January 31, 2017

5 First Date Faux Pas


5 Things On Early Dates That Kill Your Chances


First dates are tough. I get it. If you're dating for more than short term sex it's an odd predicament. It has all the personal stress of an audition or a job interview, as you realize that to an extent you're being evaluated. But it also carries the responsibilities of being that casting director or hiring manager, as you are also paying close attention to the person in front of you and deciding whether you want to go out with them again. 

As a result a funny thing can happen on what should be an otherwise pleasurable experience. Feeling pressure from both sides can cause people to treat early dates a lot more awkwardly than they would treat, say, just a casual hangout. Normally balanced, confident people can find themselves being suddenly passive and insecure. Maybe they find their date intimidating, or maybe they're insecure about something like their height, weight or salary. This can cause them to seem boring when really they're just super nervous. Alternatively, some people take the audition angle way too far and approach first dates with boisterous entitlement. They make comments throughout the evening literally letting their date know they are evaluating them, and how they measure up to their expectations. Now this normally laid back person comes across as arrogant and kind of rude.

At the end of the day, no one is going to go on a second or third date with you, or consider turning things into a relationship if they don't enjoy being around you.

Here are five dating faux pas to avoid if you want to make sure your texts are returned, and not with some weird excuse about having to stay home to apply the gerbil's fungal cream. 

1. Making physical evaluations about your date to their face

This should be obvious. It should be really, really obvious. But alas...it is not. 

On the one hand, yeah, it's really disappointing to meet someone online, go out on the date, and realize that they misrepresented themselves physically. When it's a clear and deliberate misrepresentation and the thing that was misrepresented is of importance to you, it's easy to be hurt and angry. 

On the other hand, not everyone is quite as focused on the physical aspect of dating. If that's the case, they may not think of their profile pictures the way a more looks oriented person might. They're not headshots, they're just pictures of them living their life. Who cares if their hair is shorter now, or curly today, or their mustache is gone, or they're doing Novembeard. 

For example, if your date turns up without the thick beard you thought was so sexy online, it's kind of rude to point that out. The same goes for saying you thought they'd be taller, or thinner, or thought their breasts were bigger, etc. Or the opposite - that you're glad they're tall enough for you, in shape, or have a "feminine" figure. And this isn't just limited to online dating. Maybe you met them through mutual friends, or at work, or at a bar. Maybe they're exactly what you look for physically in the opposite sex. Still, sharing your criteria and how they measure up is not first date conversation. It's one thing to say, "you look great," or the classic, "you clean up nice." That's a sweet compliment. But looking over your date's physique with a tiny clipboard and golf pencil in hand is never the move.

If your date is more prone to insecurity they'll be hurt and uncomfortable. If they're pretty secure, you'll come off as a superficial jerk. 

Either way, they're probably not going to want to go out with you again. 

2. Being Rude

Again, isn't this obvious? 

Well...apparently not. 

First, if you have to concentrate on not being rude in general, it may be a good idea to forego dating until you become...well...a better person. But let's assume for the purposes of this article that rudeness is not the rule, but an odd exception that happens to you due to nerves and pressure on dates.

If this is you, focus particularly hard on not being rude to these two people:

- Your server (or the waitstaff in general)
- Your date. 

The Waitstaff

People come from all different walks of life. Just because someone has their own marketing business now doesn't mean they've never bussed a table, tended bar, or worked a holiday overnight in a retail store. Particularly if you've worked or currently work in the service industry, seeing someone who is rude to waitstaff or enters with an unreasonable sense of entitlement is highly unattractive. 

If not for personal reasons, the waitress test is a pretty well known first date test as well. The theory is that how a person treats service workers is indicative of their true character, so regardless of how well they're behaving with you today, what you see in six months will be closer to how they treat the staff.

But what does rude look like exactly? Basically being rude to your waitstaff is anything you might do to suggest that you be prioritized over others, that exceptions be made for you or that your expectations haven't been met, particularly if you directly communicate this, and particularly if you do so in a negative tone or with negative suggestions in an attempt to put extra pressure on the staff and gain special treatment.

First, even if the service is bad, you'll get a lot farther with the staff and with your date if you handle this gracefully. So, if you've shamelessly told a different server, the hostess, and the person cleaning up the table across from you that your drinks haven't arrived yet, you may want to slow down. If you find yourself saying the words, "but it's your job," or "but it's their job," you've gone too far. If something arrives at your table and you use the word finally - yeah, here's looking at you.

A little secret about the service industry. They know how long you've been waiting, because, as you so gracefully pointed out, it is their job. They don't enjoy snide comments from strangers any more than you enjoy waiting a long time for your dinner. Chances are it isn't personal and they're doing the best they can to catch up and service everyone.

And in the rare instances that the service is personal - guess what? That attitude isn't helping.

More importantly, you have not been sent by Open Table to review the restaurant. You're on a date! Your job right now is to ask questions, tell your stories, get to know each other and generally just have a good time. If you think someone's idea of a good time is listening to you berate the waitstaff, you've got another thing coming.

Or rather - you probably don't have another thing coming.

Like if that thing is a second date. 

Your Date

Regarding your date, this should be a no brainer but somehow it is not. Perhaps it's the pressure of the word date that makes certain common courtesies go out the window? But regardless of why, avoid these rude mistakes. 

Do not trivialize and/or critique your date's values. Whether it's religion, politics, diet, whatever, this is not a place to determine the validity of these things. It's to get to know the other person. A playful debate that is mutual? Sure. That's fine. But asking someone to justify a belief to you does not belong on a first date. It's just disrespectful. What's the difference? Okay...

Regular Questions:
So what made you decide to become a vegetarian? 
How did you feel about the election?
Oh, no carbs? Have you always avoided them, or?

Inappropriate Questions:
So you don't eat meat but your bag is leather? 
It doesn't make you feel weird to have voted for a racist criminal? 
You know no carb diets aren't actually healthy. There are better ways to lose weight.

Forcing someone onto the defensive isn't playful banter...it's rude. Especially when it's about something they clearly care about. The difference can be as subtle as semantics, but it may make the difference between, "yeah I know a great coffee shop down the street," and, "actually, I need to get home to feed my cat." 

Do not ignore and/or cross your date's boundaries. Maybe you're out at a restaurant and some couples get up and start dancing. You love to dance, so you ask your date. They decline, and explain that they don't like to dance, or maybe they do but they don't know how to dance to this music, or maybe they know how but they consider it a more intimate experience and would prefer not to do it with a near stranger. Standing up, grabbing their hands and using your full body weight to yank them out of their seat and onto the dance floor might seem hilarious and fun to you, but it definitely isn't fun for them. Or maybe they confide something that they consider embarrassing or private, and you shout it out to the restaurant as a "joke." Or maybe they tell you they prefer not to talk about money on dates but you keep talking about your salary and bonuses, how much your car costs, ask them how much their apartment costs, etc.

When in doubt, just ask yourself this simple question: Am I making my date feel good or bad?

And then ask, if I'm making them feel bad, why would they want to ever see me again?  

3. Exploitative Behaviors

Taking an interest in someone's hobby, interest, or job is one thing. But taking an interest for your own personal gain is another. 

Examples:

Yeah, so I'm a doctor up at Lenox Hill.
Are you? That's really great because you know what, I have this pain in my foot. What do you think that could be?

I'm a bartender over at this cigar lounge in the Meat Packing District.
That's amazing, I've been looking for a place to go with my buddies for my birthday in a month. You think you could get us a discount?

I'm a physical therapist. 
Nice. So that means you give good massages?

I mean come on, it's obvious. In case you don't watch Curb Your Enthusiasm - asking people to essentially do their jobs for free when they're on their own time is not cool. Some people will politely answer one or two questions or attempt to change the subject. Others will just let you have it after a while, and I can't blame them. This is annoying even when it comes to random strangers at bars, but on a date, leave alone a first date? Come on! You're supposed to be showing me a good time, not requesting my services for free off the back of what is beginning to amount to a bad date. 

More importantly, people don't like being used. So how about just...don't.

4. Inconsiderate Behavior

So when you're single, it's really easy to imagine you and your significant other doing all your favorite things together like it's some kind of movie montage. But trying to copy and paste a person into a vacant slot in your own life, as opposed to figuring out who they are and creating a path together does not a great first date make. 

Example:

You like to make an impression with your first dates, especially when you're excited about someone. Something elegant and high end. A fancy steak house is usually your restaurant of choice.

Unfortunately, your date is a vegetarian. Now true, steak houses don't only have steak, but think about how your date feels as you pursue a three page menu and they are forced to decide between two fish entrees (if they even eat fish, which they may not) or try to group together a salad and a bunch of sides and call it a meal.

If you're not a vegetarian you might think that vegetarians are in this position all the time. But on the contrary, most vegetarians don't just eat salad, or put themselves in limiting positions like dining out at restaurants that are primarily known for their meat options. If you're not sure, just ask, but don't assume your date will be content to scrounge up scraps to make a meal while you live it up in your comfort zone.

Other similar dietary restrictions may include but are not limited to: food allergies, gluten free, organic only.

Do not assume that these things are trivial. A gluten allergy is serious - no they can't just have one slice of pizza because they are with you. The peanut allergy will be an issue in the Thai restaurant. Your date with the seafood allergy doesn't need to order seafood, true. But they also don't need to sit across from you itching all night because you just had to have crab cakes. And you might find it pretentious that someone refuses to eat fast food and think inviting them to a Dos Toros, a Papaya Dog or an Applebees is some kind of challenge, but forcing someone to eat unhealthy food or, if they refuse, sit there with a soda as you eat is highly inappropriate behavior.  

Other examples:

You invite your date to a fancy wine bar knowing they don't drink. You figure, they don't have to order alcohol. 

Your date told you via several pre-date conversations that they aren't into parties and clubs. So you invite them to a loud club. You figure they can just try it out. Then when they're visibly uncomfortable you ask them something like, "so what do you like to do for fun." 

I could go on. 

If finding common ground is so difficult that you can't find something to do that you both enjoy, it might boil down to basic compatibility issues and maybe the two of you shouldn't be going on a date at all. But if it's possible to find common ground - do it! Your date should not feel like they are serving out a sentence for being out with you.

Personally, I have a rule. I do not date down. When I say that, I'm not talking about weighing my own status against that of my date's. I mean, I don't date someone who makes me less happy than I am when I am on my own. If I'm sitting across from someone at various levels of discontent, chances are I'm going to opt not to see them again.

Note: Down the line it is appropriate to expect a certain level of compromise. Relationships are all about compromise. However, due to very important factors like, oh say, love and respect, these compromises tend not to include things like moral beliefs, health/safety concerns, and core values.

That said, expecting a first date to push those things to the wayside because the pleasure of your company is worth it is unrealistic.

Also selfish and...egotistical? Kind of universally unattractive qualities, especially when you're dating if you know where I'm going with that...

5. Spouse Shopping

This is a really easy trap to fall into when you realize you're ready for a serious relationship. Maybe you've been playing the field for a long time, or maybe you were in a long term relationship that wasn't quite right and you're ready to find the right one. You're excited about eventually settling down. You've got close friends in marital bliss and you're ready for your own. These are all awesome things.

But this very mindset can often translate to treating dating like an audition process.

What does this look like?

I've been on some pretty terrible first dates where people asked me questions that seemed innocuous and conversational at first, but were later revealed to be very specific questions designed to determine whether I would be an ideal wife or mother to their children. Questions like how I felt about women who keep their own last name after marriage, people who refuse to vaccinate their children, stay at home mothers versus working mothers, daycare centers versus live in nannies. I've been asked whether or not I cook because the man I was out with couldn't marry a woman that doesn't cook. Or whether I knew when to curb the fierce proclamation of my political beliefs, because the man I was out with wondered if I'd be a good partner to take to his work functions.

On first dates!!!

These are not first date questions!

One of the consequences of gender inequality can be seen in the dating dynamic, where men tend to see themselves in the driver's seat doing the choosing, and women are conditioned to want to be chosen in a general and often indiscriminate way. But the problem here is that these issues are things that will come up naturally in relationships at an appropriate time. When you're actually in love and engaged you can discuss what to do about last names, and children, and religion, and politics. People with different beliefs wind up in happy marriages all the time. But these discussions are facilitated with, again, love and respect, so that the people involved come to agreements they can both be comfortable with. These marriages do not arise from one person sitting there like a Meryl Streep wearing Prada and the other jumping through conversational hoops to prove they are the ideal candidate for the job.

Furthermore, as unpleasant as it is to realize your date is interviewing you for the position of girlfriend/wife, if you engage in this behavior you are actually doing yourself a huge disservice. You are not allowing your date to get to know you, or even to get to like you, and you aren't getting to know your date either! You're bypassing the most important part of the thing you claim to want - foundation.

Bottom line: Maybe you already know - or think you know - that you want to marry a Jewish person, who is a fantastic cook, who wants four kids, who wants to live in San Francisco, who you'll have two dogs and a cat with. But by treating your date like an interview or audition and measuring them against what amounts to be premature criteria for a hypothetical marriage, you miss out on the actual person sitting across from you.

Also, you're very likely going to miss out on another date with them.

So for the well meaning folks out there, I hope this helped. Please avoid these faux pas and keep yourself in the dating game.

And for those of you that are possibly a little head strong, if you see yourself in any of these five faux pas...

C'mon hun.

Do better. 

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