Is It Really a Second Date

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The first thing I want you to do is make sure you're dealing with a bona fide second date. In Dr. Joy's Perfect World of Dating, you met your date through friends, asked him or her out to lunch, had fun, and arranged to meet again. In the imperfect world we all live in, you may have met your date in class, at a party, on the street. You said, "I'm going to Starbucks for a cappuccino. Wanna come?" He went, bought his own cup of coffee, chatted with you, had a few laughs, and gave you his phone number when you offered yours. Technically, you had a date. But who deals in technicalities when dating is concerned? In reality, you had more of a date-ette than a date.

Dates Versus date-ettes

A date lasts at least three hours, is planned ahead of time, and takes place after noon in ironed clothing. A date-ette is spontaneous, can last a few minutes or an hour or two, takes place day or night, and doesn't even require a shower.

This distinction is unimportant until we begin speaking about second dates, because you have to know when the first date occurred. So first get clear in your own head what your first date really was. If it was indeed a date, good for you: Your second date is an authentic second date, and you're right on track. If your first get-together was really a date-ette, however, then the next time you two go out, you're really on official date number one — or maybe one and a half. That's okay. There are no hard and fast rules here. But you may want to flip back to the chapters on first dates and take it from there if you've only had a date-ette. This chapter is for solid second-daters, not second-date wannabes.

First dates can be date-ettes, but second dates have to be dates. The progression flows naturally. If it doesn't — if you keep spontaneously grabbing a bite to eat or a cup of coffee — you're not dating. You're hanging out.

Anatomy of a true second date

A first date is takeoff — your seatback is in the upright position, your tray table is stowed, you've buckled your seatbelt and are listening intently to make sure that the engines are on full throttle. A second date is climbing to cruising altitude. You're on the way to your destination. You're up in the air. You hope the pilot didn't have a martini with her lunch, the flight attendant didn't have a fight with his girlfriend, and the skies are not cloudy all day. In other words, a second date is the beginning of a settling-in period.

Sometimes, a second date is wishing you were there already. Mostly, it's trying to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight. Whereas your first date is about fantasy — getting your hair done, being on your best behavior, and looking at your date through rose-colored glasses — your second date is the beginning of reality. You let your hair down a bit; you reveal the real — or realer — you; and you see your date through a magnifying glass, if not reading glasses. Table 19-1 continues the discussion about what a second date is and isn't.

When distraction is your best option

I am not a happy flier. Intellectually, I understand the aerodynamics of lift and speed and air pressure and that flying is the safest, quickest, and easiest way to travel. Emotionally, I'm not thrilled to be strapped into that small space with all those people. Once we're up there, flying flat, I feel more secure or at least more distracted — the movie is on, the peanuts have arrived, the club soda bubbles tickle my nose — until we hit turbulence or are in a holding pattern.

But because I have to fly a lot for work, I figure I have two options: I can make myself truly miserable and dig my fingernails into the armrests or my fellow passenger on takeoff, or I can bring my own distractions to keep me busy until the movie and peanuts and seltzer bubbles take over. To every airline's major relief, I choose the latter. I never fly without an engrossing paperback, a crossword puzzle, or an unfinished book chapter my editor is waiting for me to finish. I distract myself before my mind can get carried away on all the "what ifs."

Should you find yourself on a second date fantasizing about gene pools or doodling your first name and his last name, stop immediately and distract yourself. Though I wouldn't recommend whipping out a crossword puzzle, you might want to try doing what you initially set out to do: Get to know your date. Not your future marriage partner or the potential mother of your kids or even the guy you want to take home to meet Mom. Just relax and realize there's no substitute for time, no excuse for shortcuts, and no way to really know someone without listening, learning, caring, sharing, and being there.

Table 19-1 What a Second Date Is . . . and Isn't

A Second Date Is

A Second Date Isn't

A next step

A relationship

A continued search for compatibility

A pre-spouse interview

A chance to reveal yourself

A confessional

A time to flirt

A time to have sex

A shift of focus onto your date Obsessing about yourself

A shift of focus onto your date Obsessing about yourself

The beauty of a second date is that real personalities can begin to emerge. Your date's nervous laughter mellows into a great sense of humor; his or her personal résumé becomes a story of a life. Of course, the potential downside is that real personalities emerge. The date you thought was a friendly over-tipper who dressed impeccably and arrived on time suddenly morphs into a flirtatious spendthrift who is narcissistic and obsessive. Oops. The important thing here is to take a second date for what it really is — namely, the next leg on your journey toward getting to know someone better. Period.

^ Communicating: You move from neutral conversational territory, like census data, to more personal stuff like family history, favorite movies, the school you went to, school you go to, hometown, work life — stuff you'd put in a personal ad, stuff your next-door neighbor knows but not the ultra sensitive stuff you tell only your best friend. It's also a good time for follow-up. You asked the opening questions on your first date; now get a bit more detail.

^ Testing the compatibility waters: You want to make sure you and your date are a good fit. Your attention shifts away from how you look, act, feel, talk, eat, and slurp to the kind of person your date is.

^ Probing for shared interests: While you want to express yourself on a first date, a second date is for allowing, encouraging, desiring, and listening to your date express what he or she likes and dislikes.

^ Sexual innuendoes: Nothing overt, but playful flirting is good.

^ Gazing into each other's eyes: Most importantly, a second date is one step further along on the intimacy scale. It's about stripping away the outer layer of superficiality and beginning to know your date's soul. Few things are more intimate, or soulful, than prolonged eye contact. Don't stare. But don't be afraid to connect with the window to your date's soul — the eyes.

Good places for a second date

Given that a second date is about delving deeper, getting to know someone better, flirting a bit more, and just plain being more intimate, pick a place that lets you do those things:

i Quiet restaurant or café i Public park i Sporting event i Museum

Following are some not-so-good places to do those things:

i Noisy bar i Quiet bar i Movie marathon i Your parents' house i Your date's parents' house i Your place

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