in your own head what your first date really was. If it was indeed a date, good for you: Your second date is an authentic second date, and you’re right on track. If your first get-together was really a date-ette, however, then the next time you two go out, you’re really on official date number one — or maybe one and a half. That’s okay. There are no hard and fast rules here. But you may want to flip back to the chapters on first dates and take it from there if you’ve only had a date-ette. This chapter is for solid second-daters, not second-date wannabes.
First dates can be date-ettes, but second dates have to be dates. The progression flows naturally. If it doesn’t — if you keep spontaneously grabbing a bite to eat or a cup of coffee — you’re not dating. You’re hanging out.

Is It Really a Second Date?

The first date jitters are out of the way, and it’s on to date number two. Your emotions are still in a whirl but for entirely different reasons. No longer are you worried about knocking the shoes off your date with a dazzling first impression. That’s done. You did it or you didn’t. Not to worry. Even if you weren’t James Bond or Kim Basinger, you impressed your date enough to secure a second shot. Now the stakes are higher. If your first date was a rousing success, the next one better be fantastic. If date number one was so-so, date number two better score higher on the dating scale. Understandably, you’re going to feel a bit stressed as well as excited, hopeful, flattered, challenged, optimistic, and even giddy. That’s okay. Everybody feels a smorgasbord of emotions when the flicker of a potential love match has been ignited. What you want to do is chill out, keep your expectations in check, and make sure this budding relationship doesn’t burn out before it even begins. The first thing I want you to do is make sure you’re dealing with a bona fide second date. You may met your date through friends, asked him or her out to lunch, had fun, and arranged to meet again. In the imperfect world we all live in, you may have met your date in class, at a party, on the street. You said, “I’m going to Starbucks for a cappuccino. Wanna come?” He went, bought his own cup of coffee, chatted with you, had a few laughs, and gave you his phone number when you offered yours. Technically, you had a date. But who deals in technicalities when dating is concerned? In reality, you had more of a date-ette than a date.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nix the gossip

The temptation to blab about your great date will be intense, especially as the clock ticks while you wait for the call (or wait to call). But be very careful here. Bragging to your buddies about your date’s bod or huge libido or exaggerating her affection for you is totally uncool. What if the two of you end up together? There’s no way to erase an image once it’s planted in someone’s head, and your friends won’t treat her respectfully if you don’t. Sharing every intimacy is also uncool. Give your date a break. He’s entitled to get to know you without all your friends getting to know him first. Keep your expectations limited.
This is a fragile and vulnerable time for both of you and any potential future. An audience ups the ante, the intensity, the curiosity — and you’re better off without it. You’ll be glad you didn’t blab too much about your date before your date began once you experience the emotionally charged post-date waiting period. Who needs everyone and their mother asking you if he called yet or if she left you any messages on your e-mail? All the way around, it’s best to keep info close to the vest until your relationship really gets going. Even then, discretion is the mother of true trust.

The farmer’s daughter

When a friend of mine was stationed overseas in the army, he met the young daughter of a French farmer. The generous farmer offered my friend, Brian, a home-cooked meal, and he accepted. That evening, and several evenings after, he dined with the family and slowly became smitten with the young girl. But she was only 14, and only Elvis Presley was allowed to indulge such fantasies.
Fast-forward 30 years. Brian was back home in the States, divorced, and the father of two girls. On a vacation to France, he decided to look up the farmer who was, by now, an elderly man, but he still remembered Brian and invited him over for dinner.
“How’s your daughter?” Brian asked casually, as they were sipping port in the family vineyard after dinner.
“You can ask her yourself,” the farmer said.
“She’s dropping her son off later this evening.” Which she did, and she nearly lost her breath when she saw Brian standing in her father’s doorway. She, too, was divorced and had never forgotten her first crush. The years melted away, and now as two adults, they fell in love. This summer marks their 20th wedding anniversary. “It was just meant to be,” Brian often says, sighing.
So leave the phone alone. Get out of the house. Get on with your life and be pleasantly — and genuinely — surprised when he or she really does call.

Men’s Ten-day Rule After a Date

This ten-day rule explains why guys wait ten days to call, even if the date’s terrific.
Assuming your first date is on a Tuesday or Wednesday night:
  • Guys don’t call the next day; they see it as too needy. Girls don’t call the next day, either; they see it as too desperate.
  • Now you’re butting up against the weekend. You don’t want to appear dateless. No one calls Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
  • Now you’re at Monday. No one calls anyone on a Monday.
  • Tuesdays or Wednesdays are good days to call, but if work gets too busy, you leave the number at home, or you’re out of town, then forget it —you’re already to Thursday.
  • Thursday. Too close to the weekend. It’s too late to ask someone out for the weekend or to admit you don’t have a date. Besides, a second date on a weekend rather than a weekday ups the ante too much.
  • Now it’s Friday. Calling on Friday is the same as Thursday.
  • Ditto Saturday.
  • Sunday is still the weekend and a refocus on work, not play.
  • No one makes any important calls on a Monday.
  • Tuesday. Ahhh. That feels about right. Work is calm, your head is calm, your heart is calm, and your conscience is still clean. Now pick up the phone . . . ’cept it’s now been nearly two weeks. Yikes! Guys: Win many more Brownie points by calling before ten days. Girls: Chill.
The problem is the pattern, not you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nine hints for limbo and surviving the wait

There’s a reason the first streamlined, easy-to-cradle-beneath-your-chin telephone was called a “princess” phone. It was designed to be talked on for hours in comfort — something little princes just don’t do. Sure, guys call their buddies, but let’s face it — they look like amateurs when it comes to the real phone talkers: girls. Girls grow up on the phone. So the day after a great date, the telephone in a girl’s room or house or apartment or car or office takes on a sort of golden glow. Women, if you’re not vigilant, the phone will take over your life. Don’t let it.
Assuming you’re waiting for this great guy you met to call you for date number two, don’t panic, don’t write him off, don’t obsess. Instead, follow these nine guidelines for handling the waiting period:
  1. Don’t stop showering. I know, I know — the phone could ring while you’re all sudsed up, and baths are quieter. But changes in lifestyle and hygiene don’t need to begin quite so early. There are answering machines and voice mail. People call back. Hygiene is more important. You never know — he could drop by.
  2. Don’t call the phone company. If you hear a dial tone, the phone is in perfect working order. Besides, the phone would be engaged while they checked the line anyway, and are you willing to take that risk?
  3. Don’t go shopping for new equipment. You don’t need a new phone, answering machine, beeper, doorbell, or e-mail server just because yours refuses to ring, beep, or announce, “You have mail!” Be patient.
  4. Don’t put yourself on house arrest. This is not the time to develop a deep and lasting friendship with the pizza delivery guy. Get out. Get air. The phone will be there when you get back.
  5. Don’t change your answering machine message. Your old voice sounded sexy enough. Detailing on tape exactly where you are and where you’ll be each day is an invitation to burglars, not daters.
  6. Stare at something else. A watched phone never rings.
  7. Stop watching the 24-hour news channel. If he really was abducted by an alien or caught in a 20-car pile-up, you’ll hear about it soon enough.
  8. Get a life. If you don’t have one already, now’s the time to live. Go to a museum, volunteer, enroll in NASCAR driving camp, whatever. Carry on with any version of existence other than an amoeba life form sitting by the phone.
  9. Don’t worry, be happy. Even if it’s your mom each time the phone rings, hey, at least it’s a human voice. Remember Dr. Joy’s prescription on dating: It’s one date. Take it easy. Nothing, besides nuclear holocaust, is the end of the world.
Remember, women crave intensity; men crave comfort. Carry that thought throughout your life and you’ll always understand why the other side behaves the way it does.

Testosterone versus Estrogen Central

Really, the biggest potential for post-date communication glitches involves time. Guy time and girl time, that is, baby. They’re not the same. Einstein was right. It’s all relative. Here’s what happens: You go out to a great dinner or a concert or the movies. You giggle, share popcorn. You both have a fabulous time. Sweetly kiss goodnight. Then he whispers, “I’ll call you soon.” Or she whispers the same. You both nod and head home. Now, she assumes that soon means on the cell phone on the way home, at a pay phone the next morning, or at the very latest, within the next two days. Soon to him means “if I have a minute in my busy schedule,” “when I get that new job,” “when I have my fall class schedule in order,” “when the football season is over.” Or soon can mean “never,” “if my mom pressures me,” or “if the Knicks are out of contention.” Problem city:
  • Female is hovering by the phone; male is flipping channels on the remote control.
  • If she calls right away (as she said she would), he thinks, “Whoa! She’s really into me. Sex city!” She’s really just saying, “I had a nice time and I’d like to see you again.”
  • If he calls when he gets around to it (as he said he would), she’s an ice queen because so much time has elapsed (a week, a month, a year, a decade). How dare he leave her hanging! Suddenly, she’s too busy to see him again, and the budding relationship blows sky-high. What’s wrong with this picture? In a word, the word soon.
Guys: Don’t say “soon” when you’re whispering in her ear or any other time. Girls: Don’t believe it if he should slip. (And your being vague doesn’t help much, either. Take it to the bank — he’ll expect a much longer passage of time than you, most likely.) If he does say, “I’ll call you soon,” try one of these responses:
  • “I’ll be out of town for a couple of days. Could you call me after that?” Even if you’re not leaving town, this blows that whole “waiting by the phone” thing right out of the water.
  • How ’bout I call you in a week or so?” Then be sure to add the reason (when finals are over, after work lets up, as soon as I accept the Nobel Prize) so that it doesn’t sound like a brush-off. Mark at least ten days to two weeks on your calendar and call him then.
  • “Instead of calling, let’s e-mail each other from work.” This narrows the call time to 9-to-5 and takes some of the intensity out of the exchange. E-mail is pretty public, so neither one of you can get too hot and heavy with the boss watching.
  • “What does soon mean to you?” Though this question may sound a bit overeager, asking for a definition is okay. Your date’s response tells you a lot about the future of this relationship. Whatever you hear, be calm; don’t panic or get hysterical.
If you’re a guy: Don’t wait quite as long as you ordinarily would. If you do intend to call her “soon,” you’ll score major Brownie points if you make it more sooner than later. Women eventually write off the guy who never calls, but they never forget the man who calls right away. If you’re a girl: Wait at least twice as long as you ordinarily would. Give the guy a break. When he does call, warm up that cold shoulder, or he’ll never call again. The appropriate response to a guy who calls a week after a great date is, “Hi. How are you?” — not “Hi. Who died?” He’ll be so pleased with you he just may call later that night for more of your tender, loving acceptance. Stay cool. Don’t notice. Life is long; phone calls can be short. The best way to avoid the whole call/don’t call scenario is to arrange date number two before date number one ends. Plan to get together again no sooner than a week, no later than two weeks. If your date doesn’t bring it up, you can. No gender rules here.

After the Perfect Date

After you’ve said goodnight and the ideal date has come to a close, both of you are high on life, awash in good feelings. You grin, sigh, kiss your dog on the top of his head, or nuzzle with your cat. If you’re a girl, you want to do what girls do — talk about it; you want to lie down on your dorm bed or curl up with the phone and tell a good friend every glorious detail. If you’re a guy, you feel all warm and fuzzy, too, but you probably carry those feelings more internally and quietly; you do your homework, turn on the TV, wash the car, read the paper, dribble a basketball, burp — your normal life stuff — all very satisfied that your date was a success. You don’t need to fret. You’ve won. Inside your heads, however, a lush fantasy is brewing. Or, I should say, two lush fantasies. One female, one male. This is where things can get a little sticky if you expect your date to have the very same vision that you do.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

All the right moves

The day after a so-so date can be confusing. Do you call? Do you sit tight? Apologize? Swear you’ll never wear that puce pantsuit again? Knowing precisely when to be passive and when to charge is hard. My general rule is this:
If your date derailed because of something you said or did, call and apologize. Everyone makes dumb mistakes. Everyone understands. It’s saying nothing that leaves a bad taste with everyone.
If, on the other hand, your date just didn’t sizzle like you hoped it would for some reason you can’t pin down, let time shed a little light on the situation. Don’t call the next day (or that night). In fact, don’t call at all until you’re sure of these three things:

_ You want a second date because you like the person, not just because you want to make sure they like you.
_ You’ve identified what you may do differently next time, like relax, go to a place where you can talk, not bring your mother, and so on.
_ You’re not feeling so guilty and responsible that your second date becomes a “make-up” date instead of a second chance to get to know one another.

Valium for the soul

Often, when things don’t quite go as well as they could on a date, the reason is nerves. Nerves make you laugh too hard or too little, pre-judge every word you utter, or beat yourself up for every little faux pas. Your date was likely nervous, too. It’s hard to be charming when your date is tense. It’s also hard to put someone else at ease when you’re stiff and uncomfortable.
When you get home from a so-so date:
1. Sit down in a comfy chair.
2. Shut your eyes.
3. Take five deep breaths in through your nose, out through your mouth.
4. Visualize your date floating up and out of your consciousness like a soft, fluffy cloud.
5. Repeat after me:

I am not perfect.
I don’t need to be perfect to be loved.
This was only one date.
There will be another date.
Next time I will feel safe enough to reveal more of myself.

Restoring your confidence

The worst side effect of a rotten date is the potential for ego devastation. How can you hop back on the horse when your date said you looked, acted, and brayed like one? What you may need the day after the date from hell is a real confidence booster. Even if you have to work the next day, set aside at least a teeny bit of time to do something you know you do well. Some possibilities are (this is also a good list to keep in mind if your date was so-so or even fabulous — or even if you’ve just resigned from dating forever):

  • Get outside and take a walk or go golfing (even if it’s miniature) or hiking or climb a mountain (even if it’s a molehill).
  • Get some exercise — you’ll liberate endorphins, the feel-good chemicals.
  • Make a gourmet meal.
  • Make your mom laugh.
  • Teach your old dog a new trick.
  • Impress your boss.
  • Eat chocolate.
  • Call a friend.
  • Splurge on a magazine, CD, or book.

Whatever you do, make sure it’s life-affirming, fun, and filling — as in filling you up with pride. Then forget all about your lousy date and look forward to the next great one.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Five ways to put a hideous date in perspective

  1. Rent Fatal Attraction.
  2. Thank technology for VCRs and DVD recorders — you didn’t have to miss anything while you were out.
  3. Count how many days you’ve been alive. Subtract only one.
  4. Look at your watch — it just seemed like forever.
  5. Check your pulse. You survived!

After an Icky Date

The day after a disastrous date can be full of blame, guilt, shame, and copious amounts of chocolate — if you let it. Or you can take a deep breath and call it like it is: one date that didn’t ring your chimes. Period. What I don’t want you to do is
  • Bad-mouth your date.
  • Call and beg forgiveness.
  • Berate yourself all day (week, month, year, life).
  • Vow never to date again.
  • Quickly arrange a date with just anybody to prove it’s not you that’s icky.
  • Avoid feeling disappointed by overeating, over-drinking, over-drugging . . . overdoing anything.
Look, feeling disappointed is okay. It’s a letdown when things don’t work out as you hoped! But you can feel it without wallowing in it. You can experience a disappointment without draping yourself in black. Most importantly, you can forgive yourself and your date for not being a perfect match. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s life.

Second Thoughts on First Impressions

A date-long first impression is different from the two-second once-over your date gives you when you initially meet. It’s more than a primal, visceral thing. Throughout the time you spend together, your date’s five senses are working overtime — taking it all in. Processing every nuance, every sigh, every touch. Even the stuff your date isn’t aware he or she sees, hears, smells, touches, and tastes is seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted. Above and beyond the five senses are your date’s sense of style, appropriateness, manners, space, self — you name it. Every part of your date’s past and present being comes into play when evaluating you and how he or she feels about you. Yikes! No wonder we all get nervous on a first date! What you can do if you don’t want your first impression to last a lifetime is to create another one. As simple as that. It’s okay to call your date and say, “I was a bit jittery last night. What do you say we try again next week?” Or you can lay your cards right on the table by saying, “I feel like I didn’t show you who I really am. I’d like another chance to do so.”
Honesty is appealing. Vulnerability is sexy. Unless you’re a mass of quivering insecurity, few people can resist someone who’s human enough to admit they didn’t show you a true picture and would like a second shot. If your date was fantastic, no need to redo anything. If the date didn’t go as well as expected, maybe a bit of remedial work is in order. If you have just experienced the Guinness Book’s lousy-date record, you need to give yourself some first aid.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Starting Over

The most important thing about a really bad date is making sure you don’t obsess to the extent that you vow, “Never again.” Becoming a hermit is not the antidote to a lousy date. Problem solving is. Figure out what you can do differently next time and get back in the race. Figure out what went awry and learn from the experience; you won’t have to join a religious order with a vow of silence, solitude, and celibacy.
Don’t rush into another date with just anybody, but do put this experience in perspective. Hey, it was one crummy date — no need to be bummed out about it endlessly. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get ready to date all over again. Be thankful you both agreed on at least one thing — it didn’t work. Beware of the Groucho Marx School of Life that says, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.” In the world of dating, this if-they’ll-have-me-I-don’t-want-them mentality translates into two unappealing possibilities: “If they hate me, they must be really cool and have figured out the real me” or — even worse — “Nobody rejects me first. I’ll charm them so they’ll like me, and then I’ll reject them.” Take my advice: If it’s lousy for both of you, let it go and be done with it. Amen.

Reviewing Expectations

One bad date doesn’t mean much; a string of bad dates may mean a lot. If you keep thinking this one is “the one” and are wrong again and again, it may be time to stop, look, and listen.
When you get home, evaluate your expectations and examine your dating patterns. Only then can you stop making the same mistakes over and over. Answer the following questions in your dating notebook so you have a basis on which to begin analysis, understanding, and change.
  • What qualities must your ideal date absolutely, positively have?
  • What must your ideal date not be?
  • Why was this date a disaster?
  • Think back to the last disaster date you had — what things went wrong then? (If this is your first bad date, skip this question.)
  • Looking back over your lists, are there any similarities between what you put on the “My date must not be” list and the (one or) two “disaster date” lists?
If so, nail those little suckers and write them down. Is there a pattern? Is there a pit into which you keep falling? If your ideal date must not be rude, obese, or boring, and your disaster dates were rude, thin, and boring, perhaps you didn’t look too far beyond the outer package when the date was first set up. Or if all your disaster dates turn out to be so self involved they may as well be out with themselves, perhaps you don’t know how to spot a narcissist early on.

Five signs you really do hate each other

  • A piece of cilantro is stuck to your date’s chin, and you don’t bother to mention it. Your date knows it’s there and doesn’t bother to remove it.
  • You both could describe every detail of the door but don’t know what color your date’s eyes are.
  • If it were videotaped, your conversation would make it on America’s Most Boring Videos.
  • You have to keep explaining punch lines.
  • Your mouths are killing both of you from all that fake smiling.

Friday, April 30, 2010

How to Exit with Style?

The moment has arrived. You’ve finally faced up to the ugly truth: You’d both rather be anywhere but together, and a root canal is sounding better by comparison. Resist the temptation to duck out the back, make a mad dash for the door, or order a cab instead of dessert. The true measure of your soul is how you handle disaster. We can all be classy when the going is good. True style and honor come from handling bad situations well. Don’t worry. You don’t have to sit there and imagine gnawing your foot off so you can escape the trap. You can call this one off — but do it with panache. Say:
  • “Let’s skip coffee and chalk this up to experience.”
  • “I’m ready to call it a night. You?”
  • Can I give you a lift home?” (No need to be ugly.)
  • “I’m sorry things didn’t work out.”
  • “Let’s toast this valiant effort and get the check.”
Again, don’t lie. Don’t say you’ll call. Don’t say you had a great time when you didn’t. Just end the date quickly and cleanly.

What to do if your date went wrong?

So there you are. Sitting across from your date, or next to him or her, or in the bathroom staring at your reflection, afraid to face the truth. Don’t. Face it. If you feel unhappy and sense that your date is miserable, too, denial only makes matters worse. Instead, do this:
  • Trust your instincts. If it feels all wrong, it probably is — even if both of you are smiling and making nice.
  • Ask. There’s nothing wrong with asking your date whether what you’re sensing is actually the truth. I wouldn’t go so far as to blurt out, “Do you hate me as much as I hate you?” but asking if the discomfort in the air is real is really a good start.
  • ’Fess up. If your date is having as lousy a time as you are, he or she may ask you what’s the matter. Tell the truth. Admit that things aren’t zipping along as well as you’d hoped and ask if your date feels the same way.
  • Let it be. Now is not the time to muse over what’s going wrong. If there’s no spark, this date’s never going to jump-start, no matter how carefully you peer under the hood.

Total turnoffs in dating

Although, theoretically, loathe at first sight should be no more or less common than love at first sight, loathing isn’t always a slow-build. Here are ways to completely turn each other off in an instant:

_ Neglecting to shower
_ Eating like a pig
_ Dressing like a hooker
_ Talking only about yourself
_ Abusing the waiter or clerk
_ Whining
_ Drinking too much
_ Showing up stoned
_ Talking about sex
_ Insulting each other
_ Insulting anybody else
_ Acting superior
_ Being a bigot
_ Copping a feel
_ Taking your shoes off in the car

If you discover that you really can’t stand the person you’re with — and you have a pretty good idea that the feeling is mutual — face the moment of truth without wasting another moment of your precious life.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Speed bumps

Everything you and your date say and do from the moment you meet is recorded and processed and filed in both of your brains. Unless you turn each other off from the get-go, a sense of dissatisfaction, disappointment, and unease usually builds until you realize, “Uh-oh, this date isn’t working out. I’m definitely not having fun, and I don’t want to be here.”
The tricky thing is making sure it’s not just nerves or fear or shyness or arrogance that’s convinced you guys you’re having a rotten time. So first — a quick reality check. Ask yourself these questions:

Am I relaxed, or am I tense and fearful?
Being vulnerable and letting another human being get close can be very scary stuff. Just like any other animal, scared humans sometimes lash out to keep other “threatening” animals at bay, or they retreat to the safety of their cave or shell. Perhaps this is what both of you are doing right now. If you’re so tense that your true personality is hidden beneath a mass of knotted muscles, your date may dislike the tension, not you. You’re not allowing the real you to emerge. If you feel completely stressed-out, take a few deep breaths or excuse yourself to the restroom and do three minutes of square breathing

Is my date relaxed?
The same standard that applies to you (see the preceding item) applies to your date. Your date may be so wracked with nerves that every response is stilted, every laugh forced, every reaction pretentious. Stress doesn’t make anyone likable. Do what you can to make your date feel comfortable:
Be friendly, initiate conversation, pull back a little. Try not to judge the success or failure of your date until things get a bit more relaxed.

Is it something my date said?
Sometimes, one careless remark can send a whole date careening downhill. A friend of mine, who’d just changed the color of her hair, had a date attempt to make a joke. “Did they have a sale on red?” he asked her. Understandably, she was insulted, but she didn’t say anything. Later her date told me he found her “cold and distant.” She thought he had the class of a slug. Both were probably just really nervous. Human beings are complex creatures. One dumb remark does not a personality make. Make sure there’s sufficient evidence to write the whole thing off. It’s perfectly okay to say, “Wow, that comment seemed kind of hostile.” Make sure you’re not letting other, relatively minor things like imperfect table manners, height, weight, sense of humor, style, driving habits, or dancing ability (or lack thereof) trigger a turnoff. You’re both in a heightened emotional state, and your behavior may be exaggerated. Let things settle down before evaluating the whole date.

Facing Facts

A date is a level three experience: Level one is meeting someone, talking on the phone, chatting online, staring longingly at the back of his or her head all semester in class. On level one, there’s enough of a connection and attraction to warrant venturing into level two. Level two is a little pre-date interaction, which gets pretty quickly to level three, the date. Unless this is a totally blind date, meaning you’re set up with someone you’ve never even spoken to before, it’s safe to say there are at least some good feelings passing back and forth between the two of you before your date begins. Once the date gets going, however, the connection and attraction will be tested and tried on for size — from both sides. Liking or not liking each other is rarely an instant evaluation. Luckily, most of us are willing to give somebody a bit more time because we’d like them to give us a bit more of a chance, too. Deciding whether you want to invest a bit more time and effort in getting to know someone is a process of evaluating lots of verbal and nonverbal cues.

Chalking It Up to Experience

You can learn something from every experience. Sometimes the tuition is high, and sometimes it’s not. If you view this date as a learning experience rather than dashed hopes, a waste of time and money, or a night you could have spent watching Glee, the entire date will feel very different. After all,
  • It’s only one night (day, afternoon, hour).
  • It never has to happen again.
  • This date can help you figure out what you want or don’t want next time.
The best way to avoid making another mistake is to figure out specifically what went wrong this time. After the date is over, after you’re home and reliving the scenario in your mind (or trying to get it out of your mind), take out your dating notebook and make two columns on a piece of paper: “What I was originally attracted to” and “What totally turned me off.” List everything you can think of in each column. Be honest. No one is looking. You can burn or flush this list later. Even if what originally attracted you was her Baywatch bod and what turned you off was the fact that Baywatch is her favorite TV show, write it down. Write it all down. When you’re finished, you’ll have a much clearer picture of exactly what went awry . . . and how to avoid making the same mistake next time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Handling Hurt Feelings

Rejection is just someone’s opinion. You don’t like everyone, and not everyone is going to like you. Don’t allow your discomfort to make you mean. Stringing someone along, pretending you like him or her when you really don’t, is cowardly and cruel. In the long run, you’ll inflict more pain by pretending, which is really to protect yourself. Pretending is much harsher than saying upfront that this isn’t working for you. If your date is smitten, the truth is going to pinch a bit but for less time or intensity than if you lie. You’ve been honorable, have asked your date out, or have been asked out on the assumption of potential good stuff. You’ve now discovered things aren’t working out. No need to push the guilt button. No one likes to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s important to be humane and human: When the news is hard to break and hard to take, be aware of what you’re feeling and why, and be specific about why it’s not working for you without being judgmental. Unless you are incredibly adept at letting your date down gently (how did you get so much practice? We may need to talk), you’re very likely going to hurt feelings.
When you do:
  • Acknowledge your date’s rights to feelings. Don’t pretend everything is okay or get defensive if your date lashes out or is upset. Listen quietly and patiently.
  • Don’t try to fix it. These are your date’s feelings, not yours. You deal with your feelings, and let your date do the same.
  • Apologize for the hurt, not the fact. Not liking someone isn’t a crime. You didn’t do anything wrong. As a human being, you feel bad when another human being feels bad, but when you start down the “sorry” road, the next thing you may find yourself doing is trying to make it up to your date. Don’t start down that slippery slope.
  • Let go. Ultimately, you have to make peace with the whole situation by realizing another fact of life: Not every date is terrific any more than every meal is wonderful, every sunset grand, or every flavor chocolate.

Telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, sort of . . .

The one time you really do want to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is when your date asks, “Can I call you?” — or worse, “Will you call me?” The phone thing is fraught with nearly every conceivable emotion —hope, fear, anxiety, trust, excitement, rejection, and anticipation. Now is the moment to take a deep breath and tell the truth. It’s not fair to leave her waiting by a phone that refuses to ring or have him logging on to check his e-mail every few hours. If you’re not going to call, now or in the millennium, don’t say you will. Period. It’s not cool. It’s not fair. It’s not what polite, respectful people do. That said, here are a few tactful ways to get the message across:
  • “Though I had fun tonight, I don’t think it’s going to work out between us.”
  • “To be honest, I see you as more of a friend.”
  • “We’re just too different, you and I.”
  • “I don’t want to mislead you by telling you I’ll call. I’m sorry, but I probably won’t.”
  • “I’m going to be really busy at work for the next couple of months.”
  • “Family concerns are going to keep me tied up.” It’s tough. No two ways about it.
Everyone wants to believe in love and union and two souls who were meant to be together. But if this isn’t that scene, don’t make it even worse by lying and leading your date to believe it might one day be.

Proclaiming Truth: Honesty Is a Tricky Policy

There you are sitting across from a date who’s eager and hopeful and trying her or his best to engage you. This person is perfectly nice. Perfectly acceptable. Perfectly wrong for you. For whatever reason, you know it’s not going to work out. How, then, do you let your date down easy? Be honest . . . without harming the poor, unfortunate soul unnecessarily. Truth-telling is a tricky bit of business. In the guise of “truth,” many a hurt has been inflicted. Do you really need to tell someone he or she is fat, even if that is the case? Do you need to say, “No, your nose isn’t big; it’s huge”?
Using tact
The difference between hurtful truth-telling and honesty is four letters: tact. The best way to be tactful is to put yourself in your date’s shoes. If you wouldn’t want to hear it, your date most likely won’t want to hear it, either. To help you out of any potential corner into which you might paint yourself during a date gone sour.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Being polite

Your mom has explained the need for good manners: to avoid making another person feel bad. Well, your date may not be going as well as you wanted, but now is not the time to abandon all those skills that your parents spent a lifetime drilling into you. The basics of being polite include the following:
  • Stay put. No leaving out the back door, faking a headache, or spending the entire date in the restroom reading phone numbers carved into the wall.
  • Have a conversation. Sitting stone-faced is the ultimate slap in the face. Find something to talk about even if you discover you two are worlds apart. Seen any good movies lately?
  • Maintain eye contact. You don’t need to gaze into your date’s eyes, certainly, but staring up at the ceiling is rude.
  • Listen. Your date may not notice that things aren’t going swimmingly. Tuning this person out will only cause him or her to try harder to reach you, and panic isn’t pretty.
  • Make nice. As Elvis said, “Don’t be cruel.” Your date didn’t kidnap you. If things aren’t going well, so be it. Without being overly encouraging (you don’t want a bad date hoping for bad date number two), be civil and kind.
  • See your date home. It’s impolite to abruptly end your date the moment the check is paid, the ending credits roll, or the coffee cup is empty. You don’t need to prolong it, but you do need to finish what you both started. If you drove, drive your date home. If your date drove, accept a ride home.
Share a cab, a subway, a bus ride. No bolting or escaping is necessary. Behave as you’d like to be treated. Show common courtesy. Smile, laugh at jokes, and avoid rolling your eyes to the back of your head. The goal here is to be kind without being dishonest. The key to being polite is to think of yourself as Lord or Lady Bountiful —much too well-bred to let on that your bunions pinch or your fine sense of smell has just discerned that something has died. The goal of being polite is not to lead your date on, but to treat your date with the same kindness and respect with which you’d treat anyone.

Avoiding blame

Understandably, you’re going to feel disappointed when you first get the inkling that your date isn’t working out. Either people click, or they don’t.
When they click, their communication is like a tapestry — each shared
experience and similarity intertwines. Each giggle, stare, brush of a hand
is a gossamer thread, one on top of the other, until a beautiful scene is
depicted. When folks don’t click, the date is more like a wrinkly paper bag —
uninteresting, unappealing, and just plain un-wonderful. When you discover
that the situation has gone south, don’t be tempted to blame your date or
yourself for the unpleasantness — no need to accuse your date of

  • Using you
  • Being an idiot
  • Being ungrateful
  • Being uncivilized

Sometimes two perfectly nice people can just not mesh very well. If you take that perspective, you don’t have to take offense or blame or a position — just take a deep breath.

Deploying survival strategies

If you’re not having a good time but your date is, give these strategies a try. Not only can they get you through the evening, but they give you the opportunity to discover interesting and worthwhile things about your date and yourself — and that’s never a waste of time.
  • Identify three things you like about your date. Everyone has at least a few interesting and unique qualities. When a date starts to slide downhill, we tend to magnify the negative moments in our minds and discount the positive. Reverse this trend: Find three things you like about your date. They don’t have to be big things. You don’t have to suddenly realize you love this person’s personality. Start small. Do you like her hair? His hands? Her laugh? His quirky sense of humor?
  • Become a good listener. View this as a great opportunity to sharpen your listening skills. Stay in the moment. Don’t second-guess what you could have possibly done here or worry about what you’re going to tell your friends or how you’re going to get a good night’s sleep. Really listen to what your date has to say — without judgment. You may hear something interesting.
  • Relax and tune in to your surroundings. Enjoy the food, the atmosphere, the popcorn, the movie, the biscotti, the sunshine, the snow, the sound of bowling pins falling each time you score a strike. Shift your focus away from a date that’s not working out to all the things that are perfectly fine.