Getting ready for your first date can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you really care about how it goes. Sometimes your goals seem to conflict: you want to come off as your best self, you want to be natural, you want to be relaxed, you want everything to appear effortless, you want to be funny, you want to be approachable, you want to be sexy. You don’t want to be slutty or forward or too easy to get or too hard to get. Great.
You might consider whether it’s worth dating at all. Rest assured everyone gets nervous once in a while, but that’s no reason to become a perpetual wallflower. Instead, try these first date tips. They’ll help you keep your fears under wraps and hopefully get your date off to a great start.
- KNOW THAT HE’S AS CONCERNED AS YOU ARE
One of the most basic first date tips is to understand that your prospective Mr. Right is probably as concerned as you are. Truly, he wants to impress you just as much as you want to impress him, otherwise why would he be signing up for the obvious awkwardness and discomfort that comes with first dates?
In other words, everyone feels this way, and everyone can overcome it if they try. Give yourself some credit for being attractive and likeable, and know that he’s feeling just as insecure as you are. You’re in this together.
- PLAN WHAT YOU’LL WEAR AHEAD OF TIME
Mega awesome first date tip: pick your outfit ahead. Make sure it’s cute, fits well, and most importantly, wears well. Don’t wear a brand new dress on your first date: that’s a good way to discover it develops a really unattractive line right across your stomach if you sit in one place for five minutes. Not good, right?
Instead, plan what you’ll wear ahead of time to prevent any last minute panic. No, not an hour ahead of time. Like a week ahead of time. That way you can tell if something is off, if it gets less attractive as time goes on, or if you need to substitute another piece in for one that doesn’t work. Knowing you look good is a confidence booster you can’t afford to waste, so don’t.
- PACK NECESSITIES
First dates aren’t always ruined by glaring inabilities to get along, or embarrassing slipups that no one can move past. Sometimes it’s as simple as allergies, or bad footwear, or the lack of a coat. Seriously: you should think hard about where you’re going and what you’ll need when you’re there. Mini golf or picnic? Don’t wear heels. Headed to the botanical gardens, but you have allergies? Pack your Zyrtec. Going out for a long walk along a lake? Don’t forget to dress in layers. Don’t let a date go south just because you haven’t planned ahead.
- PREP A FEW TOPICS BEFORE YOUR DATE
Okay, this probably sounds totally dorky, but planning topics of conversation beforehand isn’t a bad idea. If there’s an awkward silence, you want to be able to fill it. Make a list of things you enjoy talking about, such as:
- Your favorite sports
- Funny childhood or college stories
- Mutual friends
- Your work
- Your reading list
- His work
- His friends
- The restaurant
- The food, drinks, desserts or other food associated with your date
… and so on. Even if bringing up a canned subject seems embarrassing at the time, it may very well launch a long and engaging conversation that can save you from appalling silence. And if the appalling silences just seem to keep cropping up, well, there’s your answer.
- MEET SOMEWHERE YOU’LL BE COMFORTABLE
A little talked-about tip for your first date is to pick somewhere you’ll be comfortable. If you don’t like spicy food, make sure you don’t go for Thai. or Indian food Allergic to gluten? Probably best to stay away from pizza. On a pretty strict diet? Maybe avoid food altogether. Here’s the bottom line: If you’re going to spend your entire date worrying about calories, allergies, your fear of heights (no skyscrapers, people!), your hatred for crowds, or whatever, then just avoid situations where those feelings might be triggered.
Some people want to avoid showing any preferences whatsoever so their prospective date doesn’t think they’re “weird,” but that’s the wrong approach. You’ll be much happier if you draw these kinds of boundaries up front. It’s not a big deal.
- ASK A FRIEND TO CALL 30 MINUTES IN
This first date tip seems like something out of a chick flick, but it’s a good one. Ask a friend ahead of time to ring you about a half hour into your date. Plan a reasonable “emergency” ahead of time, something believable that could get you off the hook: think babysitter got violently ill, your toilet overflowing and you need to call the plumber, a terrible breakup and your BFF just needs you so much … you get the picture.
That way, if the date is going badly, you’ll have an excuse to leave. On the other hand, if it’s going great, you can feel free to gracefully end the conversation with your kind friend and keep the good times rolling.
- BE DECENT
You know what shuts a date down faster than anything else? Being a jerk. Don’t do it. We’re trying to have a society here.
More seriously, so everyone knows that common decency is expected, but do your best to observe rules. Show up for your date on time. If you really and truly have to cancel, give your date as much notice as possible and offer one excuse. Pouring out alibis will only make you seem like more of a flake.
Once you’re on the date, treat everyone with respect. Tip well, hold doors for old ladies, be a kind conversational partner (ask about him as much as you talk about yourself), and generally act like the kind of person you want to be on a date with. It’s a good strategy because it makes you seem super charming.
- SHOW CONFIDENCE
Confidence is a severely underrated tip for a first date. If you walk in seeming like you might just pass out on the floor, things probably won’t go so well. Instead, give your opinion freely when your date asks for it. Choose the wine if he offers. Let him pay, but don’t assume he will. If he asks what you want to do next, don’t respond with, “Whatever you want!” Just tell him.
Confidence is sexy; never let anyone convince you otherwise. Hold your head high and your shoulders back and don’t be afraid. Most men will love you for it. And if they don’t … time for a new first date.
- WATCH THE BOOZE
This first date tip really ought to be headlining the list, because there’s no faster way to ruin a date that’s going well than to drink more than you can handle. Sure, the first drink may give you a nice rush of courage, but trust us: the liquid confidence isn’t worth it and some people would describe is as unlady like.
Soon enough, your new-found conversational abilities can turn into spilling embarrassing secrets, confessing feelings to him you might not want him to know about (such as if you’ve been waiting for this date a long time), or unkind gossip about mutual friends. Do that, and you might turn Date One into Date Final.
Instead, set your limit ahead of time. Know how many drinks you can tolerate – one? three? none at all? – and stick to it. If you’re worried about it, set up a hangout that doesn’t involve alcohol at all. There’s no reason it has to.
- TALK ABOUT THE NEXT DATE ON THIS DATE
It’s not a bad idea to plant the seeds of future dates while you’re still enjoying good feels from the current one. An unfortunate (but also fortunate) fact of humanity is that we can’t be in one another’s heads. Hence, even if you think you’re sending strong signals, your date might not pick up on them. So throw him a bone by putting out mild feelers about future encounters.
These plans don’t need to be super detailed; in fact, they can be quite vague. The point is to put it out there that you’re attracted to one another and that you would like to take things further. Examples include:
- Do you like any movie genre in particular?
- My friend is throwing a Christmas party next Saturday and I’m thinking of going.
- Oh my goodness, I love kung fu demonstrations!
… or what have you. Demonstrating your interest in and openness to future hangouts will encourage him to ask if he’s shy. And if he really doesn’t seem to get it, but sparks are flying, just grab your ovaries and say: “I’d love to see you again.” The worst he can say is “No”. Of course, if the date is going badly, go ahead and skip this step.
- HAVE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
Sure, first dates can be nerve wrecking, but they can also be really fun. A prime first date tip is to go into it with the right attitude. “OMG he’s pretty cute and I bet our families would get along and it has to go perfectly and I’m a failure if it doesn’t” is not the right attitude. “Let’s just have some fun and see where this goes” might sound cliché, but it is the right attitude.
Luckily, the ideas above will enable you to prepare yourself for either eventuality: that it’s a lot of fun, or that it doesn’t work out and you move on. Just keep in mind that first dates might feel like the end-all and be-all, but they’re actually pretty low-stakes. With that attitude, you’re likely to have a blast, so go enjoy yourself.