Why is dating so difficult? I remember hearing my mother talk about dating when she was younger. There were hard-and-fast rules for her... things like, "Nice girls don't." We still hear that, of course, but we also get the message of, "Liberated women can sex up whomever they want, whenever they want. Any one who disagrees is a misogynistic caveman."
I think, any more, that each woman must develop her own rules... her own system of deciphering what she'll do and what she won't, what's tolerable to her and where her red flags are. I've hacked and slashed in the dating world long enough that I have a pretty decent grid layed out, complete with landmines and water obstacles.
For example, I don't ask for the first date. In fact, I've never asked for a first date. That doesn’t mean I’ve never asked a man to dinner, just that I typically leave the initial request up to him. I know, I know, it’s a bit old-fashioned, but I can’t help the feeling that my grandfather would roll in his grave if he found out I asked some strange man to dinner. I will, however, say something like, “Hey, wanna do dinner Thursday night?” to a man I’ve already seen a few times. That’s just my style.
For a first date, you should offer to pick me up, but don’t be surprised if I tell you I’ll meet you somewhere. I don’t know you well yet, and I may not feel safe climbing into a stranger’s car. Regardless of how we’re meeting up, you should be a little early (“a little” = 10 minutes), so that if I’m early, too, I’m not sitting alone in a restaurant somewhere, looking like the girl who got stood up. If you’re picking me up, wait in your car down the block until its right at the designated pick-up time. Punctuality is great, but I’ll be mortified if I’m still in my curlers when the door-bell rings.
Your Cel Phone
Unless you’re a doctor, turn it off. That’s right. O-F-F… OFF! I’m a special person. I deserve your undivided attention. If you’re looking at your hip every two minutes to see why your phone is vibrating, you’re not paying attention to what I’m saying. It doesn’t make you look important or popular, it makes you look rude and egocentric. I’ve been known to refuse a second date with a man because he answered his cel during dinner.
The Dinner Debate:On the first date, you should pay. I’ll offer to either pick up the tab or pay half, but I’m expecting you to say “no”. For subsequent dates, if you ask, you pay; if I ask, I’ll pay. Once you initiate “Dutch”, where you pay half and I pay half, it’s thereafter the established form of dinner transactions, and you can expect to hear things like, “I can’t this week. I’m broke.” Another acceptable way of handling the dinner transaction is to say, “Hey, you wanna leave the tip?” It’s a less analytically-intense form of Dutch, it lets me know that you’d like me to throw a little money on the table, and neither one of us have to feel cheap sweating over how to split a nickel. We can switch back and forth that way indefinitely… you buy this week, and I’ll tip… next week I’ll get the bill and you can leave the tip.
If there’s a way I can sneak a peak on the sly, I’m going to. I won’t be obvious about it, but don’t think that I won’t know how much you leave. Being cheap with wait staff (unless they did an awful job) is a total turn-off. If you can’t afford to leave a decent tip, you can’t afford to eat at that particular restaurant. Blowing money you don’t have isn’t sexy, it’s stupid.
If you can’t afford to wine and dine me at that super-expensive restaurant, let’s go to the local BBQ joint, or the cute little fish and chips place that was your favorite in high school. I’m out with you for the pleasure of your company, not so I can sink my teeth into a top-choice steak. If you’re really, really broke, why not invite me for a picnic at a local park, or have me over and cook for me? Both activities are special and intimate, and even though you’re not dropping half of your paycheck on them, I’ll appreciate the effort you put into the interaction.
If you picked me up, at some point, you’ll have to drop me off. You should definitely walk me to the door, but if we’re in the first few dates (“few” = 3 or 4), leave your car running. That automatically takes the pressure off of me to invite you in (unless I’ve done so already), and I’ll be much more comfortable.
Some people play with their keys. Some people bite their lip. Others watch the lips of their date. Any of those are reasonable indications that I’d like a kiss. You should lean in slightly, and I’ll either stand still (meaning you’ve read me wrong) or lean in, too. Mirror-leaning means its okay to pucker up, but don’t go overboard with it. A quick kiss is nice, or a closed-mouth kiss with a bit of a linger, but don’t try to take my temperature with your tongue. If there’s gonna be tongue, let me initiate it. I can’t tell you how gross it is to have a perfectly nice date ruined by a guy who got greedy with the smooch at the end.
The Thank-you Call:
As far as the “call-back”, it’s perfectly appropriate (and appreciated) for you to call the next day and thank me for the evening. Don’t be long-winded, and it’s better if you can catch the machine instead of me personally (hint: call when you know I’ll be at work). I don’t want to talk about my manicure appointment or your dog in first grade, it’s just a simple, polite measure that gives our date that little spin, that little bit of extra that helps you stand out from the crowd. Leaving that information on the machine gives me the benefit of answering it at my leisure.
The Second Date:
After the thank-you call, it’s alright to wait a few days before you call again (“a few” = 3 or 4). When you do, try to be respectful of my time; I’m a busy girl. Be straight-forward and direct. A great opener is something like, “Hey, I just wanted to thank you again for the great evening last weekend, and I was wondering if you had time to get together again maybe next Tuesday?” Now you’ve not only thanked me (thereby complementing me), but you’ve gotten straight to the point of the call. Know what we’re going to do before you call, and give me a general idea of the activities for the date. If I need to dress up (more than I did for the last date), you should let me know. If you’re taking me paddle-boating and haven’t mentioned it, I’ll be pissed when I get splashed in my strappy sandals and sundress. Second dates are hard, because they’re awkward. We don’t know each other tremendously well, so we haven’t quite gotten to the point of “old friends”, and there’s definitely that new-person tension going on. The more relaxed and good-humored you are, the better the date will go. I’ll be taking my cues from you, and if you’re uptight and nervous, I will be, too.