Safety First

In This Chapter

Letting someone know where you're going Finding out your date's full name and address ^ Getting to the date location ^ Tucking $20 in your shoe ^ Meeting in a public place ^ Following your intuition

M Bating can be scary and fun and exciting and challenging, but you want it V^^to be all of the above for all the right reasons — not because you haven't taken reasonable precautions about your own safety. Crossing a street is perfectly valid and the only way to get to the other side; it's safe, too, if you're wise enough to look both ways before you venture forth. This chapter is about looking both ways, not under the pavement or being so terrified of traffic you need to hold someone's hand as you cross. Just looking both ways.

If you've been frightened by the unprecedented number of stalking and dating victims, don't become a hermit or assume that dating is a high-risk behavior. Just take the issue of safety seriously at the beginning. Never give out your home phone number. Don't tell strangers where you live or work. Use your cell phone. If somebody is calling you a lot or you're getting a lot of hang-ups, or if somebody is trying to cut you off from your family and friends and tells you that they've never loved anybody like you and they can't live without you, do not be flattered by this; be terrified by this. This is stalking behavior.

News stories always focus on Jack the Ripper — or a modern-day monster — who preys primarily on women. But guys, it makes sense for you to be a bit cautious, too. (Please tell me you look both ways before crossing . . . macho doesn't keep you safe from Mack trucks, fella.) Don't feel you can skip this chapter or skim through it. You'll feel better and safer if you've been sensible, too. Besides, it's good to know what your date may have on her mind other than batting her baby blues at you.

Telling Somebody Where You're Going

Always let someone you trust know where you're going when you go out — and with whom. Unless you went to kindergarten with your date and every grade since, it makes sense to let someone know where you are, especially these days, when people meet through the personals and blind dates and online chat rooms. Even if you're both safe from each other, what if the car breaks down or there's a storm at the beach or your roller blades are hijacked? Not only is it smart to be safe rather than sorry, you'll feel more relaxed as well.

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If your mom or your big brother is likely to grill you about your date for weeks afterward, pick someone else to tell — a friend who gives you the same kind of info. If you don't know a soul, the next best thing is to leave a detailed note of where you are and who you're with posted in an obvious spot in your home or apartment, such as on the refrigerator door. It just makes common sense. If you should stumble into trouble, speed and accuracy are essential.

Particularly if you're a single woman living alone, tell a friend what you're up to. While it may feel like a pinch on your freedom, it's a gift you and your single girlfriends can give to each other.

I was once on my way to a speaking engagement and missed my connecting flight due to bad weather. Having no other choice, I hired a car to take me the 200 miles I needed to go. The driver did nothing to make me feel comfortable by asking me if I wanted to sit up front and telling me about his 12-step recovery. After we had gone 300 miles or so, I realized he was hopelessly lost. There were no lights and no cars and no signs. It also occurred to me that he knew I had the cash to pay him because we'd discussed it ahead of time. In my most tactful voice, I soothingly asked if I could find a phone and reconfirm to my hosts, whom I had told about his car.

This was, of course, untrue. But to this day, I'm convinced that the knowledge that someone knew where I was and with whom saved me from getting dismembered by the roadside. I only wish I'd had enough sense to make the phone call I fantasized. Be smarter than I was — but have since learned to be.

Getting Your Date's Name, Rank, and Serial Number

While researching this book, I asked several single friends, both male and female, to tell me how often they knew the home address of a first date who was picking them up or meeting them somewhere. The answer I most often heard was "rarely," which stunned me at first. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was logical — though not terribly sensible. Most first-date arrangements these days sound something like this:

"You want to get together sometime?"

"Yeah. Sounds great."

"Great! Can I call you?"

"Sure. Here's my office number, my fax, my e-mail address, my beeper number, and my cell phone number."

When he or she does call, a specific home address simply doesn't come up in conversation unless it's needed for directions.

That's what I'd like you to change. During your rundown of numbers and letters and e-mail addresses, I'd like you to ask one simple question: Where do you live?

Your date-to-be may or may not want to give an exact address — which is okay — but if someone is reluctant to give any clues, you may want to ask why. And while you're at it, make sure you know your date's last name (and how to spell it).

If he or she is hesitant to freely offer any of this information, consider it a red flag because there are precious few reasons for not making a full disclosure:

1 The person is married. 1 The person lives with his or her mother. 1 The person is embarrassed by his or her neighborhood. 1 The person lives in a car.

Getting There Can Be Fun

Depending on the part of the country in which you live and your age and economic situation, your date may offer to pick you up in a cab, a limo, a scooter, a wagon, a bus, or not at all. Although a car, especially if it's yours or your dad's or your older sib's or your granny's, may sound fun, and there's something lovely and promlike about the ritual of leaving your home on a first date and walking together to the car (will he hold the door open? will she unlock the inside?), I want you to consider other safer and potentially saner alternatives.

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