Well, you finally got your gonads and act together and asked the one you fancy for a date. Obviously you don't know what a date is made of, do you, you little Cheeto's-fingered, smelly KFC addict. Well let us try to cover some of the basics, because we care enough about you not to want to see you slashing your wrists halfway through the day.
Understanding what a date is for will be critical to being able to navigate one successfully. As a general outline, let's say that a date has three main goals. The first is to present yourself in a favorable light. You always want to do this, even if you don't end up liking your date, since he or she might know and talk to the next person you take out. Your second goal is to judge whether or not you like the person you're on the date with. You can do this through screening with questions or simple observations. The third goal comes into play after the first two have been met. If you like the person, and he or she likes you, then your final goal is to get to know that person better in order to secure a future meeting. Keeping these goals in mind or setting different goals for yourself and keeping those in mind will make "success" more likely. After all, how can one have success without knowing what it is?
Getting your date to like you is pretty easy. He or she probably already likes you if you're on a date together. You can enhance this by living an attractive lifestyle and showing that through your actions and mannerisms. For example, being well groomed is critical. Your house should be reasonably clean. Using the excuse that you don't plan on bringing your date home doesn't get you out of this one. If you are a geeky guy, as you probably are if you're reading this, make sure that your place has a good balance of geeky and non-geeky decor. Don't try to completely hide your geeky side, since your date probably already knows about it and appreciates it. Being polite and having confident body language are things you can do to show that you are used to dealing with people. When you're sitting or standing, lean back and keep your shoulders relaxed. Keep eye contact with people you're talking to, especially your date. If you're a woman, go easy on the eye contact unless you really like the guy. For a woman, prolonged eye contact with a man is often a signal that you are attracted to him.
Screening is great because it does two things. First, it does what one could intuitively expect. It makes sure that the person being screened is someone you'd actually want to be with. The second thing it does is it shows that you are not needy. By having expectations about how a romantic partner should live and act, you show that you are willing to pass on a relationship with someone who isn't compatible with you. Desperate people take what they can get. To the women, because I might find myself on a date with you some day, I am going to say this very clearly: ALWAYS SCREEN AND DON'T BE NEEDY. BEING NEEDY IS NOT ATTRACTIVE. SCREENING IS ATTRACTIVE. I WANT YOU TO SCREEN ME. I CAN PASS IT. My favorite way to screen is through humor. Make jokes about common crazy behaviors, such as people who talk about wanting to have kids with someone on their first date, and then gauge your date's responses. If you aren't sure of your ability to do this well, skip it and do something more direct so you don't run the risk of your date misinterpreting and thinking you are crazy. Good questions are "So what do you think about people who ___?" or "Back in school, I knew this person who would always ___. I've never understood what would motivate someone to do that. What do you think?"
Happy, shiny first date endorphin highs are great, but they wear off. If you want a second date or a continuance of the first, you're going to have to get the other person comfortable with you, and you're going to have to get comfortable around that person. The best ways to do this are through actually having conversations and through touch. Conversations should cover a wide variety of topics and should be somewhat personal. Good examples of this are talking about some neutral subject and then mentioning a story from your life that relates to it. Of course, your story should show something positive about you or, at the very least, avoid showing anything negative about you. Questions are fine but should be used to get information, rather than just to keep the other person talking. Have a couple of stories or jokes in the back of your head in case the conversation starts to peter out. Never be rude to anyone you encounter while on a date. If your date is rude to people, find a way to end it quickly, even if he or she is being nice to you.
Physical touch is much more powerful than talking. It's the difference between a date and two friends getting together. There is a natural progression from "friendly" touch to "romantic" touch. Start out with friendly touch, such as high fives, hugs, linking up arms and skipping, and silly hand shakes. Get your date comfortable with physical contact by starting as soon as you can. As soon as you meet, shake hands. At the first opportunity, find an excuse to high-five your date. These sorts of things should be done every time just in case you really hit it off and decide to get more physical. Don't move onto any romantic touch unless you're sure you like your date. Romantic touch is things like holding hands, sitting with your arm around your date or your date's arm around you, and kissing. Basically, in a successful date, you will get physical contact happening as early as you possibly can. That doesn't mean kissing in the first five minutes. It just means to high five, hug, arm touch, and play with each other's hands. If you wait for too long before starting this, it feels really awkward and weird.
Ideally, you want to string several ideas together into a "date chain." The idea is that it's easier to establish a personal connection with someone by having many different experiences with him or her, even if they are compressed into a relatively small time frame. Have a vague plan in mind from the beginning to avoid "So, what do we do now?" from happening. You can always change the date chain up as the date goes on. Your goals don't have to line up with the above outline exactly. As long as you have a clear idea of what they are and how to achieve them, you will be doing better than anyone who hadn't thought about such things.
The playground is a great place to bring a date. The location lends its self well to the playful atmosphere that a date should have. Pushing each other on the swings is a good way to make a physical connection without it being weird or creepy. If you know of multiple playgrounds in the area, you can walk to each one together on one date. This allows for the date to go fairly long without getting boring, provided that you're not a boring couple. The walks between parks allow for good conversation, while the physical activities at the parks punctuate the date with some excitement. Swing sets are still as fun as you remember them being when you were a kid. This might not be a great night date, as nothing sounds more like date rape than "3 AM park meet-up."
If weather and location permit, take a date to the beach. "Long walks on the beach" may be a stupid phrase but the reality is that a long walk on the beach means one on one time for conversation without a boring, static backdrop or an obligation to spend money. If you're both geeks, which I would imagine is a pretty common scenario for WCA people, you can easily talk about subjects such as geology, marine biology, and astronomy because there are real life examples of all of those things in the immediate area. The long walk on the beach should not be overlooked just because it's a cliche.
Your city probably has a publication that lists free events in your local area. Familiarize yourself with such a publication, and you can find a lot to do. Some of them are good dates, and some are not.
Walks together are generally not dates by themselves. They can, however, be used to link multiple dates together into a chain. Walking with your date is a great time to hold hands. If you aren't comfortable holding hands yet, you can link arms.
The standard "coffee date" has been time-tested and, as of 2009, is the most popular first date. [citation] Your goal during this date is to find out if the person you're with is someone you want to see again. If it is possible, sit next to your date, rather than across the table. If you sit across the table the whole time, it could be an hour or so before the two of you make any physical contact. By then, it becomes a lot harder to initiate physical affection.
Museum dates are essentially the same as any "walking date." You can draw upon your surroundings to generate conversation if you see something you want to talk about. Link your arms together within the first few minutes. By the end, you should be holding hands if everything goes well. Walking is great for stuff like this, because it naturally makes any physical interaction more playful. You can even enhance this playfulness by skipping when your arms are linked. Museums are a classic date, and can be linked into a chain of dates very easily.
Why would you ever do this?
Restaurants do not make good first dates because they are too large an investment. I could only imagine eating at a restaurant on a first date as the result of a few hours of date chaining being done beforehand. Better alternatives are getting food to go, bringing a picnic, or picking out food at a store and cooking together. Avoid fast food.
Going to the movies on a first date is basically like saying "I would rather spend two hours watching a movie than talking to you." You can get away with it if you have a fair amount of date beforehand to get to know the person, but movie watching is basically just time filler. You might progress physically a little bit, but even that is much less than would happen doing something else. Additionally, you might start talking to the person after the movie and realize that you've been holding hands and playing with the hair of a complete doofus the whole time.
Sporting events, tech shows, lectures, or similar events, with the exception of known shared interests
The best way to share your interests and hobbies with your date is to talk about them passionately and enthusiastically. Making the date about you and your interests will kill it. Remember that the activities on a date are just a pretext to get to know the person you're on a date with.
All this "he or she" stuff aside, I know who 95% of my audience is.
Physical contact is critical to the success of a date. It's the way to avoid being friend zoned when you first meet a woman, too. As the man, you are responsible for making this happen. As a clueless man, you are wondering what "this" is, exactly. Here it is, from that first hand shake to a little past the first kiss:
- Hand shake
- High five
- Shoulder touch
- Play dancing or other silly games
- Secret handshakes
- Linking arms
- Holding hands
- Arm around the shoulder when sitting
- Long periods of eye contact
- Hair stroking
- Brief face touching
- Hair smelling
- Prolonged face touching
When you first meet your date, shake hands. High five as soon as you can. Get her used to touching you and being touched by you. The best way to get physical contact going is to play "games" that involve physical contact. It can be something as simple as looking at your watch and saying "It's 2:45. It's time to dance." and then briefly dancing with her. Any time she's laughing is an opportunity. Just try taking her hands in yours while you're both laughing. Let go after a couple seconds. After that initial awkward stage where you're both a little unsure or uncomfortable, you don't really need a pretext like that. You might not need one in the beginning either. Don't think of the above list as all-inclusive or a series of steps. It's just some examples in roughly ascending order of intimacy.
She should be very comfortable with friendly touch before you move on to romantic touch. You should also be sure that you are romantically interested in her. The way to start is to play some sort of silly game that involves holding hands. Only hold her hand for a few seconds at first, and then let go, as though you were distracted or something. You don't want to come off as desperate for human contact. It should still kind of be a situation where you can "take it or leave it." You can even move along to more intimate romantic touch just by doing it while talking about something completely unrelated. Long periods of eye contact, while not direct touch, work sort of the same way. They are also great for checking to see if she's still into what's going on.
There is a very good chance that she will reject one or more of your advances. She may do this simply to make sure that you can handle it well. The best thing to do is to be perfectly casual about it. If you're talking while you're doing it, and she stops you, just stop but keep talking like nothing is happening. If you're watching TV or something together, laugh at something on the TV right after if something funny happens. You want to seem like you're still happy. If she says something like "I don't kiss on the first date," talk about how happy you are to hear her call it a "first date" and how you look forward to the next one. While this is going on, pull away a little bit further than she pushes you away. For example, if you have your arm around her and you try to stroke her hair but she stops you, take your arm away. Don't act hurt or anything, just act like you don't even notice you're doing it. Keep smiling and having a good time.
Don't move too quickly here. You're not just going through levels in a video game. You're connecting to another human being. Although you want to have some idea of what you're doing, you should have your primary focus be on comfort. Comfort in this context means how comfortable she is with you and how comfortable you are with her. You should not do anything you aren't comfortable with or she will pick up on it and get uncomfortable. If you're not comfortable kissing on the first date, then don't. If you're not comfortable doing something on the list above for whatever reason, then don't do it. The list is just things I came up with off the top of my head in five minutes.
Here it is:
- Have her comfortable holding hands with you and sitting with your arm around her.
- Be sure you actually like her and want to see her again.
- Make sure she likes you by trying to hold eye contact with her without talking several times throughout the date. She should engage in this eye contact readily. Smile when you do this so it's not creepy.
- You should be alone together for the first kiss in most instances. Partially secluded locations are fine, as long as there aren't people actively watching. There are also plenty of exceptions to these guidelines.
- This is easiest to do sitting down on a couch next to each other. Get to this position first if you can. If not, don't stress it.
- The kiss must absolutely not be at the end of the date. I'd say it's best to do it in the first half of the first date.
For guys, the basic date "uniform" is blazer, jeans, and a nice shirt. This is great for most non-athletic, clean dates. Nice shirt means a fitted t-shirt, a nice polo, or a buttondown, open collar, untucked with no tie. If you're completely clueless, stick to this basic outline. If you know what you're doing, do what you want. Don't dress like a slob. Women screen you for this stuff. You can do everything right but if you have on a faded t-shirt and cargo shorts, you can still fail to get a second date. Make sure you are well groomed. Shave the back of your neck. Trim your fingernails. Shower the day of your date. Brush your teeth thoroughly. Wear deodorant or some equivalent. The easiest ones to miss are the back of your neck and your nails. Women don't miss them so easily, so don't forget.
Please class it up a bit if you are going on a date with me. I don't expect you to be wearing an evening gown and your family heirloom diamond earrings, but put some effort into it, ok? At the very least, it should be apparent that you knew you were going on a date. Don't wear heels. There are too many things you can't do in heels. I understand that it's impossible to find nice looking flats, and I won't hold it against you if your shoes aren't perfect. I'd rather have a good time running around and climbing on stuff with a woman in ugly shoes than stand next to a woman in heels, watching everyone else have fun. All that stuff about finger nails and deodorant applies to you, too, by the way.
- Hobbies and interests - If you are a man avoid trying to "show off" by being overly technical. If you are a woman, show off by being overly technical.
- Jokes - Tell jokes. Make them a little bit sassy. Use humor about dating to show that you are familiar with going on dates.
- Friends - Talk about things you do with friends. If you are on a date, you may need to do this just to show that you have friends.
- Anything good about yourself - Showing strength through a story takes some care so that you don't seem like you're bragging. The best way to do it is to make whatever you're trying to say about yourself a small piece of a larger, more significant story.
- Name dropping - It's like saying "Here's the name of someone who I think is astronomically more important than me."
- Bragging - Don't brag. Don't compliment yourself. If you want to say something nice about yourself, show it through your actions or hint at it as part of a story from your life.
- Politics, religion, or exes - Really, there are exceptions to all of these. I cover exes below. I usually like to make a point to talk about all three in some insignificant capacity and then make a joke about having done so.
- Complaints - Don't complain about things on a date. There are exceptions, but as a general rule, you need to have a positive attitude while on a date.
There is a fine line you must walk as someone who dates. How do you try to make the date go well without it looking like you tried as hard as you did? The trick is in what you try hard on and what you just let happen. You should not overdress. You should not have all of the logistical details of the date planned out. You should not have all your trophies and awards on display at your house. At the same time, you can work as hard as you want on cleaning your house, grooming, and practicing good body language. I think that the rule of thumb is that if it's something that will only be for the one date, it's not good to try hard. If it's something that applies to all of your dates, then you can put in a lot of effort without looking like you try too hard. Take advantage of this by putting your effort into your overall lifestyle, rather than investing too much into one date. Clean your house up, especially your bathroom. Get some candles, and get some decent music. Just imagine how much better it would be if you saw her walking into your bathroom and thought "Good, she'll see how nice it is" instead of "I hope she doesn't notice how gross it is." Work out. Learn a lot of interesting things. Put your effort into becoming a better person. If you try really hard at that, the rest of the things you aren't allowed to try hard on won't hinder you.
Mention some activity you're going to be doing later in the week. Do this early on in the date, but don't invite him or her when you do it because the date might not go well. Just mention that you are going. Later on in the date, if things are going well, bring it up again and invite your date along. Do this during the date, not at the end. The only logistical setback is that you want to have something that you're going to be doing later in the week. Fortunately, it can be just about anything; "I'm going to be visiting blah blah art museum." "I'm going to the park." You can even do it without having any real plans by saying something like "I may be going to the park on Thursday." If he or she is coming along, it's because he or she wants to be with you, not because of the activity, unless the activity is a free money giveaway with cake at the end. If it is, invite me along, too.
The alternative is that you can just call or IM to invite him or her out on another date. If you put in the effort of reading through all this, you probably kicked ass on your date and should have no problem luring your new partner in crime out again.
This section will be brief. The end of your date should be brief. Assuming it went well, you can end with a kiss good night (or good morning) and be on your way. Do not wait until the end for the first kiss, and do not wait until the end to make future plans. You should have everything taken care of during the middle of the date. Leave no loose ends to tie up at the last second.
Ending a date that's going poorly is another beast entirely. The most obvious end to a bad date is to simply suffer through the logical end (the end of dinner, the end of the movie, that sort of thing) and leave. This is probably the nicest way to do it- you can very easily suffer through the date and avoid embarrassing the person, and in very very sticky situations, avoid making a scene.