I’ve returned to the fascinating world of online dating. I never do this at a sensible time— I’m in the middle of my busiest time at work, among other things. Why not add dating? But there’s never a good time for this— there’s a time when I have enough energy for it and a time when I can’t make myself do it. And right now, I inexplicably have the energy for it (even if it’s nervous energy.)
So I joined a new-to-me dating site last week, and went on my first date tonight after work. We went to happy hour at a place I’ve heard about for years, but never visited. I was a few minutes (fewer than five) late, because of traffic, but he was gracious about it, and we had a nice meeting— a few drinks, split some happy hour appetizers, had a fair amount in common, and talked for a couple of hours. I’m attracted, and he seemed attracted. He suggested we split the bill, which we did, we hugged, and I’m not sure whether we’ll go out again. I generally leave that up to the guy, at this stage, unless I’m positive I don’t want to see him again. I have a deceptively (because I’m quiet) strong and decisive personality, and I’ve dated some guys who were just kind of going with the flow. I’d rather only date guys who are “that into me,” so I hang back early to establish that.
I try to bring my A game to every date. I usually dress up a little more (usually a skirt, or a step above my usual business casual-wear), I usually wear make up (which I might not do during a regular workday). I try to be on time, I don’t look at my phone unless they’re out of the room. I’m willing to go the extra mile to bring extra charm and conversation. I have some filters that I tend to apply to this kind of thing. Generally speaking, here’s what my experience tells me:
- You never really know how the first date went for the other person until you both actually show up on a second date. I’ve had some first dates that I thought went incredibly well, on which we agreed to a specific second date, which never happened. I know it’s happened to me that I met multiple people in a week, and a good date wasn’t as good as a great date I had later. Or life got busy and I wasn’t yet invested enough. All bets are off until you go on the second date.
- Anything over an hour, for a first meeting, is typically promising.
- Body language is important. You want lots of eye contact, leaning in, mirroring movements. Casual touching is a really good sign, but I don’t really put out a vibe that encourages that, this early on, because it can get you off to the races physically before you have a really good sense for each other.
- A pretty high volume of common interest is a good sign.
- Conversational cues are important. Is there a balanced ratio of talking and listening? Are you talking exclusively about one person/their interests? What do you learn about them and is there alignment between that and what you’re looking for? I watch for red flags and pet peeves, but unless there’s a ton of them, I just make note of them.
- This is a little controversial, but unless I’m absolutely sure I don’t want to see him again (reasons this has happened in the past: he got really drunk on the date, he made me uncomfortable and I didn’t feel safe, he was verbally combative, we clearly didn’t enjoy meeting each other, conversation was painfully difficult…) I give guys two dates before I make up my mind about whether I’m interested. You can catch someone on a day that isn’t really representative. People are typically less nervous on second meeting.
What about you? What are your dating rules of thumb?