Places and things to avoid

Following are occasions and places you want to avoid as a first date. As a rule, these events create unrealistic expectations and involve too many other people. If it's fireworks you want, get thee to a wienie roast in a gasoline jumpsuit.

i Wedding: Going to a wedding as a first date violates just about every single one of the ten basic rules listed earlier. If you want to quibble about Rule 6 (Do something that isn't competitive), are you really so naïve as to think your date isn't trying to figure out how to beat you out the door when the ceremony's over? The stakes are just too high at weddings. Avoid them at all costs as a first date. In fact, because weddings are such a bad idea for a first date, I've made it the standard by which all other bad first date ideas are judged.

1 New Year's Eve party: Oh, puh-leeeze, New Year's Eve is the scariest night of the year for a first date. New clothes, high expectations, lots of booze, high-ticket others — consider this a mini-wedding. Just about the only thing it lacks is a weeping mother-in-law and a crazy uncle who thinks the ladies' room is the coat check. On second thought, it just lacks the mother-in-law.

1 Valentine's Day: Valentine's Day has all the anxiety-producing elements of a wedding, all the over-blown expectations of New Year's, plus the paper-Cupid-induced hope of true Romance. Valentine's Day is so potentially explosive that even couples who've been together for years approach it warily.

1 Thanksgiving dinner: Think of how many traumas you've experienced at your family's Thanksgiving get-togethers: Uncle Harry getting plastered; Sister Susie crying into the crystallized yams; brother George coming out; Mom burning the turkey; and cousin Jim wanting to bring the TV to the table to watch football. Even if your family doesn't behave like this (what, you're from Pluto?), it still violates Rule 9 (Don't involve highticket others) big time. In short, Thanksgiving is truly a family holiday — all the more reason to avoid it as a first date.

1 Beach: Although a great date for later on, the beach isn't first date stuff: too much skin, do you or don't you apply suntan lotion, and if you do, to what and to whom? A first date on the beach also violates Rule 5 (Go to a place that's easy to get to), Rule 10 (Find an activity that doesn't last more than a couple hours), and often Rule 3 (Do something that doesn't require new clothes).

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