Making the Most of the Place You Picked

In Chapter 10, I talk about great places to take a first date. My general feeling is this: Why add one more worry with an unknown location when you can boost your confidence by going someplace you already know is terrific? It just makes good sense.

Restaurants

Food is part of a time-honored traditional date activity, so figuring out how you can make eating out a delicious experience is time well-spent since eating "in" is for later on — after you get to know each other.

Order food you eat with a fork

Forget about sandwiches (unless that's all there is — in that case, the fewer ingredients, the better). Food you lift with your hands can easily fall from your hands. High-rise sandwiches are notorious for collapsing on the way up to your mouth. Stringy pizza cheese dangles from your lips like you just swallowed twine, sushi is rarely served in petite bite-sized portions, and tacos spill.

Don't drink

I know, I'm going to lose a lot of you here — if you're nervous you might be trying to relax yourself. But Miller Time can become mildew time before you know it. Be very careful about alcohol. If you've ever had a problem with alcohol, fuhgettaboutit — don't drink. I can already hear you muttering, "Hey, a drink or two will relax me. I can handle it," but it's you that I'm talking to here. Moderation when you're nervous is difficult to achieve, so err on the side of caution here and believe that alcohol on a first date is dangerous for several reasons:

I Nerves magnify the effects of alcohol. You get drunk faster.

I Alcohol has been proven to dismantle your appetite control. While one of you is ready for the check, the drinker is ready for a second round of desserts.

I Too much alcohol creates a sort of "tunnel vision." You can't see or fully comprehend anything that's not right in front of your face. That's why it's so dangerous to drive, handle heavy wallets, or — heaven forbid — open up your body and soul.

I The risk of drinking and driving is huge when you've been drinking . . .

and nonexistent when you haven't.

I Alcohol is the solvent of the superego. Suddenly, you're saying, doing, and feeling things you'd never say, do, or feel if you were sober.

I All your guards are down when you're tipsy, including your sexual judgments. The chances that you'll say "yes" when you really mean "no" or hear "yes" when you're told "no" are much greater.

Nine foods to fear on a first date

Stay away from these foods unless you have

a

Popcorn

breath mints, dental floss, and guts:

a

Poppy seeds

I Corn on the cob

a

Ribs

I French onion soup

a

Watermelon

I Fried chicken

a

I Garlic

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Mister Smoothie

I once dated a man who nearly knocked me over with his James Bond-type style. Smooth as silk. He took me to a nice restaurant, one that he'd obviously been to before. After we finished our cappuccinos and dabbed our lips with our pink linen napkins, he asked, "Ready to go?" Noticing the check had neither arrived nor been paid, I replied, "Shall we make a run for it?" He laughed and told me it was all taken care of. Later, I found out that he'd gone to that restaurant the day before, given them his credit card number, and instructed them to add 20 percent for the tip. A slight nod from the waiter (which I never saw) let him know the whole money thing was a done deal.

Is that cool or what? What struck me most was his effort and advance planning. He confided in me later that the check arrival and tip calculation had always felt awkward to him so he worked out a way around it. Smooth move.

I actually used the same move later on him for his birthday so there would be no awkwardness about my treating him.

Eat!

Okay — so I've put alcohol off-limits, but it's okay to indulge in dessert calories.

Most men are much more comfortable with women who eat reasonably rather than the "Oh, I'll just have a small salad with the dressing on the side" syndrome. (Surveys show that women put much more pressure on themselves to have a "perfect" body than men ever put on them.)

It's okay to share a dessert. First of all, you'll find out if he works and plays well with others. Secondly, it sends a loud and clear message that you're not anorexic or obsessed with your weight. Watching your waistline is one thing, entering a convent is another. Eating is a sensual, pleasurable experience that's meant to be savored. I'm not saying you should throw calories to the wind and use date night as an excuse to imitate Miss Piggy, but enjoying yourself means letting go enough to enjoy your date, the conversation, the location, the colors, the smells, the sights, the sounds, and the meal — the whole enchilada or creme brulee.

Tip well

I'm talking 20 percent. At least. Generosity is attractive. Trust me, the miser never gets the girl. He may keep a few extra dollars, but a person who is tight with money is unlikely to be generous with time or self.

Mind your manners

Good manners count. Make no mistake about it. Nothing is a bigger turn-off than seeing food churning round and round inside your date's open mouth. Ugh. Or being rude to waiters, talking too loudly, picking up peas with a knife and sliding them down your throat. Think Jane Austen or Masterpiece Theater or that guy who pulls up in his Rolls and asks, "I say, have you any Grey Poupon?" You want to be prim and very proper. At the very least, do these things:

1 Chew with your mouth closed. 1 Be polite to the waiters. 1 Talk softly. 1 Use your napkin.

Movies or plays

This dating venue is a double-edged sword. On one side, you're creating a "shared experience." Good for bonding. One of the stepping stones of intimacy. On the other side, most of your date will be spent in the dark staring not at each other. Not the ideal way to get to know somebody. To make the most of a movie or play, be open to discussing it afterward. You can talk about the plot, the casting decisions, the money it cost to make it, other movies you've seen that you like better, childhood memories this movie evokes — anything. If it was horrible, you can talk — and laugh — about that as well.

I know I already mentioned this in Chapter 10, but it's worth checking to make sure that your date approves your choice. Surprises will be more effective once you are more certain of each other's tastes!

Concerts

A concert lets you relate to each other while the music plays, or in the midst of a break. So relate already: Bob back and forth together with the beat, scream in each other's ears to be heard over the noise, and, when your ears are ringing afterward and you can't hear anything anyway, just smile dopily at one another.

Besides, if you aren't having a good time, you can leave a concert mid-stream without wondering all night if you missed the really good part. Simply buy the CD.

Sporting events

It's often much more fun attending a live sporting event than watching it on TV. Even if you're not into football, you can get into nachos and peanuts. It's outdoors (usually) and in daylight, and you can even paint your face the color of your favorite team.

Lip service

To do it, or not to do it? You know what I'm talking about — it's the ghastly decision every woman must make at the end of a restaurant meal. Does she reapply her lipstick at the table, excuse herself to the ladies room, or just sit there, a lipless wonder, hoping her date has the class not to stare at the thin beige lines that were once her luscious pout? Alas, there is no simple answer.

Etiquette pros cringe at the notion of a woman pulling out a compact and rolling up a tube of ruby red and applying it meticulously at the table. Such things are a private affair, best suited to the restroom. I have to agree . . . at least to a certain extent. On a date, three is always a crowd. You don't want to end a fabulous meal with him and you and your reflection. However, a quick swipe (sans mirror) seems to me to be a perfectly acceptable compromise. I don't believe in leaving your date languishing alone at your table, staring into space, twiddling his thumbs, just so you can retreat to the restroom to properly apply lip liner before your lipstick. It's not nice.

That said, here's what I do: In an accessible pocket of my purse, I stash a neutral-tone lipstick just for such occasions. In two seconds flat, I whip it out, swipe it across my lips (hey, I've had these same lips for years — I know where they are), and return it to my purse, barely missing a beat. The neutral tone makes sure I'll still look okay even if I accidentally cross over a lip line or two. Use a neutral color; save the Evita red you wore on the way in, or you run the risk of looking like Baby Jane (not a soothing sight after your date just ate).

If I do have to use the facilities, I can do both simultaneously. But if we're lingering over decaf, I'd rather feel happy and with non-chapped, freshly colored lips than get up and leave.

Special events

If you have two tickets to a Beatles reunion tour, you've got a great first date on your hands. Once-in-a-lifetime events are your basic date shoe-in. If Paul and Ringo do decide to go on tour, I'm available. (I once turned down a cruise for two on the QE2 because I had Rolling Stones tickets.)

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