It doesn’t matter how it happened. Whether you met them on a dating app or website, whether you were introduced by a kind mutual friend or whether you decided to stop making small talk at the coffee shop every morning and start making power moves, you got yourself a first date. Congratulations! A first date is potentially the beginning of something big and special, and you should treat it with the kind of gravity and respect it deserves.
But what does that even mean?
The tricky thing about first dates is that no one really knows for sure what proper “protocol” is because, frankly, no two people are the same. And because no two people are the same, it means no two first dates are, either.
We spent a lot of time reading up on all the “first date” guides out there on the Information Superhighway, and frankly, we’re appalled. What’s with everyone writing about a first date like it’s a job interview?
Listen… A first date—a good first date—is a lot like the ceremonial butt sniffing that takes place between two dogs meeting for the first time in the dog park. That’s as simple as it has to be. And just like two dogs in the park, you and the person you’re out with will know within the first few sniffs whether or not you’re going to get along.
The techniques and tips below are a little advanced because we’d rather not bore or baby you with the whole, “Don’t be on your phone throughout the date” and, “Make sure you’re being positive and fun” stuff. Those are the basics. We’re kicking things up a notch.
First dates are easy. Take it from us.
What Kind of “First Date” Is It?
First thing’s first: What is this first date all about? What are you looking for out of it? And—perhaps more importantly—what is the other party looking for out of it?
Remember: It’s fine to be selfish about a few things in your life. Your finances and your clothes, for instance. Always have an eye on your money, and wear whatever makes you happy.
But, when it comes to dating, it’s important to remember that there are two beating human hearts involved, and that both people’s desires need to be considered.
Now, let us also be clear that we’re not asking you to plan your life out before you even head out on your first date. But you should be able to get some kind of idea about what they’re looking for and what you’re looking for either before the first date (especially if you’re using dating apps/websites) or early-ish on into the first date.
The problem with all these dating guides is they automatically lead with the supposition that everyone who’s dating is looking for a potential relationship. The truth is, dating, just like all other human interactions, is contextual and nuanced.
Once you know what you’re both looking for out of this—whether it be a partnership, companionship, a simple fun night out, casual repeat dates when time allows or whatever else you both settle on—you can figure out how to proceed.
Also, if your needs and desires don’t match up, then don’t go on a date. It’s that simple. Be kind to one another.
Be Cool, Man.
When we say, “be cool” we don’t mean it in the, “Wear your sunglasses inside and flex your credit score at the dinner table” kind of “be cool.” We mean the, “Remember that your date is probably just as nervous as you are” kind.
Remember that the anxiousness you’re experiencing is exactly what makes first dates so damn exciting in the first place. So, rather than let yourself be overwhelmed and potentially tripped up by your nerves, try to embrace them for the normal impulses they are.
Is this the start of something new? Perhaps. But is there also the potential for it to just be a nice evening out, enjoying someone who excites you and whatever hijinks the two of you get up to? Absolutely. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.
And hey, if, by some unfortunate chance, the date does go south, at least it’ll be a funny story to share with the guys when you see them next.
The point is: Keep your cool and enjoy yourself. Win, lose or draw, that’s what it’s all about.
Confidence Is Sexy. Don’t You Forget It.
We’re big proponents of humble confidence in all of our daily endeavors, but that mindset is especially valuable when it comes to dating.
Think of it this way: Have you ever noticed that women can just smell desperation on guys? It’s this incredible sixth sense they’ve been hardwired with over the last couple hundred thousand years, and if you think they won’t be able to smell it on you, you’re mistaken.
As human beings, we’re all either working with or against 200,000 years of survival instincts. You can either use those predisposed instincts to your advantage or complain about them after you bomb the first date and go home without so much as a peck on the cheek.
Now, we’re also not saying don’t start sweating like a hippie walking by a drug dog at a Phish concert. We’re saying understand the kind of evolutionary predispositions at your disposal. Being confident—but humble and polite—goes a long way with people. So long as you can find a way to be comfortable in your own skin, you’ll survive this night. People—all people; not just women—are attracted to genuine contentment. Give your date a reason to like you, and they will.
Take the Concept of “Rejection” and Throw It out the Window
This is a huge one that’ll help you get past whatever is going on in your head in the lead up to what you think might be a big first date.
First, you need to understand that our fear of rejection is a construct; it’s a made up thing that we use to rationalize for things not working out. Whether that rejection comes from a friend, a family member, an employer or a potential partner, our preconceived notions about it all too often wind up blowing us up on the launch pad before takeoff.
First dates are unique in that you’ve already cleared the launch pad. Getting the date was the launch pad. Your first date is essentially you being en route to the moon. You can decide how many times you’d like to orbit it (how many dates you’d like to go on), whether or not you’d like to land (seek out the next step), or return back to Earth (not see that person again).
Even if you enjoyed your first date and the person you went with didn’t quite have a good enough time to go for it again—that’s still not rejection, buddy. That’s life not working out the way we want it to sometimes, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, either.
Get a Haircut and Go to the Gym
If you’re looking for surefire ways to boost your confidence before the big date, two foolproof ways to do it are getting a haircut and working out.
We think the haircut thing is self-explanatory—there’s no other way for a man to feel as handsome as he does after a fresh haircut.
The gym stuff, however, has some real science to back it. When we work out, our body releases chemicals. More specifically, because our bodies are under stress during a workout, our brain releases a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) to help protect us from it. That’s the hormone that causes us to feel particularly relaxed sense of clarity following a workout.
As these proteins are released, your brain also releases endorphins, which are to help minimize the literal discomfort that results from exercise. That is what leads us to that kind of uplifting, euphoric feeling we experience.
There are also fascinating studies out there that suggest—in favor of those of us who work out more sporadically than others—that to get your best results, it’s better to actually work out the day of your date, as opposed to working out constantly and then taking a day off. All it takes is a good 20-minute workout to start feeling the psychological benefits of it.
And remember: These are just suggestions. If you feel good with your hair as it is and don’t feel like going to the gym, well, hey man, don’t let us tell you what to do. But if you’re looking to make all the right moves you can, these are two great suggestions.
Picking a Location Depends on Context and Nuance
One of the most shocking pieces of advice we saw in these date guides was all the people suggesting that you should be spending a lot of money on a fancy dinner, or that you should be buying new clothes and walking into the room with a fancy new outfit.
That’s some of the biggest horse shit we’ve ever heard. If you’re fancy people who like to do fancy people things, then by all means—hop into a freshly pressed suit and go to that fancy $160 per plate sushi spot that just opened up downtown. But generally, for us normal folk, we suggest picking a place that takes the nuance and context of your conversation—of your combined hobbies and interests—into consideration.
We assume that if you’re going on a first date with someone, it’s because you’ve already learned enough about them to know that you’d like to learn more. What common interests do you guys have? Have they hinted at anything in particular? A successful first date is definitely heavily dependent on location, and picking something of value and interest to your date will earn you some major brownie points.
Make sure you’re taking them out for something they’ll enjoy, make sure you’re comfortable in whatever clothes you decide to wear, and try to see if that night out at the arcade, or the jazz bar or the theater will help you learn more about them.
And a quick pro-tip: No concerts on a first date, unless you do dinner beforehand or drinks after. The whole point of a first date is creating an opportunity to connect a little deeper with this new person in your world and trying to learn more about them. Loud concerts (or quiet movie theaters) are an awful way to make that happen.
Be a Gentleman—Pay for Everything, Open Her Car Doors, Don’t Be a Prick, Etc.
It’s fascinating to us how modern dating seems to work. People are often confused about whose job it is to pay, what the rules are for holding doors open, etc.
The answer is: Do everything your mother would expect you to, no matter how cheesy or dated it seems.
There’s no need to go “Catholic Guilt” level of chivalrous on this thing, but doing little things to make your date feel special definitely helps set the mood. If you’re going to call for an Uber, make sure you open her door for her. Before you enter whatever building you’re going into, make sure you open the door for her. If you’re walking on a sidewalk, make sure you’re walking on whichever side is closest to traffic. The only exception to this is it’s totally fine for her to pull her own chair out at a restaurant—unless it’s a fancy one where this kind of decorum is appreciated.
Also, pay for everything, you cheapskate. Dinner, drinks, movie tickets, whatever. Even if she politely offers to pay for half of the experiences, you pay for it—not because of some strange expectation of receiving something in return, but because that’s what gentlemen do.
Your Ending Is Just as Noteworthy as Your Beginning
One of the biggest fuck-ups of dating tips over the last couple decades is the age-old lie that you should never call someone too quickly after a date, so as not to seem too eager.
As it happens, that’s actually pretty rude.
It’s perfectly acceptable to text someone after a date (Waiting until the next morning is probably best but, whatever) to let them know that you had a good time. If that feeling is mutual, it’s also acceptable to see when you might be seeing them again.
One thing we never recommend, however, is ghosting. If your date contacts you about going on another date, but you weren’t really feeling things the first time around, don’t ignore them. Be forthright and honest, and tell them that you didn’t feel any sparks. That’s perfectly okay.
You now have everything you need to plan the perfect first date. Godspeed!