How to make a first date work.
July 23, 2006 8:20 PM   Subscribe

So I finally plucked up the courage and am now in possession of one very cute girl's phone number. What next?

I ask, as my experience of the "dating" world is limited at best. I got the number Saturday and plan on calling her tonight (Monday) (not a big fan of playing the making her wait game). Thinking we should meet for a drink after work as we both work in similar places and at similar times. What do people talk about at this kind of thing? I can talk the ear off a chair with my close friends, but generally topics can get a bit weird and specific and I don't want to scare her off. Are movies, music, books, study and work etc a safe bet or are they boring and clich├ęd? Do I go for the jugular and ask her who she votes for, why we are here and her views on abortion?

Any advice on making this work would be much appreciated.

PS. I'm a sucker for the classics. Can I buy her flowers for a drink after work, or is that really a first date kind of thing?
posted by lrobertjones to Human Relations (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
take a breath, slow it down and don't talk politics or religion.
posted by brandz at 8:23 PM on July 23, 2006

Just pay attention to what SHE does. Make sure the conversation goes both ways.

Are you in Australia? For Americans commenting it should be mentioned that Australians don't date the way Americans do and it's still not quite normal here, people tend to move around less than Americans and so meet more often through friends of friends and so on.
posted by sien at 8:25 PM on July 23, 2006

You don't ask who she votes for the first time you talk to her... that's just bad mojo...

Just let conversation go where it goes naturally -- unless your natural tendency is to jump straight into wedge issues like politics and religion... Save that stuff for a few dates down the road...

Movies, music, books etc are cliched, but they're where just about everyone starts out and eventually finds common ground (or the total lack thereof)... Start with that stuff.. smalltalk is good... talk about aspirations or a cool show you're going to go to soon or whatever you'd be talking about with your friends, basically...

You'll be fine... don't worry so much about it... easier said than done I know, but seriously... the only thing you need to concern yourself with is avoiding talking about things like abortion on the first date -- too controversial.
posted by twiggy at 8:26 PM on July 23, 2006

Oh yeah and I forgot: Ask questions and let HER talk...
posted by twiggy at 8:27 PM on July 23, 2006

Be David Caruso in "Jade."
posted by spilon at 8:31 PM on July 23, 2006

After listening to a friend relate how he fantastically failed in such an encounter recently, I can offer some advice, but take it with a grain of salt since I'm kind of rusty myself.

Anything that she mentions that you ask her to expound on, or anything she asks you about and listens intently without starting to drift off is a safe bet. Talking to someone new, whether it's for dating (well, especially for dating) or just meeting a possible friend is more of a game of being agreeable and projecting body language more than anything else.

Start with whatever you last spoke about or what she's done since you last saw her. Try to keep personal anecdotes short until you're in the middle of the conversation; if she's tactful, she'll do the same. You end up trading snippets of useless information about your lives and interests, and maybe hints of a mutual attraction. When it feels right, take the plunge into a bigger issue or react when she does.

Just remember that no matter what she says, you can't completely disagree with her to the point of being argumentative. If a point of contention comes up, try to laugh it off or relate to it in an offhand way that trivializes it as far as your conversation goes. You can always walk away and not interact with her again, but if you end up ripping someone apart (or she ends up taking you down) you're just going to go home depressed. If you can jokingly stage a mock battle, go for that. It's a risky move, though.

Smile, be yourself (or a friendlier version), and hold off on the flowers until you go on a date where you can pick her up at her place. No one wants to carry around flowers.
posted by mikeh at 8:32 PM on July 23, 2006

If you haven't been dating recently, I'd try to err on the side of more casual and avoiding coming on too strong. So no flowers for the first meet-up. I also wouldn't deliberately bring up politics, religion, philosophy or any other "heavy" topics on this early. Keep it light and fun.

If you can find a few things you both are interested in, the conversation will take care of itself.

Good luck!
posted by justkevin at 8:34 PM on July 23, 2006

Breathe, smile, compliment her,ask what she likes to do for fun,and let the conversation come back to you. Maybe take a walk through a park. good luck
posted by hortense at 8:35 PM on July 23, 2006

Way to call her right away.

Talk about neutral stuff.

Let it flow normally.

Try to share the conversation.

Flatter her.

Good luck!
posted by k8t at 8:36 PM on July 23, 2006

I think flowers would be cool if you kept it singular - one nice sunflower, or a daisy maybe. Otherwise, I agree with the above comments on this.
posted by PY at 8:48 PM on July 23, 2006

Yeah, I'm big on the one-flower thing, too.

My other suggestion, stolen from countless books on this topic, is: pick some specific thing to do *that has a built in ending*. Pretty short, too; maybe an hour. If things are going well, you can always extend it or make another date, but it takes the pressure off.

If you're both morning people, and work schedules will cooperate, you could try a bagel and coffee before work... or a short lunch during work, if geography will cooperate.

But yeah, no pressure. :-)
posted by baylink at 8:55 PM on July 23, 2006

Like the others said before, steer clear from religion, politics, abortion, and other topics that often end up in arguments. Likewise, avoid depressing subjects like death. Keep it light and playful.

Try to get her to open up about herself. Be comfortable and allow her to share her passions. Have her describe what she enjoys doing, why she does them, and how they make her feel. Ask her what she wanted to be when she was a kid =]

Don't bring flowers.
posted by atmu at 9:04 PM on July 23, 2006

Calling monday is fine, but even if you're calling 'just to talk' you should already have plans for a potential date -- don't be caught flatfooted, no one likes the visibly disorganized at first glance, which is where you're at.
posted by little miss manners at 9:26 PM on July 23, 2006

Response by poster: Yes I am in Australia, and yes dating is kind of a rare thing here. But where is the excitement in dating your friends? Also i prefer not to poop where I eat.

I was mostly joking about the abortion and politics thing. Unless things are going extremely well, probably best to not go there.

Thanks for all the great advice.
posted by lrobertjones at 10:08 PM on July 23, 2006

ASK ASK ASK. Ask her questions, but not in a way that comes off like an interviewer. Be genuinely engaged to what she is saying and you do this by asking questions (but nothing too personal or offensive).

As for the when to call issue, I'd advise against Monday. As much as you hate the "waiting game," err on the side of caution and call her on wednesday. You really don't want to come off desperate, even if you are. Wednesday gives everyone enough breathing room and yet shows sincere interest. You can then set something up for a post work drink on thursday or friday, or make a true date of it on Saturday. But like what everyone has been saying--be casual, but have a game plan--things to do, et cetera.

Do not bring flowers or ask her questions about abortion, politics, et cetera.
posted by Juggermatt at 10:13 PM on July 23, 2006

Response by poster: JuggerM, I would wait a little longer, but i am going away friday and saturday night and i am busy thursday after work, so a wednesday call would not leave a lot of time to do something before next monday. When i got the digits, I planned to organise something for the weekend, but she was busy both nights, and she gave me her number. So I think the understanding was that we would do something sooner rather than later.

additional Q. How long do i chat on the phone? I've heard that you should keep it as brief as possible, as you don't want to waste your good material on the phone and its harder to judge and give physical feedback. I tend to get a little weird if I'm on the phone too long anyways, so I'm thinking - organise a time and place and get the hell off the phone.
posted by lrobertjones at 10:59 PM on July 23, 2006

There's a bunch of books felleed with question.Look for a few question that you might like to know, scuh as what group did you hang out with in highschool.?If she is open and likes you, you will geta lot of free imformation. Later you can get them drunk and have they play a broad game, you'll get to find out a lot about them. l
Also look in their refrigerator and medicine cabnet, they will tell you a lot about them.
posted by zackdog at 11:38 PM on July 23, 2006

I often find myself in the same situation (in Aus. too, but I'm English and we date even less!). Call her now - after the weekend's long enough, and the timing's right for a Wednesday or Thursday date.

I'm nervous about making conversation on the phone to someone I don't know, so I make a list of conversation starters. Hey, it's me, I hope I'm not interrupting... what are you doing? Is it fun? etc. Maybe have some stories about your week or something. I usually stop paying attention to the list after I get going. Don't script it! Just write keywords.

You've pretty much got to ask her out; sometimes there's a neat segue, sometimes there's not. Have a look at the What's On guides so you have a feel for what's on that might be related to things you have in common. If nothing like that comes up in conversation, nothing beats a drink after work. You don't need to be smooth. At the first sign that you're running out of conversation say, "Listen, I'll let you go, but I really enjoyed talking to you. I was wondering whether you wanted to go for a drink with me this week?". If she's busy and doesn't offer another time, it's a no. Then call her later in the week with the plan.

I much prefer casual first meetings. People on dates (with flowers and dinner) behave very differently to people just hanging out, being themselves. By trying to be 'perfect' when you first meet, you have all sorts of walls up, and are setting each other up for a disappointment. Just be yourself, talk about what you want to and she'll do the same, if she's got any sense. I pretty much always end up talking about spirituality, careers, morals - might as well get the deal-breakers out of the way!)

Good first meetings: lunch, walk in the park, bowling/pool, drinks. Anything with alcohol and conversation.
Bad first meetings: live music (no talking!), nice restaurants (too formal)
OK first meetings: art gallery (if you have it in common), normal restaurant plus drinks, theatre (pick something that gives you something to talk about).

Conversation on the night normally takes a while to get going for me, but I'm distracted by how great they look (and tell them, if the night's going that way)! And get beyond just "do you like" and more towards "how do you feel about..." My secret tip for dating conversation is think of hypothetical questions: If you're talking about music, say "If you could sing one song/play one instrument really well, what would it be?"

Finally, remember this: you will either have a good time, a good meal, or a good story.

Good luck!
posted by cogat at 12:42 AM on July 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

Also i prefer not to poop where I eat.

Avoid lines such as that.

Also, if your date hinges on if you bring her one flower or not, it's doomed to begin with. So the correct answer to "should I bring her a flower or not" is "it doesn't matter".
posted by justgary at 1:05 AM on July 24, 2006

"Nice shoes."
posted by paulsc at 1:22 AM on July 24, 2006

I have two simple pieces of advice: First of all, be attentive to her level of interest and engagement in the conversation. I know it can be tempting to ramble on about yourself (I do it way too often), but you should let the focus be on her. If her eyes are glazing over, it's probably time to shut up and let her talk.

Second of all, not all silences are bad. I tend to get panicky when the conversation falls into silence, and end up trying to fill it in with useless chatter; I'm only recently learning that that isn't always the best plan. Healthy quiet is possible (and good!); again, just be attentive, and use that time to organize your thoughts and perhaps think of another conversation starter.

Good luck!
posted by sarahsynonymous at 1:26 AM on July 24, 2006

but generally topics can get a bit weird and specific and I don't want to scare her off

Don't talk about anything too weird, but don't be afraid to be yourself (within reason...)! The date's not just about you impressing her; it's also about you getting to know her. If she's not the kind of person to appreciate your "weird and specific" topics of conversation, then you might not be a match.

Don't get flowers until after the first kiss.

Don't drag the first date out too long, unless it's going really really well and you don't notice time passing.

Don't worry about calling on Monday! Sure you don't want to seem desperate, but if you ask her out for a Wednesday or Thursday, Monday doesn't seem desperate at all.
posted by footnote at 5:28 AM on July 24, 2006

Great advice in the thread, here's a bit more:

Do insist on paying for her food (this is classy and romantic and says I am capable of being a provider)

Do open doors for her

Don't buy flowers (too soon for that kind of tribute and is over the top)

Do call her Monday (its another way of saying you like and appreciate her, much more than waiting till later in the week)

Do be yourself and a bit (but not too much) weird, if you don't share yourself you wont have as much fun and you run the risk of coming across as bland, when are you are quirky and interesting

Do listen attentively, people love to talk about themselves and their interests and nothing says I'm interested in you more than an attentive listener

Don't open subjects that may end up in an acrimonous debate
posted by zia at 5:53 AM on July 24, 2006

Establish comfort by smiling, being open and light.

Steer the conversation to topics that allow her to special, and be accordingly appreciative when she does. That will let her know that you care about what makes her the special person that she is.

While steering the conversation also put yourself in the conversation. While you are appreciating also talk about how what she says relates to you.

When/if she starts to ask you questions about yourself give her opportunities to appreciate you too. Be the proud and passionate person you are about the things that make you special.

If things don't go perfect, and her focus goes somewhere else, don't force it. Guess where she is at and go there.
posted by blueyellow at 6:33 AM on July 24, 2006

Avoid flowers. Otherwise just call. Listen to what she has to say. When you go on the date, smile a lot, make eye contact when she's speaking so that she knows you are paying attention. That is the #1 thing, I've found. Works wonders for women with men too.

Don't worry too much about guessing or anything, just be yourself.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:47 AM on July 24, 2006

Do insist on paying for her food (this is classy and romantic and says I am capable of being a provider)

Disagree -- can easily come off as insulting depending on the situation, how it's done, and the woman in question. Better would be "do offer to pay for her food." In fact this is a great way to judge how a date is going. If she declines the original offer as most people will naturally do out of politeness, you can then re-offer, but in the form of "why don't you get it next time?" or "how about you get the first round at a bar?" etc. Depending on her reaction to this, you'll get a fair idea if she's interested in seeing you again. The point being, never force your wealth/ability to pay on a modern woman.
posted by modernnomad at 7:09 AM on July 24, 2006

Don't do this.
posted by gsteff at 7:13 AM on July 24, 2006

I agree with modernnomad. Some people prefer not to have someone else pay for their food so that there is no creepy sense of obligation, and some other people will force the point endlessly in order to create an obligation, so leave it alone. Offer to pay, unless she offers to pay first. Then you can do the "next time" thing if it's going that way.

Just be yourself - the Best Behavior version of yourself, but still you. If that doesn't work for her, there's no point in trying to force it.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:29 AM on July 24, 2006

In conversation, find out if there's anything she's been wanting to do but hasn't had a chance to check out -- great for asking for a second date. (For me it was the art museum.)

Generally for me, the first date is all about ensuring that the conversation isn't incredibly awkward, chemistry is a possibility, and the person isn't rude/uncouth, etc. So don't worry too much, just pay attention so you can impress her later.
posted by ejaned8 at 11:57 AM on July 24, 2006

This whole thing about "is it too soon to call her" is ridiculous. You are grown adults--it's silly to play games. If you want to ask her out, call her. Whatever. It's fine.
posted by exceptinsects at 7:51 PM on July 25, 2006

Response by poster: thanks everyone, all great responses. finally got in contact with her and we are doing something thursday night. will update the thread with how it goes.
posted by lrobertjones at 8:27 PM on July 25, 2006

Your rookie'ness is quite charming, and I sure she appreciated that. Now that you have her, it's time to be a pro. Don't act too interested too quickly.

More importantly, you should be dating A LOT more women. Having a date should be as routine as going to the grocery store to get cereal. A couple times a month, it should be part of your living cycle. That way, no real number or date is a big deal. See here for some easy ways to make dates part of your normal life. Good luck, and if this one doesn't work out (most dates don't) keep hitting up the ladies without fail.
posted by DanTolumbro at 10:08 PM on November 24, 2006

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