First date thinkstock 370.
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
It was a Wednesday. Ash Wednesday, to be exact. As I swung open my apartment
door, I felt mentally prepared for my date with an Irish Catholic. But in he
walked, not with the sprinkling of ash I had anticipated, but a thick, gray
cross that splayed from brow to hairline. “Is everything okay?” he said. “Yes,”
I said. But who could be sure, with this vast difference between us literally
written on his forehead? A kiss did little to detract from the awkwardness. His
eyes grew panicked, and a glimpse at my own reflection in the mirror revealed
that my forehead was now covered in ash. Had this been our first date, I would
have been scarred for life.
If you consider that your date could someday
share your bed and bank accounts, and that the way you present yourself down to
the very smallest detail becomes a representation of yourself, a first date
might sound intimidating. It’s like the SATs, when you nervously hoped to secure
a bright future—only this time you’re allowed the assistance of alcohol. A good
first date follows no formula, per se, but always leads to a second
Establish a place and a time beforehand, in a casual, light-hearted
way. Wear clothes that you feel comfortable in and, if your faith in pheromones
is anything like your faith in God, spritz a little perfume or cologne. To feel
calm and confident prior to your date, avoid tense conversations with friends,
family, and coworkers (and any horrifying thing Ben Stiller’s character did
before he took Mary out in There’s Something About Mary).
Food and love
are one and the same for many of us, but a first date need not occur in a
restaurant. If you both like baseball, see a game; or if you’re into art, go to
a gallery opening or a museum. A first date should always involve both people’s
interests. This lets you express who you are, shows what you have in common, and
eases the pressure to keep talking by supplying you with at least one
conversation topic. Do keep in mind that loud places (crowded bars, concerts)
and silent places (movie theaters, theater houses) can make for awkward first
dates because conversation is limited.
First dates are all about
conversation, so find the words that show your charisma, kindness, humor and
humility. Show curiosity in your date’s views and experiences by asking at least
three specific questions that require your date to respond with more than just a
yes or no. Avoid political banter/immature joke telling (Anthony Wiener is old
news on both fronts) along with loaded conversations like religion.
my cinder incident with the Irish Catholic, the conversation naturally barreled
ahead into the territory of religion (and then another minefield: children).
While our outlooks and expectations were surprisingly compatible, this chat
could be highly awkward on a first date (hello abortion rights activists).
Unless you’re so religious that your partner must be as well, or you’re so
opinionated on an issue that an opposing view would destroy the foundations of
your identity, spare yourself.
“Future planning conversations” seem
productive and important, but if premature, they are potentially toxic. Opinions
often change, and by stating them as facts, they take on a life of their own and
can choke a blooming relationship. Wait until you feel the person is worth the
serious conversation. If your first-time dates ever bring up a personal topic
like religion, refrain from grilling them like they’re al-Qaida and be
respectful of their beliefs. You might even say, “Let’s just take this one step
at a time.” (Anyone who doesn’t understand that isn’t worth a second date.)
Perhaps the hardest part of a first date is ending it. Do Jews go Dutch? Will
one person lean in for a kiss, or initiate a friendly hug? If in fact it’s a
kiss, do you go for the cheek or the lips? Do you nail down the details of a
second date, or merely allude to it?
With no first date Torah-equivalent, you’ll
have to do what feels appropriate in the moment, and believe that the right
person is on the same page. Sasha Ingber is a freelance writer whose work
focuses on relationships, travel and dance. She is currently a graduate student
in Johns Hopkins University’s writing program.