Ah, January. When the year is new, our hopes are high, and the inquiries of every elderly relative echo in our heads: “How’s your love life? Are you dating? So when are you getting marrrrried?!”
Before you can fall in love and get married — barring the odd Vegas or mail-order bride scenarios — you have to conquer an inevitable beast: the first date. And while, ladies, I’ll admit that I don’t know what the hell men expect from you on date No. 1 (hence the reason I’m still dodging these questions from my own relatives every holiday), I am qualified to provide guys with girl-approved advice on how, when it comes to the first date, to totally nail it.
Ya know, metaphorically.
On the destination
Do: Select somewhere unique and cool
You don’t have to drop big dollars to dine at Uchi or sacrifice your first-born to score reservations at a trendy spot like Dai Due. (Note: It may not actually be that difficult to get reservations at Dai Due; work with me.) Fortunately, there are plenty of bars and restaurants in Austin that are impressive without being too expensive. I always recommend Garage Bar to my male friends as a winning date spot: the drinks are fancy, the ambience is unbeatable, and it’s still under-the-radar enough to ensure you appear hip and in the know. I suggest Wednesdays when they have live music. I’ll probably be there drinking Champagne by myself. (Want more interesting date options? Try these new restaurants that popped up in 2014.)
Don't: Choose a chain restaurant
While I respect how economical the never-ending pasta bowl is, we don’t live in a depressing square state where chain restaurants and questionable diners are the only option. (Though, should you find yourself in a really sad small town, it is admittedly hard to resist the siren call of Club Applebee's.) That said — not to sound extremely snobby ... even though this sounds extremely snobby — if you take me to Olive Garden, I’m going to gouge my eye out with a bread stick. Try me, bro. (Note: Another don’t? Asking your date to pick a destination. One of my coworkers and I agonized over what number of Yelp-designated dollar signs deemed a restaurant inappropriate to suggest for a first outing.)
Do: Have fun
Carpe that diem — er, date! If the night is headed in the direction of tequila shots, have no shame in your Patron-downing game. There’s no rule that says you can’t have a few drinks on a date; it’s just recommended that you don’t end up doing body shots off the bartender or take your date to an establishment where body shots are actually an option. (Note: A guy once took me to Bikini’s. Don’t bring a woman to Bikini’s.)
Don't: Get hammered
I shouldn’t have to say this, but it warrants a warning: If you take five shots of vodka before your date, you may or may not end up making questionable decisions in the McDonald’s parking lot behind Peter Pan Mini Golf. I may or may not be speaking from experience.
Do: Pay for the meal
Now I’m a feminist (for the ignorant folk, keep in mind that if we were to make a Venn diagram with “Feminists” and “Women Who Shave Their Armpits,” I would be in the large intersecting portion, along with plenty of other women) and I believe in equal rights for males and females. That includes the right to pay. But I think I speak for the majority of the female population when I say that while, sure, I appreciate the right to make it rain on the first date, it's definitely not a right that I want to actually exercise. (I’m a writer. Help me, I’m poor.) While it may be expected, it’s also much appreciated when, as a guy, you demonstrate some chivalry and cough up a little cash to pay for the meal you so kindly invited me to share with you. (Preferably after opening the door for me and gallantly throwing your coat over a puddle so I don’t get my shoes wet.)
Don't: Suggest we split the check
There’s nothing sexier than a guy who can do division, sure, but as arousing as I find your fourth-grade math skills, there’s also no bigger turnoff than watching you calculate the price of the 1/12 of your beer that I tasted. I’ll do the customary “wallet grab”; you politely refuse when I attempt to pay with what’s actually my library card. I’ll get you on the second date, babe.
On post-date practices
Do: Follow up if you’re interested
If it was a great date and I’m interested in you, a text the next day — or, hell, five minutes after we part ways — doesn’t indicate you’re desperate or serve as a deal-breaker. On the contrary, I’ll be thrilled to hear from you, and probably do a happy dance in my underwear while researching our astrological compatibility and writing in my diary about how magical the night was. Kidding ... but really: If a woman likes you, she’ll be excited to hear from you again; if she isn’t interested, that “Had fun with you!” or “Get home safe?” text is not the reason.
Don't: Be a cryptic asshole
There’s no denying the fact that, to an extent, “playing hard to get” works; it’s not conjecture, it’s psychology. People want what they can’t have, and — of course — there’s also the fact that no one wants to put themselves out there and risk rejection. But the problem with playing games is that there’s always a loser — and in this case, often two. So guys, if you like a woman, act accordingly (for her sake and yours). Because while being clingy is a definite don’t, being coy to the point that you’re risking a potentially awesome relationship ... well, that’s an even bigger one.