Surviving first date disasters
April 06, 2006
“First dates are like job interviews with cocktails,” Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City” once said. The problem is many of us don’t know what to do during job interviews, let alone first dates. We often let our bad qualities show, rather than displaying our credentials.

How do you decide where to go on the first date?

I once told a good friend, "Never go to the person’s house on the first date. The world is full of crazy people who could rape and murder you in the privacy of their own homes."

My first date advice is always go to a public place or go in a group. According to a statistic by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, in the United States every year, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men report being sexually assaulted during their lifetime with rape being one of the most underreported crimes.

I once made the mistake of going on a blind date alone. When my date stopped on the side of the road and whispered, “You don’t have to keep your seatbelt on, you know,” I laughed and demanded that he take me home immediately. Luckily, he listened to my request and drove me back to my house, although the whole situation was a potentially dangerous one.

So, where are some common places to go on first dates? Michelle Discher, a senior at Missouri State University, said she likes to go to a restaurant or see a movie.

“Some place simple with food we’ll both like and a not-too-serious movie,” said Dan McDowell, a junior studying sociology at Missouri State.

Restaurants and movies seem to be the most popular choices for first dates. How well you enjoy the activity depends on your personality. Use wise judgment. Obviously, don’t agree to go on a scuba diving date when you have a deadly fear of ocean creatures. And don’t go to a restaurant if you have a social phobia dealing with eating in front of people.

Women, in particular, have a fear of eating in front of their dates. Frantic questions run through their minds such as, “Will he think I’m an obese pig?” or “Will I get a massive piece of pepper stuck in my teeth?”

Karen Buzzard, a Missouri State expert on interpersonal relationships, quoted author Warren Farrell’s gender theories in order to explain why she believes women are terrified of eating in front of men. She said Farrell explains in his book, Why Men are the Way They Are that men are portrayed as success objects while women are portrayed as sex objects.

“If your value is based on your looks, then eating in front of men is a sensitive subject,” Buzzard said.

Heading for dinner anyway

Assuming both of you are not going Dutch treat and the guy is paying, there are several quick ways he can ruin a dinner date by being cheap. Discher summed up her worst date like this: “We went to a restaurant [Mexican Villa], and before, he asked me if I wanted to go to Taco Bell since I wanted Mexican. He didn’t talk and only tipped a dollar.”

I’m not saying one date should wipe out anyone's life’s savings. But I am saying that tipping badly and taking a date to a fast-food restaurant demonstrate a lack of class and little respect for the other person.

Barb Smith, the former head of Cotillion of Joplin, a series of classes designed to teach proper dinner and dance etiquette, said 15 percent should be the average tip, but that she usually tips 20 percent.

The other way to ruin a dinner date fast is to order something really messy or exhibit awful table manners. Smith said the worst things to eat are crab legs, lobster in the shell, chicken wings and spaghetti. Other foods to steer clear of are ones that give you bad breath, such as fish and peppers, she said.

Smith also advises: Don’t talk on your cell phone for long periods of time, keep your elbows off the table, use a napkin and don’t talk with your mouth full.

Now let’s go back to what Discher said earlier about her dinner date: “He didn’t talk and only tipped a dollar.” The other mistake here is he didn’t talk. Sure, you can shove food into your mouth all you want as an excuse for being a mute, but the hard truth is, no one wants to sit in silence on a date.

What do you talk about on the first date?

People often commit two toxic communication sins on a first date. One is being a mute. Two is being a blabbermouth. Timid daters, beware. Even if you’re not talking, you’re sending your date a message. According to Buzzard, non-verbal communication can sometimes tell your date more than verbal.

Buzzard's book, Holding Patterns: How Communication Prevents Intimacy in Adults, explores how single adults unconsciously give non-verbal cues that prevent them from having intimate relationships. Your dates can tell by your non-verbal communication, including eye contact and physical distance, whether you’re attracted to them, Buzzard said. But she adds, even if you’re sending off positive non-verbal cues, “at some point, the verbal has to be there.”

Good verbal communication consists of a fairly even exchange of words, and you should stick to basic conversation topics on the first date. Although common conversation starters such as, “Where do you work?” can seem dry, questions like this are perfect because they don’t scratch too deeply.

“If you reveal you have your grandmother murdered in the basement, it probably won’t lead to a second date,” Buzzard said.

Don't reveal you have "baggage" on a first date. And don’t think your date won’t sense your attachment to someone else. People are extremely intuitive when it comes to this stuff.

“I definitely think we sense these things in our partners— both men and women do, although women are given more social permission to have intuitions about their partners' affections,” said Deborah Cox, a professor in the counseling department at Missouri State.

So, keep these tips in mind. Knowing what to do should up your chances of not facing the all too devestating rejection that comes after a first date.

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