You can worry about it and muddle it all you like. You can say the wrong thing, spill the wine, pig out on a four course feast while your date eats salad, forget the name of that book you were reading especially to make conversation… And it’ll all be okay. You want to get to the second date? Well, you’ve got it – if you follow these rules.
1 Take a good, long, hard look in the mirror
Okay, you probably do this one already. You do the hair and the skin and rev yourself up to a frenzy – making sure that new outfit reveals enough, hides enough, (probably) fits with the venue, makes you look tall enough, slim enough… and, generally, a desirable match. Superficial? There’s not a lot wrong with that. You’ll let it all go and act natural anyway. At least, let’s hope so, since one of life’s more grueling ordeals is sitting down to dinner with a stony-faced, 2D zombie, scared to flicker an eyelid lest they rumple ‘the look’.
Getting yourself looking right will create that impression, which can last throughout much of the evening, of a dazzling, confident person who’s made the effort. (Compliment each other when you meet: ‘You look great!’) And it’ll make you feel good as well.
When you look in the mirror, though, cheesy as this might sound, do look beneath your own surface and – pop-psychology – recite to yourself a few of the many great things about you. You’re a catch, right? Believe it. You’ve got plenty to offer? They’ll be lucky to get you, right? And the last thing you do with that mirror: smile and admit to it, just between the two of you, that you’re dead excited!
2 Be on time – and show you’re up for a good time!
Being late for a first date, fashionably or otherwise, generally sucks. It’s means you’re feeling hurried, you’ve either got to go all abject, or aloofly knock it back as if no real apology is necessary – try finding the middle ground here: there isn’t one – and your date’s had too much time to lose the spontaneity, start worrying, knock back a second, loud-making martini, feel embarrassed about sitting around on their own, wonder what time a call to check you’re coming might be appropriate… Ever been there? It tends to foul the evening.
When you breeze in, exactly on time, show your pleasure at being there and being with them. Say you’re happy to see them. Be honest! And get out those compliments. Make the most of the several minutes you have before you hit the conversation zone and need to think about what you might say.
Put them at ease and they’ll feel happy doing you the same favour. The ultimate crime against dating at this point: being hard to please.
3 Get the place right
Try sharing the choice of venue. That way, if the service is lousy, the food’s from the microwave, there’s an office party glugging on Crystal two tables down, then you share the mistake and it’s easy to say, ‘Let’s get out of here!’ without one of you feeling they’re to blame. It also means you’re both on equally strange or familiar territory. If one of you gets greeted by name and shown to the usual table at the Michelin two star, the other’s going to feel they’ve got a lot of impressing to do. On much the same lines, if they choose the local steak house and think that’s posh, well, see how long you can hold out before you let slip and get patronising!
Of course, the swanky bar, swanky restaurant routine is not the only way of setting about a first date. You might try ‘fun’ things. Go bowling or go-carting. Go to the ‘fun’ fair and get the adrenalin levels up – along with the PEA, a love hormone. Glitzy films and musicals can work, if you really want to spend a few hours sat in relative silence. Serious drama? Almost certainly not.
4 Let yourself muddle it up
You so-o-o-o-o want to be perfect… Uh uh. More than few lines are most likely going to be fumbled. If you ever knock a glass of wine over (your date) then it’s going to be now. You’re so busy gabbling ‘naturally’ you don’t see that lamppost approaching? You sneeze into the candle – and there goes the wax, all over your date. Disaster? Of course not. You’re allowed to be clumsy and nervous. Admit your nerves. Laugh them off. They’re actually one more compliment you’re paying each other. Besides, you don’t want to be with anyone with whom you have to be perfect. Let the formality go: this is a date, not an interview.
5 Keep talking?
At some point during the evening, there are bound to be silences to fill – and they can feel excruciating. Even if they’re not really lasting as long as you think they are, that subjective time hurts.
Deep breath. Eyes down for a moment. Pause. Then back up to the date. Choose something to say that doesn’t seem particularly monumental, and think of and deliver it calmly. It might just be a comment on the food. Best, though, is to come back to something your date’s said already. Offer a thought. Ask a question. Use questions all evening to draw each other out, make each other feel valued – and take the pressure off you! You can always offer up a new subject that hasn’t been touched on yet, but that might peter out pretty quickly and land you in another unnerving silence.
If you find yourself talking nineteen to the dozen, saying anything rather than let there be silence, see above: admit you’re nervous and laugh.
6 Seduce them!
Just because you’re being yourself doesn’t mean you can’t throw in a few tricks to get your date (even) more sexually interested. Use your eyes. Hold their gaze about 75% of the time, and move yours between their eyes and mouth. Dip your face and look up to them, Princess Diana style. Choose a dark and cosy corner in advance so your pupils dilate.
Check your volume. Are you braying again? Lower your voice to have your date leaning in to you. Mirror their gestures – not parrot-fashion, but following the rhythm of their movements after a short, few seconds’ delay. Even mirror their language. He calls a napkin a serviette? No points for you doing otherwise. What you’re doing with your voice and body language, as with what you actually say, is showing you agree with them; you’re compatible.
If you’ve had a great evening and want to see them again, you can’t do better than tell them. Right then and there. Not by text – and not being coy. Paraphrase your way around this line: ‘I’ve had a really nice time this evening. When can I see you again?’
You might plan for tomorrow or a few days’ time. Don’t leave it too long. Keep the impetus going. You might have a specific plan to suggest. If so, try to make it a little bit different from the evening you’ve just had. Make your interest and excitement clear – and infectious.
There are maybe a few times in any one life when you just know it’s right to break the three date rule. If, though, you have to ask, ‘Should I break it?’ then the answer’s no. Kiss (romantically) and be (sexually) suggestive – then head on home.