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Beginnings
The 16 Pieces of Advice You Need to Read Before a First Date
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Dating can feel like a minefield, no matter how long you've been in the game. When it comes to matters of the heart, things will always be precarious. But listen: whatever your goal is here, whether you're looking for a life partner or a playmate, the first date is the first step. You have to take it. So here are sixteen tips to help you deal with your next first date, before, during and after.

What should I expect on a first date?

In a word? A bit of awkwardness. This is a new-to-you person, and that means a bit of discomfort while you find a conversational groove. And that's okay. Being aware, ahead of time, makes the inevitable awkward pause here and there feel more manageable. Expect it, and expect to get through it.

Conversation is what first dates are all about. You're getting to know each other, after all, so it doesn't hurt to have a few questions prepared to keep the ball rolling. Your main goal is to find a few things you can both talk about easily and with real pleasure as a way to connect.

First dates are about making a connection. Whether you're looking for something casual or serious, it all starts with that first meet, with hanging out. While some people like dates centered around some kind of activity, they're still going in with the goal of getting a feel for their date's personality. You want to see: Who is this person, really, and how do we get along together?

It's okay to be nervous about the end of that first date. Kiss? Hug? Handshake? (Pro tip: the handshake is a no.) But it's not as big a deal as you might think. Stick with what feels comfortable to you and natural in that moment. The most important element of dating is being authentically you.  If you want to pucker up? Take that chance. If not, then that first kiss can wait.

How do I have a fun first date?

Get your head right! A lot of people go into a first date wondering, Is this person going to be my person? That's a lot of pressure. Instead of worrying about what will be, focus on enjoying what is. Just be in the moment.

How should I act on a first date?

Raise your hand if you hate being told, "Just be yourself." Because which you, right? So instead, think of this as an interview, one going both ways. You're each auditioning for the role of potential significant other. Be relaxed and informal but also on your best behavior... and see if your date is, too. (You can put your hand down now.)

How long should a first date last?

Count on an hour or two, maybe more, especially if you're going to be sharing a meal. Some people take a while to warm up, so give your date at least an hour to find their feet. This helps you do the same. Be sure to try to read your date, though, and make sure they're not hanging out just to be polite (and make sure you aren't, either). 

First date tips.

Before.

1. Want a date? Ask!

Girls don't ask first. That's too forward, and what if they say no? In that order: sure they do, no it's not and so what? Asking someone out can seem scary, but it doesn't have to be. A simple, "I'd like to get to know you more. Would you like to get a drink/have dinner?" works for everyone.

2. Know what you want.

Soul mate or playmate? While a first date isn't the time to announce your plan to be married within three years, it is normal to discuss what you're looking for in general. Knowing what you want and what you don't will keep you from wasting time with dates whose goals don't align with yours.

3. Build confidence with comfort.

Wear your lucky underwear or that super comfy top. While you are dressing to impress, to a degree, you don't have to deck yourself out in something that doesn't fit who you really are. Feeling good helps you look good, anyway. And you want your date to meet the real you.

During.

4. On your own terms.

Love a good coffee shop? Or maybe your go-to first date is a few laps around a roller skating rink. If that's you doing you, don't be afraid to suggest it. Not only is doing something you're cool with helpful to you, but it can also take the weight of planning off your date. Be flexible, though. Not everyone knows how to skate, after all.

5. On your own turf.

An excellent way to relieve at least some first date anxiety is to make sure you're familiar with the area you'll be going. Arrange to meet at a bar, cafe or other place you know. Taking an active part in planning shows you're excited, while also putting you smack inside your social comfort zone.

6. Be on time.

Rushing in twenty minutes late? Don't be that person. Nobody likes to hang around, wondering if they're being stood up. When it comes to any questionable behavior, ask yourself: Would I be offended if my date did it to me?

7. Be a good listener.

If you tend to rush a conversation, jumping from topic to topic or even talking over people, make a point of slowing down. Pause after they've finished speaking. A slow two-count will encourage you to really think about what they said.

8. Be a good conversationalist.

Don't let your date do all the heavy lifting when it comes to chatting. A good conversation is like a tennis match, with equal participation back and forth. Just remember to keep topics light and entertaining. Leave your baggage at home.

9. Cell phones down.

Now is no time for Instagram. Your date wants you to be there, in the moment, with them. They think you're cool enough to give you a couple hours of their time. Be polite enough to do the same.

10. Come out of your shell.

First date jitters are normal, but there are still ways to show you're having a good time. Actively participating in conversation is a big one, but another is body language. Don't sit back with your arms crossed. Lean forward, make good eye contact and smile. 

11. Don't get too...relaxed.

Meeting for a drink or two can be a nice low key first date. But remember that interview element of dating? You wouldn't go into a work interview tipsy. Don't do it on a first date, either. It's hard to be your best self with a few too many drinks under your belt.

12. Avoid heavy topics.

Politics? Religion? If you wouldn't bring it up at Thanksgiving (you don't, do you?), don't whip it out on a first date. No matter how essential your political beliefs are to your identity, diving right into heavy topics can turn a nice evening into a red hot argument.

13. Know your red flags.

We all have our own preferences when it comes to significant others, our own interview checklist. A first date offers you the opportunity to vet someone's attitude and behavior. If a red flag pops up while they're supposed to be on their best behavior? That's something to pay attention to.

14. Ask for a second date.

Be bold: if you had an awesome time together, say so. Striking while the iron is hot with an easy, "This was fun. Want to do it again?" is a lot less scary than waiting to do it later. If they hesitate, let it go. If they're in? You can start planning the next date, together.

After.

15. Send a text.

Let your date know you had a good time. There are fewer and fewer codified rules about dating, especially about that whole "wait three days" thing. One hard and fast rule that's eternal? Less is more. Send a quick "I had a great time, thanks!" text, and then get on with your day.

16. Don't fixate.

Had a great date? Cool. Now go do something else: have another fun first date, make plans with friends or take a solo field trip. The point is, keep your social calendar ticking along, without worrying about what happens next with this person. Keep yourself busy.

Final hack: everyone's rule #1.

Relax and enjoy! Remember that this is just a quick and simple meeting to see how you gel with another person. It's a hangout, a meetup. The word "date" doesn't have to strike fear into your heart or stir up butterflies in your stomach. The point is to enjoy yourself. From now on, when you think of a first date, train yourself to also think "no pressure."

--

Heather Adams is a writer & first date/coffee date vet. Find her on Instagram @art.life.story 

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