Lately, I have been receiving all sorts of emails covering many topics (some, you will read about in future columns). But I found quite a number of people were talking about getting back to one-on-one/face-to-face dating, instead of how dating was during the height of the pandemic, and they feel out of practice. I would have thought that we were beyond this topic, because rules have been relaxed since May and June, but then again, maybe people didn’t get right back into the dating scene because of apprehension or anxiety. Some referred to it as starting to date all over again, even if they have been in the dating parshah for many years. I understand that people easily got used to the Zoom date or just long phone calls, and now that dating is back in full force (for now, and I hope for the foreseeable future), they are nervous. One email equated it to getting back in the pool after not swimming for years. Yes, he still remembered how to swim, but his movements weren’t as fluid, and he was having trouble treading water. Another person compared it to getting back on a bicycle after not riding one for years: “Yes, they say that your body never forgets how to ride a two-wheel bicycle; but for the first few seconds, it’s touch-and-go and you wobble just a bit. That’s how I felt when I went out on my first real date after the pandemic.”
I remember reading an article on the Huffington Post website a while back that discussed surviving first dates. The article basically paraphrases what everyone’s common sense should be telling them and what I have written about in the past. I guess first dates are a trending topic in America, not just in the frum community, especially now. As a public service, I will write some commonsense tips for what one should do in preparation for a first date, and what to say and do – and to not say and do – on a date, so that your first date may lead to a second date.
First Tip: Prepare some common topics that may lead to a really good conversation. Bring up a great vacation experience you had and then ask about your date’s most exciting vacation. You can ask what made them choose the field of work they are currently in, or (if they are in school) ask what made them want to go into that field of study. It can be the start of a very interesting conversation that can lead into other topics. You can even ask what new hobby they may have picked up during the pandemic. I hear baking artisan bread was “a thing,” but I never had time or the interest to get into that “thing.”
Second Tip: Don’t brag about yourself. Yes, you may have many attributes that your mother may tell all of her friends about, but no one wants to meet someone and listen to them give a sermon praising themselves. You can work it into conversation. Don’t list your accomplishments. Sometimes a little mystery is nice and keeps the person coming back for more. Don’t bore your date with all the accolades that you have received. It’s a real turn-off. I’m not saying not to speak about yourself, but let it work its way into the conversation without you steering the conversation down Praise Me Avenue.
Third Tip: Yes, first dates may be nerve-wracking. Here you are going against your parents’ advice. You were always told not to get into a car with strangers who offer you candy, and now you are specifically going into a stranger’s car and you may be going to a lounge or restaurant. Nothing is wrong with being honest that you may be nervous. It may even be an icebreaker. For all you know, the other person may be just as nervous as you are. Even admitting that you’re a bit nervous may alleviate some of the anxiety.
Fourth Tip: Do not speak in depth about past relationships/dates. People make this mistake all the time. They may say, “Tell me about your longest relationship” or “What are the craziest things that ever happened on a date.” Yes, the topic may switch over to past dates/relationships. You can speak about it for a moment and then move on; do not go down the rabbit hole of past relationships. You are out with someone with whom you can potentially build a future. Come out of the past. And never speak of a relationship/date that ended badly or that you haven’t gotten over yet. That conversation can’t lead to anything good.
Fifth Tip: Always reciprocate questions. If you are asked about hobbies, work, friends, family – you can reciprocate and ask your date the same question. There should be a nice back-and-forth volley of conversation. You are not Hamlet; there is no need for any monologues. I remember dating a few men who never gave me the chance to speak and never asked me any questions; I was bored 20 minutes into the date. Keep your date interactive.
Sixth Tip: Plan ahead. I can remember countless times when I sat in my date’s car after he just picked me up, and then he would ask, “What do you want to do? Any ideas?” To me, it just proved that you didn’t put any thought into the date. I’ve discussed it with friends, and they feel the same way. Ladies like to feel as if the date has been anticipated and a plan has been made. I always had one or two names of restaurants and cafés – or activities – in my head that I was ready to suggest at any moment. But it is a letdown when the fellow hasn’t planned the date at all. I found it very charming when the dates made suggestions or reservations somewhere. By planning ahead, you may impress your date, who may want to go out again with someone who is prepared.
There are other commonsense tips, but I just wanted to get you started. Don’t forget mediation and deep breathing! They can help relax you. There are always things that you can’t plan for, and when they happen you have to adapt and go with the flow. But with these basic tips, you can ensure that you will have a better chance at a second date. Another date isn’t a given, but then again, nothing is.
Hatzlachah to you all!