First-Date Jitters: Where to Start?!

Most of my friends didn''t date in college. In fact, until I graduated, my only "dates" were with my college boyfriend. In college, you either had friends "with benefits," or a particular beau.

There usually weren''t multiple dates with various people. If you had a crush, you''d meet that special someone for lunch at the student union or for coffee.

Thus, as you can imagine, I was unsure of what to expect on my first date out of college. I was so nervous as to the proper way to date that I had to listen to encouragements from my stepsister, Rachel.

"What if I run out of things to say?"

"You won''t," she insisted.

"What if I like him – and he doesn''t like me? What if it''s the other way around?"

"That might happen," she acknowledged, "but just relax and have fun. If the date is horrible, you can think of an excuse to get out of it."

Surprisingly, that date turned out to be a great one; in fact, I''d say it was one of my best-ever first dates. We met for mini-golf, then got a couple of drinks. The conversation flowed, and we enjoyed each other''s company. The night even ended with a kiss and plans to meet for a second date.

A good first date … how rare and lucky that is. Why can''t first dates always be this smooth? I''m not sure why, but they can''t, so let me suggest a few ways to flatten some of the bumps.

The most important thing is not to be overly serious. You can take the date seriously, but think of the first date as a preview: You''re just viewing the person long enough to see if you want to meet for a second time.

What to Wear
Generally, I am a jeans-and-sneakers person; if I add a cute top, some jewelry and makeup, it suffices for a first date (you want to be yourself). Sometimes, the sneakers are exchanged for heals. Occasionally, the jeans will be replaced with dress pants or a skirt. No one said you have to wear your finest, but you want to look good and feel comfortable.

Remember: First impressions are crucial. I personally don''t care what a guy wears as long as he smells clean and doesn''t have holes in his clothing. I know a lot of girls require a button-down shirt, but I don''t mind more casual dress. Everyone has an image of a perfect outfit for a first date, but as long as you think you look good, your date should feel the same way.

I think the best first date is when people meet for a drink or a cup of coffee – and have little further expectations. That way, you also eliminate the high-expense possibilities.

If you are going on numerous dates, costs can surely add up, especially – let''s be honest – for men. The check-paying situation is usually awkward, because who is suppose to pay? My father told me I should always offer, but ultimately, I do believe the guy should pay on a first date, as is gentlemanly.

Many of my friends of both sexes agree. I''m all for women''s rights – if a woman wants to pay her share or the entire bill, that''s fine – but as for myself, I''m a little old-fashioned. I think paying on the first date goes under the chivalry category, along with opening doors and pulling out chairs. However, those women who don''t even make the attempt to offer their half are ruining their chances because that can be a huge turn-off.

By the way, dating''s an even more expensive prospect when you''re a single parent. Not only do you have to fork over funds for drinks, but you have to pay a babysitter. That''s one reason to discourage a full-blown dinner.

Here''s another: Before meeting my father, my stepmother, Jackie, once went to dinner with a man who talked about himself the entire time. He literally did not allow her to speak in the first 45 minutes!

He yapped on about his ex-wife, his kids and his issues with being single. Jackie had had it; she got up, put her share of the check on the table and declared, "This isn''t going to work."

That may seem blunt, but who wants to play psychiatrist on a first date? Why put yourself in a situation where you might be stuck with a dud for more than 20 minutes?

That is usually all the time you need to decide if you want to spend more time with a person. I, for one, am a busy gal, and don''t have time to waste with a person who''s not for me. I want to avoid the boring dinner where I am counting the minutes until the check comes. If this does become the case, may I suggest that you do split the bill so not to give the date the wrong impression.

A Few Precautions
Now, I have to throw in some precautions. No matter how well you think you know a person over the Internet or the phone, always arrange the first date in a crowded meeting spot. Do not have anyone pick you up – or drop you off – at your house, apartment or place of business.

Even if the date ended with fireworks and a kiss, there''s no need to give too much away. This also goes for men. You might not be so concerned with safely, but how do you know for sure if your date isn''t a potential stalker?

Now, are you supposed to have sparks after a first date? That much, I don''t know. As much as I hope to feel my stomach drop, I leave that to the movies; butterflies often come with time.

If you want to share any dating triumphs or woes, e-mail: [email protected]



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