So you met someone online or through a friend, and you finally got together for that first date. Your date seemed nice, was even better looking than their online photo, and you felt like there was a real connection going on.
You sent your date a cheerful follow up text, saying you’d like to get together again soon – and no reply. Nothing. Nada.
Did your date get so swamped at work that it was physically impossible to reply to your text? Were they suddenly called out of the country to a place where there’s no cell phone reception? Did they fall head over heels in love with someone they met the next day? Perhaps. But probably not.
Without even realizing it, we do and say many things on a first date that blow it right then and there. Here are ten things you might have done that blew your first date – and suggestions of what to do differently next time.
You didn’t turn off your phone. Are you a doctor on call, or have a loved one in critical condition in the hospital? If so, let your date know that when the date begins. If not, turn off your damn phone. Your date deserves your undivided attention – but every text, email, or push notification that you check and/or respond to, tells them that many things are more important to you than they are. Next time: Turn off your damn phone. If you’re really that addicted to notifications, excuse yourself, and check it quickly in the bathroom.
You talked about your ex. It’s natural to ask how many long-term relationships they’ve had, but no one wants to hear about how great (or not) your ex was, or how and why you broke up. Doing so suggests that you’ve still got feelings for your ex. If you and your ex broke up but you still live together, by all means let your date know – so they can run for the hills. Because you’re not really single. Next time: Don’t talk about your ex. Leave the past in the past.
You talked about past sexual conquests. I understand why people regale a first date with stories of how they hooked up with this incredibly hot guy or girl on this vacation or that cruise. It’s their way of expressing how sexually appealing they are to someone who’s incredibly hot. It’s also a sign of deep insecurity – and it begs the question, “If you’re still fixated on this incredibly hot person, why are you on a date with me?” Next time: Save the war stories for your friends.
You talked about money. You want to present your best attributes on a first date. But even if you think your income is one of you’re your best attributes (and let’s hope it’s not), don’t mention it. You’ll come off as shallow, or boorish, or both. And don’t talk about how much money you don’t have either; financial problems are understandable, but not sexy. Next time: If you have money, make a gracious gesture and pick up the tab. If you don’t, keep it quiet and go dutch. Might I suggest the dinner salad with a side of water?
You checked out other people. For the hour or so that you spend with your date, you should make them feel like the most attractive, most interesting person in the world – even if they’re not. There’s nothing sexier than being on the receiving end of someone’s undivided attention. Next time: Even if the cast of Chippendales and every one of the Miss Universe contestants walks in, keep your eyes on your date.
You showed up late. There’s nothing more silently disrespectful than being late for a first date. Heavy traffic, problems with parking, and the unreliability of public transportation are no excuse – and a lame apology really doesn’t cut it. Being on time (or better yet, getting there first) shows your date that meeting them is important to you. Next time: Plan to arrive fifteen minutes before the date.
You talked about illness. On a first date you should keep things light and share only fun, intriguing things about yourself – which should never include illness (yours or anyone else’s). That flu that took you three weeks to get over, or the cancer that ravaged a loved one, might have been the focal point of your life for a time, but for god’s sake, don’t mention it on a first date. Next time: Keep the conversation happy – and healthy.
You didn’t smell good. First dates make everyone nervous — and nature curses us with two biological reactions to nervousness: perspiration and bad breath. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t believe in using deodorant — use it anyway. If all goes well, your date will have plenty of time to get to know your natural scents. Breath mints don’t last long, and chewing gum makes you look like an idiot, but Listerine breath strips are very strong and dissolve instantly. If you smoke, don’t do it for at least an hour before the date, make sure your clothes and hair smell smoke-free — and breath strip up! Next time: Remember that others can smell what you can’t and that hygiene shows you care about yourself and others.
You talked about your food restrictions. Unless you and your date initially bonded online over how you’re both strictly kosher or gluten-intolerant vegans, don’t talk about what you can’t, don’t, or won’t eat on a first date. People do have legitimate allergies, but lengthy discussions of your food restrictions can make you come off as: a) high maintenance, b) neurotic, or c) both. Next time: If the first date includes a meal, gently focus on what you like to eat, not what you won’t.
You mostly talked about yourself. Hoping to make a good impression, some people think of a first date as a chance to sell themselves to their date. This often means rattling off as many fascinating things about yourself and your accomplishments as you possibly can. This strategy backfires for two reasons. 1) You should reveal just enough about yourself to interest and intrigue your date – and leave them wanting more. That’s what second, third, and fourth dates are for. 2) You’ll be much more attractive to your date if you ask questions and show a genuine interest in them. Next time: Be the interviewer, not the salesman.
Are there more than ten ways to blow a first date? What are some things that your first dates have said or done that have turned you off and left you cold? The more don’ts and dos we can share, the more we can help each other get to that second date.
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Adam Sandel is a screenwriter, playwright, and journalist who lives in San Francisco. He teaches Literature, Critical Thinking, and Mythology and Folklore at De Anza College and Berkeley City College.