Second Thoughts on First Impressions

A date-long first impression is different from the two-second once-over your date gives you when you initially meet. It's more than a primal, visceral thing. Throughout the time you spend together, your date's five senses are working overtime — taking it all in. Processing every nuance, every sigh, every touch. Even the stuff your date isn't aware he or she sees, hears, smells, touches, and tastes is seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted. Above and beyond the five senses are your date's sense of style, appropriateness, manners, space, self — you name it. Every part of your date's past and present being comes into play when evaluating you and how he or she feels about you. Yikes! No wonder we all get nervous on a first date!

What you can do if you don't want your first impression to last a lifetime is to create another one. As simple as that. It's okay to call your date and say, "I was a bit jittery last night. What do you say we try again next week?" Or you can lay your cards right on the table by saying, "I feel like I didn't show you who I really am. I'd like another chance to do so."

Honesty is appealing. Vulnerability is sexy. Unless you're a mass of quivering insecurity, few people can resist someone who's human enough to admit they didn't show you a true picture and would like a second shot.

If your date was fantastic, no need to redo anything. If the date didn't go as well as expected, maybe a bit of remedial work is in order. If you have just experienced the Guinness Book's lousy-date record, you need to give yourself some first aid.

The day after a disastrous date can be full of blame, guilt, shame, and copious amounts of chocolate — if you let it. Or you can take a deep breath and call it like it is: one date that didn't ring your chimes. Period. What I don't want you to do is i Bad-mouth your date.

i Call and beg forgiveness.

i Berate yourself all day (week, month, year, life).

i Vow never to date again.

i Quickly arrange a date with just anybody to prove it's not you that's icky.

i Avoid feeling disappointed by overeating, over-drinking, over-drugging . . . overdoing anything.

Look, feeling disappointed is okay. It's a letdown when things don't work out as you hoped! But you can feel it without wallowing in it. You can experience a disappointment without draping yourself in black. Most importantly, you can forgive yourself and your date for not being a perfect match. It's nobody's fault. It's life.

Five ways to put a hideous date in perspective

1. Rent Fatal Attraction.

2. Thank technology for VCRs and DVD recorders — you didn't have to miss anything while you were out.

3. Count how many days you've been alive. Subtract only one.

4. Look at your watch — it just seemed like forever.

5. Check your pulse. You survived!

Paying life's tuition

Life is an education. At every turn, if your eyes and heart are open, you learn about yourself, about others, about love, about survival. Your not-so-great experiences are the tuition you pay for education; your so-great experiences are merit scholarships.

Hideous dates, if kept in perspective, are just another lesson in your ongoing education. A lousy date isn't the end of the world; it's the beginning of Dating 102.

Restoring your confidence

The worst side effect of a rotten date is the potential for ego devastation. How can you hop back on the horse when your date said you looked, acted, and brayed like one? What you may need the day after the date from hell is a real confidence booster. Even if you have to work the next day, set aside at least a teeny bit of time to do something you know you do well. Some possibilities are (this is also a good list to keep in mind if your date was so-so or even fabulous — or even if you've just resigned from dating forever):

^ Get outside and take a walk or go golfing (even if it's miniature) or hiking or climb a mountain (even if it's a molehill).

^ Get some exercise — you'll liberate endorphins, the feel-good chemicals.

^ Make a gourmet meal.

^ Make your mom laugh.

^ Teach your old dog a new trick.

i Impress your boss. i Eat chocolate. i Call a friend.

i Splurge on a magazine, CD, or book.

Whatever you do, make sure it's life-affirming, fun, and filling — as in filling you up with pride. Then forget all about your lousy date and look forward to the next great one.

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