So you’ve gotten past texting and you’ve wrapped your head around the concept of talking to and even seeing more than one man at a time, but now you actually have a date. Awesome and terrifying in equal measure, simultaneously. Perfect, you are right on schedule. Meeting up for the first time should be fun and flirty, fraught with anticipation and excitement; however, more often than not it feels more like a job interview. There are questions about where to meet, (definitely a public place, don’t have anyone pick you up at your home until you feel some trust has been established); Is he going to look like his picture? Will I find him attractive? Will his voice drive me crazy? And the list is endless. I suppose it all depends whether or not you are a worrier.

Try and relax. First dates should be fun. As a general rule, men expect to pay on the first date, but if you feel strongly about it, you can go Dutch. For me first dates are practice for second dates. While awkward, try to see it as an opportunity to get out and talk to someone new. I often keep first dates short, something like coffee, a drink, or dessert; however, it really just depends on the person. I think it’s important for you to have a sense of what’s important to you on a first date and stay true to it. Here are some of my rules:

1. When possible, I like to talk on the phone before a first date. It makes me feel like I know the person better. If the phone doesn’t seem agreeable until after a meeting, I try to schedule something shorter, like coffee, in case there is no spark. I usually try to meet during the day also so that I don’t need a babysitter (Usually I can organize a playdate). If we did manage to talk on the phone, I’m more inclined to be willing to get a babysitter and go out for a full meal. Usually I let the man pick the place for a first date.

2. I always do meet in a public place, but I usually don’t pick my favorite restaurant or a place that I love to take my kids. I try to go somewhere that is in between where we both live. I think it’s important to show that I’m willing to travel and make an effort to compromise. I also let him pick, unless he is insistent that I do. Usually a conversation about food and drink preferences occurs via text or phone before agreeing to meet.

3. I dress casual, but make sure that I look nice. I put some effort into an outfit and make up because I think first impressions are important. I’m expecting the man to match my effort in some way, so if he shows up looking like he just rolled out of bed, he’s probably not the right guy for me.

4. I try to reserve judgment and really talk to the person; however, usually if he looks a lot different from his picture, or there quickly appears to be no chemistry, I am polite, but keep the date to about an hour or so and make it clear that we probably aren’t a good match.

5. I have no real rules about what to talk about; however, I look for conversation that flows easily and a person that can make me laugh.

6. I’m not opposed to kissing (a little) on the first date, but only if it’s someone that I would like to see again. Usually a hug will suffice. I also like to know if we plan to see each other again before the date ends; however, I’m learning that more often than not these conversations occur via text after the date. We seem to be a bit wimpy these days. Often texting helps us avoid an awkward face to face conversation, but for me, I try to have the conversation face to face. If I know it doesn’t feel right, I say so after thanking him for meeting with me, and then wish him luck. I have made a few friends in the deal.

7. I guess the most important thing is to be yourself. I won’t lie about where I am in life, what I want, what I’m doing, or anything else; however, there are some questions that you shouldn’t expect on a first date. I don’t talk about income, or money of any kind on a first date. You can usually get a sense for how you align on some of these issues by the place that you agree to meet. If he wants to grab a burger at McDonald’s he’s probably not the guy for me. That being said, I would probably be equally uncomfortable if we had a reservation at the most expensive place in town (that could just be me). I think while first impressions are important, second or third dates are a better setting for going the extra mile.

First dates are awkward, or they can be, but if you don’t get out there, you will never meet someone that you want to pursue a relationship with; but before a relationship can develop, you need to go on a date. There seems to be an unwritten protocol for first dates, maybe this is regional, maybe it just is the way it is, but in my experience, first dates are fairly traditional. By that I mean that the man usually picks the place, and pays the bill; however, it really is up to you.

I tend not to be very traditional in practice, but when I found myself single in my 40s, I decided that I would go along with certain traditions because it seemed more understandable to the men that I was meeting and kept things easier. A first date will give you a sense of a person, but it takes time and investment to really get to know someone and grow a relationship.

If we decide that there will be a second date, and that goes well, I will stop trying to date others and see if a relationship is brewing. For me it is difficult to grow a relationship if there are other people in the picture, but that really depends on your goals and what you ultimately want out of dating. I think as long as you are upfront, you should do what you want. Maybe you want fun, keeping it simple and casual, but if you are searching for a relationship, I have found that it’s good to focus on one person, but only after you’ve been out a few times and decided that you want to make an investment. Investment comes first and then commitment. Think of first dates as a low risk investment that might lead to more.

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