I have to admit, the title is a little misleading in the sense I don't seriously consider myself a professional first dater although I will concede that I make a pretty good job of it. As you may have previously read I've done a little guide on how to Internet Date. A bit of success on there meeting people this has consequently lead to a few first dates and since you can only really measure a 'good' date to a 'bad' date when you've had enough experience that time has finally arrived.
We've all been there. Asked out that person who makes your heart drop several feet upon sight only to have do the only thing that's more terrifying than saying no - saying yes. You set up the date, you set up the location and they haven't cancelled on you with a reason along the lines of "I have to bake cookies, I can't make it! Sorry!". You can safely get excited now because showtime is around the corner. Only the question is, now what? Oh god, what do I say? Do I greet them with a kiss? A hug? What if my breath smells? What if it rains? What if aliens invade?!
1. Get out of your head and into the moment.
Despite this being surprisingly obvious there is one hard truth that every person should know about dating - it isn't a romantic comedy. Being caught up in your thoughts and being awkward is not, in the vast majority of cases, endearing. And it never will be. You've made the bold move of saying, 'I'm cool, want to see how cool?' and they've agreed. Now it's time to prove it. You will ask yourself a million questions about how you're going to handle the date and what you need to understand is that all that means is that you care about what happens with this person. You might be scared of screwing up, you might be scared of being alone. The point is that if you are in your head you're not doing it right.
To avoid being stuck in your own thoughts you need to relax and then ask very specific questions. What colour are their shoes? What hair accessories are they wearing? Are their nails painted? If they say anything, make a mental note. Ask them about it. Birthdays, friend names, holidays, pets. All that will keep you from ticking back into your own head. Analysing things is for afterwards, right now, take note and keep an eye out for more.
2. Remember why you're on a date.
Alright, so why are you on a date again? Marriage? Sex? Boredom? If your answer is any of them, you are wrong. You're on a date to have fun. To. Have. Fun. Don't you ever forget that. There can be a tendency for people to focus so unbelievably hard to propel the relationship forward that they end up getting all tense and neglect having fun. I mean, you've got the undivided attention of another person. Capitalise on that by making sure they don't regret your company. Be fun, be lighthearted, be relaxed, be engaging and opportunities to escalate will present themselves.
Don't be anti-fun either. If they want to do something don't just sit there and shake your head. Get out there, make a hash of it, laugh it off and you'll win points.
"You are on a date to have fun!"3. 'Planned spontaneity'
One thing we're all looking for is a magical formula that'll make people remember us. There are no magic words, there is no magic practice. It's not about being good looking, it's not about being rich. The secret is this - create moments. Make memories. You want to get past the first date? Give them an experience instead of the typical boring stuff. The best quote I've heard about romance is that it's 'planned spontaneity' so you have to prepare adequately. My favourite thing to do is date when it's raining. Why? Because I have the best prop in the world for it - a wind-resistant canopy umbrella. Pick them up at their place because 'it's raining' and I playfully say my umbrella wins so we're using that one. She huddles under and I get her to link my arm before setting off. She gets to feel like a lady and you, sir, are a gentleman. Watch the other girls and guys stare in envy.
As the guy, you should be leading. It's what we do best. Plan the date from start to finish, make sure she gets back and, most importantly, feels like a lady. Regardless of what anybody says about 'cheesy sentiment' every girl wants to feel special, it's just they want it in a different way. When was the last time a girl said, 'I really hope nobody treats me amazing today'?
4. Maintain Composure.
There are many times on dates when things will fall to pieces. One moment for me in particular was cooking dinner for a girl (I kinda screwed up the first date so this was me making it up to her) and I forgot to make the gravy just as the food's ready. I say, 'Oops! Forgot to make the gravy' and she replies with yelling, '...WHY THE EFF DIDN'T YOU SAY SO SOONER?!' At this moment, there were many options available to me. Shout back. Say "I'm sorry!' like a school kid. After the initial shock, I calmly said, 'It's just gravy' and got on with making it. There will always be good and bad moments during any prolonged time with one person. Whatever happens, just roll with it. Could be criticism, could be her saying something uncool, could be you saying something inappropriate. Even if you find their company unbearable make it a smooth exit. Act appropriately, not overreact.
The worst date I ever had was one where I met this absolutely wonderful girl. Seriously funny. Loads in common and she was gorgeous. We'd been texting for ages and just before we met up things were starting to get sexual and it was electric. The main problem was, in my mind, this was going somewhere and when I began to flirt only to find it wasn't being reciprocated I began to feel rejected mid-way despite the evening not having finished yet. I got so entangled with the idea that this evening had to have a pre-determined outcome that my personality simply didn't come through as it did before. There was only one goal - achieve this particular scenario.
Needless to say, it didn't happen and it was too late - the screw up had already happened. Don't expect anything from your date. Go out there, enjoy their company and gauge their mood. This will come to you naturally.
So that's my personal approach to first-dating and dating in general. Be cool, take the lead and don't be afraid to have fun. It's too easy to become engrossed in dating 'success' and the second date that we all forget the fundamental reason why meet other people - to get away from our daily comfort zone and see if your company for the night is willing to join in. You don't think about work when you're intensely focussing on playing a sport, you don't think about what to have for dinner during an incredible film. Dating should be no different. Think of it like this - all you have to do is give them all of your attention for all of a few hours. Worst comes to worst, you have fun. Best outcome is a second date.
Comments, questions and critique are all welcome. Thanks for reading and happy dating!