First date advice for a
June 10, 2006 12:00 PM   Subscribe

First date: I'm going to call the nice young lady I met during jury duty and I have a couple dating questions. I like to think I'm nice but I'm not flirtatious or otherwise outgoing. I think I'll come across as uninterested on the date (and I'm afraid that I already have in our previous contact).

I have a flat personality, "shy" or "reserved" if I'm lenient but maybe "repressed" would be more accurate. And I have absolutely no idea how to adapt it. So far, I've behaved with her exactly as I would with any of my friends whether they're men or women. I asked for her number but aside from that I'm sure that I come across as uninterested and without some guidance that won't change. Somehow, most people can convey their attraction with behavior, with body language and with facial expressions. Things like reaching for her hand or a peck on the cheek, even incidental contact like bumping her elbow or standing or sitting close to or leaning towards her. I wouldn't casually and naturally do any of these things on a first date. Or a fifth date, which I've never had. Is there anything I can do to help with this? Something that might offer hope by next weekend?

Anyway, if you'll let me slide in a couple followups: What do people, both the normal and the socially impaired, do on first dates? Is the activity supposed to be interesting or just an excuse to meet? Should we be doing something, watching something or doing nothing (else, ie. dinner)? Should I have a plan when I call?

What do people talk about on first dates? Personal things (fears, hopes, dreams...) or data (siblings, career, hobbies)? I would like to have some personal anecdotes but I'm stumped. Maybe one of yours will jog my memory.
posted by stuart_s to Human Relations (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I think the most simple way to convey that you're interested is with your eyes and your smile. If you're socially shy, I wouldn't worry about physical gestures; if they're not natural they will serve to hinder you instead of help. If you want to hold her hand, hold her hand, but it seems you'd be better served by holding interesting conversations and letting her know you're interested by your attentiveness (don't overdo it, though.)

When choosing a place to take this girl, you might try to select somewhere with a lot of ambience. Perhaps a trendy brewpub ... somewhere where enough stuff is going on that you'll be comfortable during silences and not feel the need to talk just to fill the space. You might also want to come up with an idea with what to do after dinner ... if you have a hobby, such as wine collecting or taking your dog to the park or dancing or what have you, that would make a great followup because you'll already be in your element and confident.

As far as what to talk about, I recall seeing some pretty good answers here on AskMe in the past; you might want to search the archives. One great piece of advice I heard is to not talk about politics or religion on the first date. Talking about occupations, hobbies, etc is always an OK place to go, although it can get boring. Was the jury duty interesting? Worth talking about further as a conversation starter?
posted by Happydaz at 12:12 PM on June 10, 2006

Have a plan when you call. It a confidence indicator, and since you initiated "first contact", it's generally better to make it worth her while. Sitting on the phone saying "What do you want to do?", "I dunno, what do you want to do?" is not a good way to start a first date. Leave that until later on. ;)

I would recommend some of the staples of first dates. Dinner, movies, a few drinks on a patio, walk on the beach/in the park etc. They're popular because they work. It is an excuse to meet, and conversation may or may not be stunted (depending on where you go and your personalities). My recommendation for stimulating conversation is to ask her a lot of questions. Your "reserved" nature will come off a little bit better if she thinks you're just listening (make sure you actually listen!) and contribute to the conversation when or if she hints at a common ground area, then just follow the tangents.

Final bit of advice, relex. First dates are supposed to be fun and awkward (most of the time). It's part of the charm! If you relax, some of the more helpful gestures that you mentioned in your post should be natural reactions and nothing forced. Be confident, relax, and simply have fun.
posted by purephase at 12:14 PM on June 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Try something fun and outdoorsy - a hike, roller blading or mountain biking. Be relaxed and treat her as you would your best buddy (without the male potty humour). Finish up with a dinner where you'll both be pleasantly tired from your day. Good conversation will be sure to follow.

Avoid the deep questions on the first date and try to keep the conversation light and entertaining. Make sure you actively listen to what she is saying, being sure to make eye contact, smiling and nodding so she knows you're interested in her as a person.

The goal is for her to call her friends afterwards and say she had fun. Good luck!
posted by TorontoSandy at 12:22 PM on June 10, 2006

Dude, you want to come off as unintrested.

What you don't want to be is boring of course.
posted by delmoi at 12:30 PM on June 10, 2006

Don't listen to delmoi. At least not the first thing he said. Appear interested - not overeager or desperate - but definitely appear interested. Ask her questions about herself. Get her to talk. It takes the focus off your shy self. Once she's answered a question, then you can answer it, as well, having had time to think of something to say.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:05 PM on June 10, 2006

Some of the best dates I've gone on have consisted of nothing more than sitting around at a coffee shop. Likewise some of the worst. If you can think of a particular activity that provides opportunity (or better yet, fodder) for conversation, do that. Otherwise, I recommend something low-key. What do people talk about? Whatever. Don't try to be interesting. Do try to be interested.

Some physical contact, even if nothing more than touching her shoulder to get her attention, is important (this is direct advice from a female friend).

Not every date with every woman will go well. This isn't necessarily a reflection on you (although if you rack up enough bad ones, maybe that's a sign), but simply indicates that maybe there's no chemistry there. It's nobody's fault, and it means you shouldn't invest too much importance in any one date (which I think is what tends to undermine many people who are socially awkward, myself included).
posted by adamrice at 1:25 PM on June 10, 2006

What I mean is, you want to come off as though you're enjoying yourself and having fun, but you don't want it to appear as though this is a big deal for you.
posted by delmoi at 1:27 PM on June 10, 2006

When she is talking make sure you are looking into her eyes. Don't stare, but look into her eyes. I read that somewhere and I thought it was bullshit, but I tried it anyway and I was blown away how effective it was. I remember the first time I tried it, this girl just got totally fascinated with me and my much better looking guy buddy who normally got all the girls was asking me what my secret was.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:33 PM on June 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Dittoing Ironmouth. Don't make it a staring contest, but hold eye contact for much longer than you might with a non-date. That can be especially good during silences, actually; just look into her eyes for a count of three or so and then give a friendly smile.

I've also heard that one can do the eye-contact triangle -- flick your eyes between each of her eyes and her mouth a couple times -- you see actors do it on close-ups right before they're about to kiss each other, and it definitely increases the sexual tension without being particularly noticeable in and of itself. I've never felt particularly comfortable doing it, but it's something you may want to play with.
posted by occhiblu at 1:40 PM on June 10, 2006

delmoi is absolutely right. The fact that you're calling her and asking her out is itself an overt sign of interest. I'm not saying that you should ignore her, but as first dates go, the girl asking herself how interested you really are can only be a good thing from the guy's point of view.
posted by bingo at 1:40 PM on June 10, 2006

Speaking as a girl (though not for all girls), if I'm asking myself at the end of a date how interested you really are, that's the last time we'll ever see each other.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:01 PM on June 10, 2006

Just come out and say it. "I am kind of shy and reserved when I first meet people. Don't let that throw you off. I warm up with a little time."
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:15 PM on June 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

ask her a lot of questions, but not creepy questions, just general ones about what she does for a living, for example, or where she hangs out, what the last concert she went to was, etc. Of course if you ask questions, it makes you seem interested!
posted by echo0720 at 2:22 PM on June 10, 2006

Follow the advice of others and ask questions, but don't overdo it. You want a conversation, not an interview. Find topics she likes talking about (which interest you, too) and see where the conversation goes. Aim for open-ended questions a bit, but remember, questions need to flow naturally.
posted by JMOZ at 4:01 PM on June 10, 2006

Let her lead the conversation, but subtly steer it through your choice in questions. If she mentions having to clean her place and feed her dog when she gets home and you like dogs, ask about it. You can also use that to spin it off into other questions, like asking whether she has a sink full of dirty dishes, because then you're going to end up asking her whether she likes to cook. If she's similarly interested, she'll start pulling you into the conversation as well. A good conversation has reasonably equal input from both people, but not because you've planned out your end. Ideally, each person shapes the other's conversation.
posted by mikeh at 5:10 PM on June 10, 2006

As a female friend of sadly too many guys that sound just like you; the best advice I can give is stop thinking of it as a date. Based on what you describe, you sound like the type of person that does just fine socially around friends but completely botches dates because you put to much pressure on yourself and on what the date means.

Instead, look at it like you're hanging out with a new friend - someone that you'd like to keep in touch with regardless whether this goes anywhere romantically or not. After all, do you really want to be dating someone you couldn't be friends with? And if you both do click, the whole showing interest thing will just come naturally.

ANd if it doesn't, you don't have a botched date, you have a new friend who may just have more single friends.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:41 PM on June 10, 2006 [2 favorites]

Is the honesty policy out in this case? I find myself wondering why you don't explain your concern to her -- "I don't always show things the way I intend on the outside, but I really like you" -- but I have a huge mouth and share all my own secrets too easily.
posted by theredpen at 8:41 PM on June 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

I strongly recommend you check out It changed my brother's life, and he recommended it to me, and then it changed my life.

Basically, it will teach you about the nature of attraction - how your actions and attitude trigger totally irrational responses in others than can range from "he's a very nice guy and would make a good friend but nothing more" to "I want to jump him".

The most important thing it made me realize was that all the things I'd assumed I was supposed to do around women were wrong. WHen I hang out with my friends at the bar, I'm funny, I'm relaxed, I tease and insult them whenever I can (they do the same to me), and I'm just having a good time. WHen I went on dates I would throw that all away and assume I was supposed to act like a good little boy and tell her how pretty she looked. That just triggers a "he's nice but not exciting" reaction. Attractive girls get told they're pretty all the time. But if you teast your date - tell her you don't know what she was thinking when she bought those shoes - she gets all flustered, and then she won't know what to do with you. That's a good thing.

Anyway that's pretty oblique to your specifc question but I think it might help you like it helped me. I see a little of the "old me" in your question.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:39 PM on June 10, 2006

Oh, and something maybe a bit more specific:

don't think of this as anything unusual. (there's nothing in particular that you "should" be doing.) think of something you would normally do, and include her. call and say "hi, i'm going for a stroll in the park in an hour, would you like to join me?" expectations and pressure are bad. they make both you and your date uncomfortable.

don't have a list of things you want to talk about. start by asking her what her story is. i.e. how she came to be where she is. something interesting should hopefully come up from that. she'll probably ask you about you. don't force it.

I used to be a lot more socially awkward than I am and one of the things that took me a while to figure out is that when someone asks you a question, they usually want you to ask them the same question back. They have something they want to say but it's a bit too forward to just blurt it out, so they say "do you like your job?", so you'll say "sure, do you", and they say "oh my god I hate my job so much my boss is a huge idiot blah blah blah".

here something else to think about that also took me a while to figure out. women are nothing special. yeah they can be beautiful goddesses but there is no reason to be afraid of them. even the pretty ones have insecurities and fears just like the rest of us (some might say 'especially the pretty ones'). and they all have fascinating complex layers beneath the surface that will peel away if you show enough interest in them. and I don't mean romantic interest - I mean if you try to figure out who they are, what makes them tick, what motivates them. ask her what she does for a living and then why she decided to do it. if she has a hidden passion or fire that drives her, it will come pouring out.

and if the conversation hits a lull, just ask her about her parents. I'm sure any one of us could talk for hours.

and if you want to bring out your personality a bit, consider seeing a therapist. if you're not satisfied with the way you are and want to change, it can probably be done.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:57 PM on June 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Miss Manners says in part:

To progress, you need to send a few ambiguous signals. Whether he responds in kind will give you your answer, while still allowing you deniability should he not do so.

For example, you stare at him too long and soulfully, and then look away as if you had hardly known what you were doing. You sit too close to him, and then idly get up and sit somewhere else. You brush up against him as if you had not noticed that you did.

Oh, stop pretending to be shocked at Miss Manners' knowing such things. Before the world turned as crude as it is now, flirting was a common and innocent practice.

posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 1:22 AM on June 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I always check to see if the guy has made some effort at physical contact. A tap on the the elbow or knee, a nudge on the shoulder - anything that creates contact. He has to do it first - and then I feel free to reciprocate. If he hasn't tried even leaning in close to me - I think he's not interested and move on.
posted by trii at 5:16 PM on June 11, 2006

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