The Scarlett Letters: First Date Tales
As any single man or woman will testify, no matter how fun dating can be, we could all do without the dreaded pressure of the first date. Am I right? (That was rhetorical, by the way.)
The way I see it, first dates should be as fun and flighty as possible; a mid-week drink here, a Sunday pint there. One guy once took me to a gig on a first date. The band was terrible but the date was not.
My worst date ever was the first one after a breakup. I was an emotional wreck. After civilised drinks in a North London pub, we strolled outside and, as the lovely man leant in to kiss me, I burst into tears (how attractive). To his credit, he was an utter gentleman, feebly attempted a joke, placed me in a taxi and, naturally, never called me again.
My following first date was far more successful – actually leading to a second, third and even fourth one – but I’ll never forget my disbelief when, mid-way through dinner, he ordered the bill whilst I was still eating. Without even asking if I was finished. Which I clearly wasn’t. Unbelievable.
This leads me to what many males friends have expressed confusion over: First-date-etiquette. Some questions that have popped up from my male pals include:
1. ‘Is a pub boring or do I need to be more creative?’ (Answer: Keep the first date simple. Drinks in a cool bar are perfect, as the dates progress, so can both your creativity)
2. ‘Do we let her pay?’ (Answer: Not if you want to see her again)
3. ‘Is it too soon to ask her back to my place?’ (Answer: We know you’re going to try that one. Don’t be silly).
The question over who pays is a tricky one. Yes, we are independent, modern women who can financially fend for ourselves, but the modern girl still appreciates chivalry. There is nothing — NOTHING — more off-putting than a cheap man. A man that insists on paying for an evening out is a gentleman, someone who enjoys our company so much he wants to treat us. I would never expect, or allow, this to continue on for further dates and neither would any girl I know. We’re more than willing to get a few rounds in and I’d always offer to go Dutch on any meal, but I do think a man should insist on taking the lions share on the first date. It’s just manners.
Another crucial aspect: there needs to be plenty of pre-date banter. Flirtatious texts and emails break the ice beautifully and give plenty of opportunities for follow-up conversation when the date finally arrives. What pre-Millennium daters did before instant messaging is beyond me.
I’m a fan of a day-time first-date. A relaxed, slightly boozy weekend lunch is perfect. The downside to the daytime date of course is, if it goes brilliantly, you find you’re still out, hammered, by 10pm which is how I found myself at the end of date #1 with my ex, Mike. After a day of drinking we joined my friends in a club. Mike went to collect our coats and, according it him, returned to find me “collapsed on the floor wrapped in a feather boa.” I still don’t remember. He bundled us -– boa included — in a taxi, removeing fallen feathers from the cab’s upholstery whilst holding me up with one arm outside my flat. Not my finest moment. Miraculously, we dated for a year and half after that.
I recently had a far more restrained, but nowhere near as memorable, first date. This guy worked in the city and took me to a lovely cocktail club in Mayfair. Unfortunately, all the Bellinis in the land couldn’t compensate for his distinct lack of personality. When we’d meet a few weeks previous in a bar he seemed so charming. Now, I felt like I was being lectured by a failed Apprentice candidate. He didn’t ask me anything about myself, just boasted about how he’d successfully micro-managed his department, beaten his annual sales target (the theme tune to TOWIE was playing on repeat in my head by this point) and name-dropping big clients. Did he really think all this self-importance was going to win me over? Please.
It goes to show that no matter where you go or how much you spend on a date, it’s all about the company. But cracking a few jokes and waiting for her to finish eating before ordering the bill are good places to start.