First Dates. Coffee, Drinks, Lunch, Dinner, Drive By?

What should a first date be? There are as many answers to that question as there are single daters out there in the world.  Here’s this matchmaker’s take on what a first date should look like, and here’s how to avoid this common pitfallassuming that your idea of a first date matches up with another person’s.

Is it wrong, lame, or cheap for a first date to be at a coffee shop? Not necessarily. Is it wrong, stupid or a colossal waste of money for a first date to be at The Ritz-Carlton? Maybe. OK, well… probably.

A first date is a chance for two people to meet up casually, to see if there’s a conyoung couple on a datenection, some chemistry, shared passions and values – to see if there’s enough of a “click” to have a second date.  That’s it. No more, no less.

Personally, I think that a first date is important enough that it should be in a nice, quiet place, ideally with table service, so the two of you can focus on each other, and really give each other the gift of your presence for an hour or so.

The Coffee Date.  A gazillion relationships have launched successfully from a first date at Starbucks – I won’t poo-poo the coffee date, as plenty of men and plenty of women prefer this low-pressure, casual, lower risk way of meeting up for a first date.  If you DO plan to meet up at a coffee shop, make sure the other person knows exactly which location… as coffee shops are on every corner these days. I suggest arriving early, to snag a nice, quiet table, waiting until the other person arrives before ordering. Ideally, he asks her what she’d like, she holds the table while he jumps in line to order for the both of them. He pays, cuz… well… he wants to make a nice first impression, and most women, even in today’s modern culture will expect that he will spring for her coffee.  It’s a few bucks… no biggie, right?

Dining together. Whether over lunch, breakfast or dinner, a woman tends to really appreciate the invitation for a dining adventure together for a first date. I like this option, especially if the venue accepts advance reservations and if there’s table service so the two of you can focus on each other. First dates can be really uncomfortable and awkward if the two of you are looking around for each other, or standing in line, waiting for a table, or ordering from the counter – as the two of you are forced to make  small talk, while trying to study a menu, figure out what to have, who’s paying, etc. If you ARE going to share a meal together, make it a spot quiet enough to talk, and ideally one that will accept a reservation, so you’ll have a table for sure.

Drinks Dates. I love drinks dates. Whether it’s over a martini, a glass of wine, cranberry juice or iced tea, a drinks date is a fun, casual, low pressure way for two people to meet up. Pick a place that’s not likely to be too crowded, as really, what’s the point of meeting if you can’t hear each other, or if you’re squished up against a crowd of people? Hotel lobby bars are great, or restaurant bars that have a nice environment. Look for spots that have happy hours, which can help minimize costs. And no, it’s not cheap to have drinks at a place that offers happy hour prices. But whipping out a coupon… well… um… no… not on a first date.

Who pays? Most of the time, the guy will spring for the check. And this is not a rule, by any means.  Plenty of women feel the urge, even the sincere desire to share the expense of the first date, as she might not want to feel indebted to him in any way, or because she thinks it’s the right thing to do. Ladies, if you DO offer to share the tab or pick up the tab, and he says OK, and you do contribute, don’t make the mistake of chastising him or writing him off as cheap for saying Yes to your offer… after all, you offered… Plenty of men will say Yes if you offer, because the guy sincerely wants you to be happy, and if you express desire to pay or help pay, then he will assume you are being honest when you express your desire to contribute. In other words, don’t be inauthentic and don’t play games of any kind.

Who drives? You should both be plenty willing to drive, either to the other person’s neck of the woods or to a mid-way destination. Especially if one or the other of you (or both) have big time, serious jobs or challenging commutes already – be flexible. Relationships are all about compromise – start here, on Date Number One, by being considerate of this person’s time, our most precious resource.

Check Your Attitude. Keep things light and upbeat. No matter what happens. If the venue was a dive, if the service was horrendous, if the food was lousy, or if traffic or parking was challenging, rise above it and give this person your smile, your relaxed demeanor and you full attention. Let the little stuff go, stay cool, have fun, and make sure this other person has fun too.

Manage Your Own Expectations. The only time we’re ever disappointed in life is if reality doesn’t match our expectations. One thing you can do instantly, to improve your first date experiences is to relax your expectations. Go with the flow, look for what’s right and lovely and worthy of note in this new person. Look for pleasant surprises. They’re always there, if you look, if you pay attention, and if you notice.

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