Word about Silence

Everybody worries about not having anything to say, but if you can remind yourself that you're the "you" expert and you're curious about your date, then you'll be able to maintain the conversational flow without panicking over silences. In general, you want to reveal who you are without confessing every flaw, being sexy without being sexual, funny and light without being desperate for a laugh. If you're not sure what to talk about once you get there, check out Chapter 12.

Fielding the Curve Balls

A curve ball (or two or twenty) is waiting for you on this first date. You can take that to the Dating Bank. No matter how well you prepare, something may go amiss — or at least, not according to your Pentagon-perfect plan. It's Murphy's Law of Dating. The trick is to prepare for the worst and then relax and field whatever may come your way.

Surviving dating's most embarrassing moments

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One of my best friends remembers her first big high school dance as bittersweet. It was a formal affair (as they were in those days), the guy she'd had a crush on all year had asked her to go, and her dress was to-die-for. That's the sweet part. Her bitter pill was waking up the morning of the dance to find a giant pimple perched on the tip of her nose like Mount St. Helens. The more she fussed with it all day, the worse it got. That evening, as the doorbell rang, my friend was squirreled away in the bathroom frantically powdering the tip of her nose — which by now rivaled Bozo the Clown's. A bona fide disaster. She left for the dance with one white-gloved hand hovering over the front of her face. Perhaps, she consoled herself, her date wouldn't notice. He did. After all, her uncomfortable behavior was as plain as the nose on her face.

Big date do's and don'ts

It's prom night, your sister's wedding, your 30th birthday, New Year's Eve, a retirement party at the firm . . . whatever. When it comes to a BIG date, as in not-just-any-old-Saturday-night date, these guidelines help you have a great time:

I DO plan ahead. Big dates are almost always dates you know are coming weeks in advance. Arrange your date as soon as possible so he or she can mark a calendar, rent a tux, buy a great present, etc.

I DON'T make a first date a big date. It's too risky and too loaded. See Chapter 10.

DO ask someone with whom you're really comfortable. Big dates tend to be longer than your average date and often include family members. The last thing you want is a high-maintenance date.

DON'T make your big date such a big deal that your companion feels like it's a pre-marital date, too. It's okay to go out on a big date with Mr. or Ms. Kinda Right or Right Now.

DO substitute a platonic date when a great date isn't in the cards. It's better to have a fun time with a friend (or alone!) than have a miserable time with a date who doesn't work out.

Tarzan to the rescue

One of my all-time favorite cool/horrible date stories was told to me on a dark and stormy night in Colorado by my Girl Scout advisor when I was interviewing to be an international spokesperson (little did they know I'd convinced a couple of Air Force cadets to chop down a tree in a national forest for a campfire . . . I digress). She told me a terrific tale of being asked to her senior prom by her next-door neighbor because neither had a date and they'd been friends forever. Her mother made her a strapless formal dress, and the last butterfly was alighting on the bodice when he rang the bell.

As they danced their first dance, he suddenly pulled her to him and held on for dear life. She was suitably impressed and figured, hey, me Jane, you Tarzan — until he hissed, "Waltz toward the ladies room." Her dress, it turned out, had fallen down. In a moment of true chivalry, he figured it would be less noticeable if he held her tightly all the way into the ladies room. What a cool guy. Only 18 years old and such presence of mind.

"So you've got a pimple on the end of your nose!" her date finally exclaimed. Apparently, he was tired of gazing into a glove. "Is it the end of the world?" Of course, the answer was "no" (it only felt like it), and the lesson was learned. From that moment on, she heaved a huge sigh of relief, held her date's hand, and had a great time. Which is what you can do, too, as soon as you master the perfect remedy for the following dating disasters.

The first rule: No matter what the problem, 'fess up immediately. Your date will sense something is wrong and think the problem's her or him. And remember, no matter how bad it gets, really, is it the end of the world?

Table 14-1 offers some ways to deal with potential mishaps.

Table 14-1

Solving Dating Dilemmas

Disaster

Solution

Your pants (skirt, shirt, bra) split.

Tie your jacket or sweater around your waist; buy or borrow a jacket or sweater to tie around your waist.

Borrow a safety pin from the waiter.

You forgot your wallet or billfold.

Throw yourself on the mercy of either your date or the manager (if you're a regular there). If your date likes you, at least he or she will know there will be another date — one for which you pay in full.

Disaster

Solution

You get carded.

Be grateful for it. Sooner or later all of this will come to an end. But make sure you do have identification with you. Don't be trying to sneak into a movie or order a drink if you're too young. I promise you, this problem will clear itself up in the long run.

You get sick.

Hey, sick happens. Just don't deny it so long that you get sick right then and there. Tell your date you're not feeling well and need a few minutes in the restroom. If you really don't think you're going to make it, ask your date for help. Passing out in a bathroom stall will only make a bad situation worse. It's okay to ask for a rain check — or a barf check or a nasal drip check.

You pass wind.

Most importantly, avoid breaking out in a 15-minute nervous laughing jag. Apologize once and then (if possible) open a window.

You run into an angry ex.

Remind yourself that you are not responsible for anyone's behavior but your own. Stay calm and let your ex be the only person in the room who makes a fool of himself or herself.

Your car breaks down.

Presumably you belong to an auto club so you won't have to flip through the Yellow Pages looking for a reputable tow. Best thing to do is make the best of it. Don't sink into a quicksand of self-blame. See whether the tow truck can drop you off at the restaurant on the way, take a cab home, and deal with your dead car tomorrow.

Remember: A little reconnaissance means you won't run out of gas or get a flat without a spare.

^SVUFF If you're old enough to date, you're old enough to understand menstrual cycles and periods and accidents. Should your date experience such an unfortunate mishap, it's up to you to help diffuse her mortification. Don't make light of it (believe me — she won't think it's funny), but don't use this opportunity to "bond" with her by confessing your horror, either. Try what's been known to work well before — tell her you're sorry it happened, then lovingly add, "Hey, it's not the end of the world."

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen . . .

If we're talking dating disasters, I may well be the poster girl. I had a dress that came completely apart: First the hem fell; then one of the sleeves dropped off; then the other wouldn't budge. The cummerbund came apart, and the dress weighed more than I did. (Mom thought it would be cool to make my dress out of drapery material.) By the time I got home after my date, I looked like I'd been attacked.

Another time, my date's car horn got stuck in a hospital zone, and the car broke down so I missed curfew. (Of course, this was also my first date with the guy who became my husband — but not that night.) My elegant white gloves demonstrated capillary action by drawing coffee up the absorbent, white cotton fingers like a straw when I didn't have enough sense to take them off before they got too close to my coffee cup into which I was pouring an envelope of sugar. (My first cup of coffee, formal, white gloves, sigh. . . .) My science teacher would have been proud; my mother would have fainted.

I've also constructed glass towers that crashed and caught sugar bowls on fire and lived to write a book telling other people how to date. The moral? Never despair.

Lighten up

No matter what happens, the biggest thing to bear in mind is this: It's a date — just a date. Not brain surgery or the cure for cancer or the Bill of Rights or Macbeth. It's not serious drama with dire consequences. It's a date. So while you're in the midst of it all, why not lighten up?

^jjGY The punsters weren't kidding when they said, "Laughter is the best medi cine." Several studies have found that jovial belly laughs not only improve (CD^—) circulation and work muscles all over the body, but they relieve stress much J in the same way aerobic exercise does. Even in our darkest moments, laughter can instantly make things seem, and feel, much better. Though I don't recommend tossing one-liners non-stop, looking on the bright side of a dim moment can mean the difference between a disaster date and one that's the beginning of a great relationship.

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