What are some good first date questions?
October 29, 2004 10:38 AM   Subscribe

This is for a friend, I swear!

I’ve got a big date tonight and as all of you know from being my friend, though I may be a stellar conversationalist, I don’t have a good sense of boundaries and what are appropriate 1st date questions to ask. So can you all send me a list?  It may also be helpful to give me a list of things not to say.
posted by rschroed to Human Relations (36 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Just the obvious stuff. Resist talking about yourself and get to know them. What are they like, what do they like, what do you have in common? Oh, and don't bring up your exs, and if somehow the conversation does go there, be respectful if not complimentry.
posted by mojohand at 10:54 AM on October 29, 2004

A female friend of mine recently recounted to me a date she had in which, after the small talk had been accomplished, her date started asking her about which sex positions she liked.

That would be a thing not to say.

Another thing not to say would be "there doesn't seem to be much for us to talk about, why don't we skip this part and just go right to bed?" Same friend, different date.
posted by kindall at 10:55 AM on October 29, 2004

"Tell me your life story". Sit back, ask pertinent questions. Be interested. If she/he gets flustered, ask how their parents met, where'd they go to school, first job, etc.
Seriously, this works, in the biblical sense.
85% of being a good conversationalist is knowing to listen.
Especially if it's a she. Chicks dig being listened to.
Ask about his/her exes, as this will bring romance/sex to their minds.
posted by signal at 10:59 AM on October 29, 2004

"When, where, with whom and how was your first kiss / fuck" is good, too.
posted by signal at 11:07 AM on October 29, 2004

Ask about his/her exes, as this will bring romance/sex to their minds.
"When, where, with whom and how was your first kiss / fuck" is good, too.

Oh, no, signal. No no no. Unless you want the first date to be the last date, too.

During a first date you're supposed to go along with the polite fiction that your previous lovelife is unimportant. If the relationship lasts, there's plenty of time to go there. You don't need to know it all on the first date -- I know I wouldn't to.

Also, keep away from politics or religion as topics unless you can be reasonably sure that her views are in line with yours (OR if you can discuss without arguing).
posted by contessa at 11:25 AM on October 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

I would caution you about being too careful though. If you're so worried and have a list of questions and no-no's, you're not going to be yourself. This is bad for two reasons:

1. She won't like it because you seem unsure of yourself, you seem a little strange cuz you're tryign to be someone you're not.
2. She WILL like you and then when the real you comes out, it will be confusing and she may not like it.

So, don't ask her ANY questions about boyfriends, sex, politics, her 'history' in the carnal sense. Ask questions about what she likes to do. Hike? Travel? What are her interests? Did she grow up around here? Does she have any siblings? Did she get along with them growing up? Does she like sports? And the most important thing is to LISTEN. Try not to talk too much about yourself unless she asks. (I mean, I a little is good, but don't talk the whole time!)

But try to be comfortable in your own skin and trust yourself or that will be the biggest turn-off in the world-much more so than asking "Shall I call or nudge you in the morning?"
posted by aacheson at 11:40 AM on October 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

I find random questions that poke fun at the mechanism of dating itself work very well. Obviously, everyone asks bio questions: "Tell me about your childhood." So if you want to inject humor, I always find it handy to ask questions such as "Name your top 5 favorite colors", or "when did you have you first traffic accident?" It might lighten up the evening, and if it doesn't ... he/she probably isn't that interesting anyway.

Also, remember that on a date, the words you say are relatively unimportant. It's like politics - you want to work real hard at not saying the WRONG things. But there's plenty of right things to say. Just as important is body language, eye contact (or staring at a plate or a fork during a dinner date if there's been too much eye contact) and the tone you use when you're speaking.

Definitely don't ask about exes. Those are a second-date thing or much later. If you can comfortably talk about exes, you probably have already got this one hooked, but there's plenty of ones who might be scared away by that topic of conversation. And it has a tendency to make people appear broken and undesirable.
posted by Happydaz at 11:43 AM on October 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Ack!! No, signal! Never ever ask about ex's on a first date. It looks like you're trying to figure out whether they've slept with more people then you, rather than get to know them. Maybe this is just me, but ex's definately don't bring romance/sex to my mind, maybe they bring a funny story about something stupid that happened to me, but they're my ex for a reason, and I am dating someone new for a reason. I want to know about this new person, not rehash the old person. I also definitely don't want to hear ANYTHING about your ex either.

First kiss discussions are "okay," first fuck?! Geez. I don't know how fast you want to ruin the evening but "How did you lose your virginity?" is a great way to start. You've just met this person, keep that in mind. It's great to be open and interested, but there IS such a thing as too personal at this state in the game. Sex is not a topic that many people want to discuss in a public setting with a near stranger, it's pillow talk.

I agree that asking questions is better than talking about yourself the whole night, although ask questions you have decent answers to yourself, in case they turn want to turn it back on you. The point is not to bowl them over with your knowledge and wit, but to listen and get a feel for whether this is a person you want to go on a second date with.

In pursuit of that, ask lots of questions on lots of topics, especially if it's something you are interested in. Music, movies, books, anything cultural is an excellent way to get a conversation going, everyone at least has an opinion. I also find just about anyone loves to talk about the TV shows and toys and games that were big when they were kids. It's a very easy place to find common ground (as long as they are around the same age).
posted by nelleish at 11:52 AM on October 29, 2004

Well, not to completely disagree with everyone else here but: A first date should NOT be comfortable or safe or smooth. It should be tense, fraught with peril and sexy. Learn how to work with uncomfortable silences. Ask pointed questions. Smile mysteriously.
Or just do what everyone else does and hope she/he likes your car/tie/table manners.
posted by signal at 12:05 PM on October 29, 2004

signal: the 'tell me your life story' line is so old and corny, and is one of the lamest, and most uncreative lines to lay on someone. Please don't ever use this; it's such a turn off. And the first kiss/first fuck stuff is way too advanced and pushy for a first date. It's almost creepy.

You have to treat a first date with a healthy dose of anonymity, because (worst case scenario) you may come to hate this person by the end of the first date. At that point, it's too late to take back telling this guy that you like to drip hot wax on your nipples and sprinkle them with glitter. Unless your on an episode of ‘blind date’, here are the general (if boring) guidelines:

Yes (safe topics): hobbies, family, travel, sports, books, films, theater, music, television, internets, and education.

No (danger): religion, politics, sex, drug use, masturbation, suicidal tendencies, fetishes, etc...
posted by naxosaxur at 12:15 PM on October 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Get drunk and describe your most awkward sexual experience in detail. Then maybe pass out without any pants on. Works every time.
posted by cmonkey at 12:18 PM on October 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

There are two criteria for great date questions:

1. You have a great answer to the question yourself.
2. The answer to the question matters to you, but is not one on which you hold very serious and strong beliefs.

The first test is important, because no matter how many people issue forth with the annoyingly condescending advice that 'girls love to talk about themselves', what matters is conversation, which is about two people talking, not one (that's a speech). So, ask questions that you have interesting answers for, but don't then be looking for the first possible opportunity to drop your interesting answer into the conversation. Just know that as the topic evolves, you'll have things to add to it.

The second test is important because the questions you ask reflect what you think is interesting, and give you an opportunity to get answers that will help you connect with the person. At the same time, you don't want to be passing judgment on your date's stand on abortion over appetizers, it really kills any possibility of a connection. In general, most questions about divisive political issues are going to fail this test.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:22 PM on October 29, 2004 [6 favorites]

jacquilynne has nailed it. Heed her words.
posted by contessa at 12:32 PM on October 29, 2004

Signal, I actually agree with your follow-up comment, but what you're talking about takes a certain amount of confidence and experience. Someone's who asking "What do I talk about on a first date" probably doesn't have the flair to pull off what you're suggesting without sounding like a total creep.
posted by occhiblu at 12:34 PM on October 29, 2004

This doesn't deal with questions but it is an important aside. Do NOT drink the entire bottle of wine (because you ordered it before you found out she doesn't drink) and then heckle the comedians. This really makes a bad first impression...I can tell you from experience because....a...ahh, friend told me.
posted by m@ at 12:41 PM on October 29, 2004

It depends on who you're dating. If I went out with someone who followed the above advice, I would likely be bored to death. I want to talk about drugs and masturbation, and to know you can have a big heated argument and still feel tender. Which is to say, it just depends on what both of you are looking for. Generally, I'd say be yourself because that's what you want someone to fall in love with anyway. And if yourself is over-the-top or less bound, you might as well be clear about it upfront. There's nothing worse than finding out someone isn't who they pretended to be--and you always find out.
posted by dame at 12:47 PM on October 29, 2004

Whatever route you go (tame/safe or cheeky/fun), please remember to post a follow up on how it went.
posted by signal at 12:56 PM on October 29, 2004

cmonkey has nailed it. Heed his words.
posted by mkultra at 1:02 PM on October 29, 2004

What jacquilynne said is more likely to work for a larger number of people. (I especially like what she said about having a good answer to questions yourself!)

I disagree with signal's polarization of the options. Rather than "tame/safe" and "cheeky/fun", I would describe them as "polite/fun" and "in your face/fun".

If you're an "in your face" kind of person, pretending to be reserved and polite is probably not a good idea on the first date, because the whole point of a first date is seeing how well you and the date interact.

On the other hand, if you're a reserved and polite person, pretending to be "in your face" is certain to be an utter disaster.

Be yourself, but yourself at your best. Though it has been a long time since I dated, my memories of interesting first date conversations were the stories people told about their families, friends, pets, and ridiculous teachers in high school and college. And I remember fun conversations about annoying co-workers, mildly embarrassing things they (and I) did, their (and my) favorite books/music/movies/television shows/games, what we wanted to be "when we grew up" as kids, and how our careers today just don't live up to that imaginary cowboy/ballerina/movie star/firefighter life we imagined, where we would travel in the world if money and time were no object, who would win if Spiderman and Batman were to fight, what kind of a job we would want if the Job Fairy waved his/her magic wand and we could be popped into it instantaneously, what we like to cook and past cooking triumphs and disasters, the kind of car we're currently driving and past driving triumphs and disasters, the kind of restaurants where we like to eat, the kind of bars where we like to drink, the sports we play and/or follow, etc., etc.

One question I often ask at parties is "If you were stranded on 'Gilligan's Island', who would you want to sleep with? And who would you eat first when the food ran out?"

A) The Professor and MaryAnn
B) Lovie Howell. Now, see, you might say "Skipper" because he's really, really big, but he's had a hard life and he's clearly an alcoholic, so that meat's going to be sour. Lovie Howell, on the other hand, is plump and delicate and never worked a day in her life or walked when she could take a limo--and that's good eatin'!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:34 PM on October 29, 2004 [2 favorites]

what are appropriate 1st date questions to ask.
What are you looking for that quizzing your date is needed? Because a good conversation is like a fun date, sharing openly, not making one feel like one is under the light -just about them. For example, you may bring up a recent event you did then let her (do we know the opposite sex) tell one of hers which will hopefully spark many other conversations. If this date is “big”, you may want to go exercise beforehand so you will release some of your nervousness that you are showing in your question. This may make you more relaxed w/o alcohol doing the trick. Honestly when I’m on a date and I’m being questioned - I feel like I’m dating my mom; Thom, did you make sure to wear clean underwear & open the doors. Plus, do you want the start of your conversations’ sentence’s to end with a “?” . Like how did this date go?, will she call me again?
posted by thomcatspike at 1:45 PM on October 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

conversations’ sentences
posted by thomcatspike at 1:47 PM on October 29, 2004

1. You have a great answer to the question yourself.
2. The answer to the question matters to you, but is not one on which you hold very serious and strong beliefs.

I like those. On the other hand (there's always another hand), I found that if my enthusiasm about a subject was off-putting to a woman, then we probably weren't terribly compatible. Sure, I could get through a date restraining myself, but the relationship wouldn't last. I tend to value enthusiasm over 1-to-1 compatibility, so I always tried to find out what the woman was enthusiastic about, and talk about that. If I didn't share the enthusiasm, I at least tried to convey that I found the enthusiasm, in and of itself, attractive. You definitely want to find out if there are any red flags. Never ignore a red flag. Never ignore a red flag.

And if she asks you a question, answer it, then throw in a "And what about you?" Chances are, if she wants to know fact a about you, it's because fact a is important to her, and she'd like to talk about it. Always remember to throw in the "And what about you?"

I disagree a little on the "Do NOT drink the entire bottle of wine" statement. A little. If you're the type who will or can drink an entire bottle of wine by yourself, you likely won't get along long term with someone who won't or can't. It's a little thing, but in my dating days I found I wasn't compatible with non- or light-drinkers.

Notice little things. Comment on her earrings--she chose them especially for this date, so maybe there's an interesting story there.

Don't talk about exes, if you can avoid it. But you can't always avoid it, so keep your comments brief and non-specific, but positive.

One of my favorite strategies was to not order dessert at the restaurant, but suggest going elsewhere for it. If she takes you up on it, it means she's not afraid to extend the date. If she offers you a lick of her ice-cream cone, you're golden.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:48 PM on October 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

You probably don't want to ask these questions directly, but you do (especially if you're me) want to find a way to sneakily get the answers.

The Dobbs Dating Litmus Test

1. What's the compliment you get paid most often that you don't actually agree with? What about insult?
2. Cake or Pie?
3. Fill in the blank: The best record label in the world is ______ !
4. When's the last time you a) bust a gut laughing b) wept, and why?
5. What's your poison?
6. Would you describe yourself as a punctual person?
7. In what ways, if any, are you a geek?
8. Do you believe in ghosts? If so, can you give me an example from your own life which validates your answer or are you just hedging your bets?
9. The most embarassing joke/con/prank/whatever that you've ever fallen for.
10. Fill in the blank: _____ is for cowards!
11. Favorite and least favorite aspect of yourself (either physical or mental)?
12. Under what circumstances could you see yourself falliing for a guy with a tattoo of a hot dog on his ass, complete with squiggly lines to represent steam?
13. What's your favorite kind of cheese?
14. Do you like or dislike it when your parents like your boy/girlfriend?
15. Which book have you read the most times? Which movie have you seen the most?
16. Can you do a cartwheel?
17. When was the last time you walked barefoot, not on a beach?
18. When looking for a new apartment, which is most important: closet space, water pressure, tub AND shower, cool area, size. Pick two.
19. Have you ever been compelled to tell a stranger (not in a bar) what you think of them?
20. What's something you refuse to put in your mouth?
posted by dobbs at 1:49 PM on October 29, 2004 [5 favorites]

(Oh, and if you get all the above info and the date's still going--which means it's going GREAT!--soome other things of interest: author you've read the most books by by choice (as opposed to for school or work); favorite word that begins with S; if given the choice, would you prefer to run you finger along glass, sandpaper, or cork?; last joke you cracked about yourself?; are you a dog or cat person?; how big's your bed?; and of course, what's the perfect breakfast?)
posted by dobbs at 2:03 PM on October 29, 2004

"If you had to dispose of a body, how would you do it?"
posted by majcher at 2:06 PM on October 29, 2004

jesus. there's a lot of rules to this crap.

i guess i better start looking into mail-ordering myself a bride.

seriously, though -- where'd you folks get the handbook? experience? things you like? i can only imagine there's some awesome "worst date ever" stories out there.

for what it's worth, i usually talk about how much of a slut i am.

it's seriously like colt 45.
posted by fishfucker at 2:06 PM on October 29, 2004

Favorite/least favorite food--that's a winner. If she doesn't care, then you know a lot about her right there. If she does care, then that's a great topic, one on which you both can show enthusiasm without getting controversial. Plus, it can segue into all sorts of other things, like travel, cultural stuff, places you've lived, all that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:19 PM on October 29, 2004 [2 favorites]

[left this part out above where I gave an example that may lead to other conversations]
what are appropriate 1st date questions to ask.
None, unless you're looking for marriage from her. This is what she may feel if you ask too much...
posted by thomcatspike at 2:31 PM on October 29, 2004

My only early date advice is to try to plan the date in a way that might relieve some of the tension you have. This might mean doing something fun and different, or going someplace familiar or even just having a favorite cd on in the car. Your friend obviously has some concern, to be asking for advice on these matters, so minor relaxations might be useful.

Also, no drinks that are lar
posted by mosch at 2:59 PM on October 29, 2004

I always find it handy to ask questions such as "Name your top 5 favorite colors", or "when did you have you first traffic accident?"

I take my dating advice from Space Ghost. More than once I've asked a woman, "So, tell me, [date's name], do you like.... croutons?" (It's from the show in which he interviewed Donny Osmond. For some reason, it's always stuck in my head.)

It works pretty well for weeding out people who wouldn't get my often-random sense of humor and who would therefore be a drag. Remember, this is as much you interviewing her as vice versa.
posted by kindall at 3:11 PM on October 29, 2004 [2 favorites]

kindall, shouldn't you just address your dates as "citizen"?
posted by kenko at 3:15 PM on October 29, 2004

I know that's a joke, but taking it seriously, no, I think that would be crossing the line from wacky to weird, and scare off far too many women.
posted by kindall at 4:14 PM on October 29, 2004

The research suggests that people form their first impressions within about 10 seconds, and that it's usually some kind of non-verbal signaling that goes on. Awful, yeah?

So that first impression is your starting point, and that's what you and your date will be seeking to adjust. I think non-verbal things are more important than what you say. Be kind and look out for her - offer to get her a drink - adjust your distance to be comfortable - watch out for your space and hers - lean forward to indicate interest - try to have at least some activity where you're both facing the same direction, so you can be physically close without the intensity of eye contact - smile
posted by jasper411 at 4:35 PM on October 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Don't order the fois gras. Don't anyway, but you know - just in case.
posted by ed\26h at 8:31 AM on October 30, 2004

So, how'd it go? Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by signal at 5:51 AM on October 31, 2004

Under what circumstances could you see yourself falliing for a guy with a tattoo of a hot dog on his ass, complete with squiggly lines to represent steam?

dobbs: is this something everyone needs to know of the person sitting across from them, or is it particularly important to you ... for some reason?
posted by louigi at 12:17 PM on October 31, 2004 [1 favorite]

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