How to get past the nervousness and have fun?
May 28, 2010 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Good suggestions for calming first-date nerves?

We met online and have been trading daily e-mails for a little over three weeks now. I imagine a lot of people say this during the early stages of a relationship, but this is...amazing. I've met several girls in a similar fashion over the past few years - most experiences were disappointing, a couple went reasonably well, but not this - this time the e-mails go on and on, there's never the slightest hint of awkwardness, we're both very much engaged in the back-and-forth, and there's no flaws that I can detect. The whole thing just seems to be blossoming quickly and naturally without any effort on my part, if that makes any sense.

So what's the issue, you ask? We're finally meeting in person tomorrow night and while I'm excited, I'm also rather worried that I'll screw this up somehow. Despite writing rather eloquent e-mails (something I tend to get a lot of praise for, and I'm sure part of what this girl was drawn to), I'm actually quite shy and reserved in person - to the point of being downright awkward at times. I also have to admit that I'm nervous because I'm not really sure what constitutes "normal" first-date behaviour - or if there even is a "normal" first date. In case you can't tell, I unfortunately do not have a lot of dating experience to draw on.

So tell me MeFites, how do you handle first-date nerves? Any suggestions for first-date do's or don'ts (besides the obvious: dress nicely, be on time, pay attention to your date, etc) - maybe some simple suggestions to put me in a more fun and enjoyable frame-of-mind? Thanks in advance for any ideas or suggestions...
posted by photo guy to Human Relations (28 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
It's OK to be a bit awkward. It's usually endearing, actually.
posted by NoraReed at 8:26 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

A glass of wine.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:28 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been in a similar situation, only for "three weeks" insert "six months", and to "daily emails" add "daily three-hour phonecalls." Like you, I'm shy in person, and at that time had very little dating experience. When we first met face-to-face it was inevitably weird, but with the level of attraction and investment involved, that weirdness was more exciting and uncanny than awkward. Or perhaps it's better to say that even the awkwardness was charged with attraction and fascination.

I think that with things being as you described--you're really hitting it off in writing and it's been almost a month of this--it's going to go fine. If you're shy in person, she already knows what's behind that, and she's already invested in getting to know you better. So: some nervousness is bound to be there, but resist conceptualizing it as a disaster in a high stakes contest. You're already in a relationship--it doesn't hinge on how suave you are tomorrow.
posted by Beardman at 8:29 AM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Advice really varies based on what you're planning on doing. I went on a first date once that went fine, but at the end of it, he didn't walk me back to my car. We were coming out of the mall after having seen a movie. It was dark. He and I were parked in completely different directions. And he didn't walk me to my car. The date had gone fine until then, but that one non-action meant no second date. Ever.

So, be a gentleman. Chivalry isn't dead.
posted by litnerd at 8:33 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Look, we're both probably pretty nervous about this, so why don't we agree right now that, no matter what happens, we're going to talk to each other tomorrow?"
posted by Etrigan at 8:35 AM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ha! This is exactly where I was when I met my current SO. Met online, traded long, wordy emails, had 2 marathon phone conversations, then finally met in person. And I did it sober - my first time going on a date sober. Ever.

You will know in the first 5 minutes whether it's going to go smoothly or be an awkward evening.

My advice: Stay away from controversial topics. Don't talk about previous dating disasters. Don't drink too much. Be a gentleman. Listen and respond to let her know you're hearing. Be a little self-deprecating (but not too much). Be confident but not arrogant (there is a difference). Don't brag.

The fact that you are asking for advice here is a good sign, and that you are a good guy who cares enough to make a good impression. Have a great time and understand that you're not deciding on marriage tonight!
posted by mnb64 at 8:46 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

i love it when my date is a bit awkward... it makes me feel like we have even MORE in common! <3 try to relax, knowing that awkwardness is often an asset! :)
posted by crawfo at 8:48 AM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I met my husband that way, only we'd been corresponding for three months. Our first real-life encounter, at the airport, was just like Beardman said, more uncanny and exciting than awkward. We just stood there hugging for an hour and smiling from ear to ear, till we felt the need to move and talk. It was beautiful and I wish the same to you.
posted by Dragonness at 8:48 AM on May 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

1. Remember that while you know you're different to your online persona, everyone is to an extent. And while you might see yourself as more outgoing via email, you are still the person that wrote them.

2. Be open about your feelings and explain that you feel slightly nervous and may take a while to settle into the flow of things in a real life setting. Don't try and mask it by affecting abnormal behaviours that aren't reflective of who you are. Your date will likely be in the same boat, to some extent. Etrigan's advice is good.

3. Remember that this isn't an audition where you fail the test and everything crashes down. Some awkwardness is perfectly normal in a situation like this and your date will understand that moving from online to real life is something that often takes more than one meeting.
posted by fire&wings at 8:49 AM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

This old thread might be useful. I especially like this long comment that debunks various notions about how to act on a first date, e.g. avoiding controversial topics.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:54 AM on May 28, 2010

Rub one out before the date, and have a shot. Then brush your teeth.
posted by notsnot at 9:02 AM on May 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

I'm also rather worried that I'll screw this up somehow.

Believe me, so is she. Would you cut her slack if she said something and felt really self-conscious about it? I bet you would. I bet she would do the same for you if the rapport is is great as you say it is.

If you're a drinker and will be drinking on the date (and don't have to drive) have just a bit of liquor/wine/beer. Just enough to get you into pre-buzzed mode. It'll loosen your tongue and make you less self-conscious. Plus if you're drinking on your date, you won't get shaken going from Sober to Not Sober. Just brush your teeth before you leave.

Unless she brings it up, don't mention previous dates, previous girlfriends, previous relationships.
posted by griphus at 9:05 AM on May 28, 2010

"...have just a bit of liquor/wine/beer beforehand."
posted by griphus at 9:06 AM on May 28, 2010

Go for a run or workout at the gym before your date.
posted by special-k at 9:18 AM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd also like to add that you shouldn't set the bar too high for this first date. Exchanging amazing emails doesn't always translate to chemistry in real life. Be prepared for that. I've dated a ton on OKC and I have experienced this first hand.

I take a different approach to online dating now. After a few email exchanges (a point where we find each other interesting but haven't invested too much), I suggest a meeting. That way if there is chemistry IRL, then great. If not, we both know early enough that we can just move on.
posted by special-k at 9:22 AM on May 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'd also like to add that you shouldn't set the bar too high for this first date. Exchanging amazing emails doesn't always translate to chemistry in real life. Be prepared for that. I've dated a ton on OKC and I have experienced this first hand.

As have I, multiple times...and I'm all too aware that my little fantasy could once again come crashing down once we meet for real. If it happens, it happens - but I would rather focus on the positive until I have reason to think otherwise.
posted by photo guy at 9:30 AM on May 28, 2010

Great attitude there, photo guy. I wish you well.
posted by special-k at 9:34 AM on May 28, 2010

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that a first real life date is about seeing what the other person is like offline. So just be yourself and look at it as a way to get to know her better and see if something clicks. If you just focus on that and try to have fun with it that should help you be less nervous.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:49 AM on May 28, 2010

I think I saw some advice that I thought was pretty good about internet dating. That first date is really a zero date. It's where you see if things are going to click in real life. In person is just like nothing else. So, see it less as a first date (OMG! This could be the one! Forever!) and more like a preamble to either an actual first date or a nice but platonic friendship. Good luck!
posted by amanda at 10:16 AM on May 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Rub one out before the date, and have a shot. Then brush your teeth.

And wash your hands.

(Sorry, I know I can't be the only one who thought of that...)
posted by aquafortis at 10:57 AM on May 28, 2010

I used to be an online dating regular (now settled down).

For blind/online dating, the "first date" is not really a first date. It is a meeting to confirm that you're not a psycho, that your photo is real, and that everything you claimed is true. If you hit it off, great, but the expectation should not be for instant chemistry.

If you tactfully state this to each other before meeting, it goes a long way in reducing the jitters.

The "second date" is the true first date where you figure out iff your online chemistry translates into real-world chemistry.
posted by randomstriker at 11:22 AM on May 28, 2010

The purpose of the first date is to see if you want a second one, and to find out if this person is who they present as online.

Try not to think of the date as some kind of test that you'll "screw up somehow", as you say. Your date is finding out about you, you're finding out about her and ideally in the interim you'll have fun. If it works out, great, if not, you'll still have had a pleasant afternoon. Don't think of it as anything future/forward looking.

Like special-k, this is why I favour meeting someone in person earlier rather than later.
posted by Kurichina at 1:26 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I went on an online date recently. I freaked out and calmed down multiple times before the event itself. And I'm a lot like what you describe - shy and sometimes awkward even. Mind you, this was my first date after the end of my 16-year marriage. Of course I was terrified/excited/clueless.

It was brunch, followed by a long walk, hanging out at a park, and getting ice cream. In other words, it was awesome. As far as nerves, they pretty much vanished the moment we met and we started talking. It's a first meeting - it is a little weird and awkward. You can talk about it if it helps - as for me, I just jumped in and it was effortless.

There ended up not being a second date - because she made it official with someone else, not because of anything I did. Yeah, that sucked.

So don't make the stakes so high. Enjoy what happens as it happens. It'll be great, trust me. As for nerves - well, I find it better to just accept it than try to fight it or talk myself out of it.
posted by O9scar at 1:53 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

This happened to me almost EXACTLY 6 years ago to the day.

I went on a lot of dates in the past, but this one made me nervous because I actually enjoyed her personality before going on a date with her.

She was going to come to my apt since I was close to the bar area @ 1900.

I had a jack and coke before the date (1830) to calm my nerves. Then I had another @ 1845 since I finished the first kinda quick and didn't have anything to do for the next 15 minutes.

This one was slower; I finished it @ 1901. I realized she wasn't here nervous and had a third which I finished in 3 minutes.

So there was a knock on the door @ 1905. I opened it up, and she gave me a hug as I was extending my hand (I felt like such a boner). The only surefire way to recover from that was to say "I'm kinda drunk" (yeah...what a catch).

She looked me up and down, stepped in, and said "Well you better fix me something because I'm not even close".

Fixed her a drink, went to the bathroom to regain my composure, came back out in 90 seconds, and she was DONE with the jack and coke.

Married her.

Later on, I found out that she had found my apartment earlier...but got kinda nervous so decided to circle the block a few times as to not show up really early.

So the moral of the story is...don't worry...she's nervous too...and my life is awesome.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:44 PM on May 28, 2010 [17 favorites]

If anyone's still following this, I just got back rather confused. The night didn't start out that well; she got lost and showed up to the meeting spot over an hour late - then couldn't figure out my instructions on where we should meet - lost another hour trying to track her down. We did have a really animated, enjoyable conversation during the subway ride into town, which was something. Wandered around a bit, got some coffee and talked some more, then went to the concert I had picked out. Turns out she wasn't crazy about the place, conversation dwindled, we finally left after an hour or two and grabbed a taxi home.

That's when the problems started. She had come in from out-of-town to visit and needed a place to stay. I knew this beforehand and went out of my way to do research for her - turns out she didn't bother to contact the hotels I had suggested and had no clue where they were (which was honestly a little irritating). Being concerned for her welfare, I spent over an hour walking the streets trying to help her find a place to stay. After we finally found a place, we parted with a semi-awkward "goodbye" and that was that - not even a "thank you" :( I asked her to at least e-mail me when she gets home safely, but I'm not holding my breath on that.

Despite the less-than-ideal night, I still like this girl - she's extremely attractive, witty, and obviously very intelligent. However, I have no idea if the interest is mutual. She made a lot of inquiries about me personally - but so do most of my friends, she kept talking about her good friend (who's a guy) being concerned for her welfare, she brought up her ex-boyfriend at least once, and she really seemed detached the last hour or two of the night. I think the detachment at least could be attributed to simple exhaustion - she had a busy day and explicitly said that she was pretty tired when we parted ways.

At this point...I just don't know. She seemed engaged, but the last hour or two I was starting to wonder about that. Plus, the whole unorganized thing was rather annoying...why on earth would you not even bother to reserve a hotel room before visiting a strange city? Still, I would really like to give this another shot...unfortunately she lives nearly two hours away, which only makes things harder....

Sorry for the long follow-up - I just have a lot on my mind right now
posted by photo guy at 10:30 AM on May 29, 2010

Hmm. Too bad it went weirdly. I think you're right to suspend judgment about what her impressions were (though yes, the disorganization thing would be irksome). Keep writing and good luck. Pretty soon you should figure out where things stand.
posted by Beardman at 4:10 PM on May 29, 2010

Thanks for the reply Beardman. I'd be willing to overlook the disorganization thing (we all have flaws, after all), but if she's not truly interested in me...there's nothing I can do about that. I just wish that I could meet someone who actually wants to listen to me for a change. I think I do everything right - yet every girl I've ever met through online dating seems to lose interest as soon as it goes offline.

Given that, plus the incredible difficulty of getting dates here (I'm an American living overseas at the moment) - I'm honestly tempted to give up on it and just focus my energies elsewhere. I really want to date, but this process is starting to get a little too emotionally draining for me.
posted by photo guy at 7:18 PM on May 29, 2010

The date started badly, for reasons that were outside either of your control. When you start a symphony with a crashingly bad note, odds are the whole orchestra is going to sound off for the rest of the night. Per advice above, this was a "zeroth" date anyway -- an amusing story you'll tell the grandkids. Don't cut off the contact because of this. Maybe you need to ease back into the online part of the relationship. Now that you know what each other are like in bad situations, you can work on the good ones.
posted by Etrigan at 6:04 AM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

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