So you’ve got a first date lined up: congratulations, it’s no easy feat anymore. People are busy, online dating can go on indefinitely, and, more than all that, it takes courage to set up a first date, even if you’ve known the person platonically for a while.
If you’ve been away from the dating scene for a while, or never in it at all, there are a few main points to remember, to keep you calm inside. First off, breathe; if the date goes badly, it’s not a reflection of your romantic future—it could be you two are not a match. But there are certain behaviors that are just not cool on a first date; avoid these five at all costs.
Check Your Phone, Text or Accept Phone Calls
The point of a first date is to get to know the other person by giving them as much of your attention as possible. You can’t do that when you’re checking your phone, texting, or taking calls. Besides taking you away from the other person, it’s rude. It tells your date the absent party you’re communicating with is more interesting and important than they are.
Humans communicate with their bodies just as much as their voices—eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures—these nonverbal cues express a lot of information. If you’re tied up with your phone, even just holding it or leaving it out on the table and glancing at it, you send the message that you’re distracted and not fully engaged with the other person.
Just like refined manners, poor manners are usually learned in childhood. You might not even realize you have poor manners until someone calls you out on them. When you sit across from a virtual stranger at dinner, poor manners will overshadow all you say and leave a lasting bad impression.
Poor manners show when you chew with your mouth open, pick anything (nose, ears, nails), get drunk on your first date, check and/or reapply makeup, slouch way down in your chair, keep your elbows propped up on the table, talk with your mouth full, or eat too fast. If you are worried you have poor manners but don’t know it, try video recording yourself while you eat a meal and showing the video to a trusted, well mannered friend. Ask them to critique you and give you some pointers.
And even though some social codes have changed, it’s still considered good form to pull out a ladies’ chair out and hold a door open for her. Who pays has become completely confused in recent years, but hopefully you can work it out with your date peaceably.
Get Too Personal Too Soon
Asking probing questions on a first date makes the other person uncomfortable, as does getting too close physically, if you fail to read the signs correctly. “How much do you make in a year?” is a tasteless question. “Is that your real hair color?” is also no good, unless your date has a blue Mohawk.
Reaching across the dinner table and grabbing your date’s hand for no reason is usually creepy, not endearing. Same thing goes for movie theater maneuvers; on a first date, keep some physical distance. Being too intimate, physically or verbally, demonstrates a neediness that will probably turn the other person off.
Compare Your Date to Your Ex
Nothing is more tedious to a stranger than hearing about your past romantic partners–and a first date is pretty much a stranger, even if you’ve chatted online a few times. Talking about your ex in any way except to say “I’m divorced and haven’t seen my ex in a year” will ruin the conversation and any chemistry between you and your date. It tells the other person you’re not over your ex, and it sets up an impossible standard for them—how can they compete with someone who’s not there? And why would they want to?
The other person is there to meet you, as you are in this moment, not your past self, however cool or uncool you think that self was. Leave that storyline behind and bring who you are right now to a first date.
Don’t Follow Up After the Date
Calling at 8 am the morning after a late night date is not recommended, but calling three to five days later to say hello is a good idea. If you are interested in seeing the other person again, let them know. Ghosting is a real issue in modern dating, and it’s boring, frankly. This is when you go on a date and then disappear, and possibly reappear two months later. It’s a controlling head game that wastes time and energy.
And if the first date goes really badly but it’s somehow not verbalized at the end that you won’t be continuing the relationship, let the other person know this too. Putting a formal end to an experience is important for everyone involved, as it lets the next experience unfold freely, with no lingering attachments.