Another topic that will inevitably come up on the first date will be your family and the nature of your relationship with them (Family Guy shirt image courtesy of the cartoon t shirt category).
A negative relationship with your family can really put the average girl off. Don’t fall into the trap of having her tell you how horrible her relationship is and then assume that means she will be cool with your bad relationship. Double standards exist everywhere. She will not want to hear about how bad your family life is no matter how bad hers is.
On the other hand, if you gush too much about your family, especially your mother, you will look like a mama’s boy. A girl in the process of evaluating your ability to be a partner does not want to have to compete with your mother. Basically you need to strike a balance between loving and messed up.
Each person’s life is different, and in this you should not be making stuff up as if you develop a relationship this will bite you on the ass. Instead, tell the truth but use an old sales technique I used to use when I would be selling products I wasn’t gung ho for I like to call “Finding the Positive.”
For example, it would be fair to say my relationship with my father was not Ward Clever and the Beav. However, when I talk about him I try to stay focused on the few fun things we did, and try to see some of the messed up stuff he did in a humorous light. In retrospect most of the things he did that bordered on abuse can be seen as just quirky and funny (by the way, in my free time I am writing stories about my childhood with him).
By the same token, I am very close to my mother. However, I don’t mention that I talk to her pretty much every other day. I talk about being close but I don’t harp on it.
As for your brothers and sisters, feel free to say anything you want, as a messed up relationship with a sibling is not an abnormal thing. Just make sure you end the story with something like “We used to fight all the time, and I don’t talk to him/her much anymore, but of course I still love him/her).
By the way, brothers, sisters, and cousins can be a great source of amusing anecdotes that don’t actually reveal a lot about you. I have yet to even tap that keg, but believe me there is no shortage of material.
OK, you’ve let her blab for an hour or so, and a novice dater will let her go all night and think they are doing well. The problem is, after any date most women get together with a friend or two and go into play-by-play analysis, kind of like one of those post game shows you see after sporting events but actually more like a live vivisection. They will go into every nuance and detail. She might have enjoyed the date while she was talking the whole time but will come to the conclusion that “He was easy to talk to, but I still don’t know a lot about him. I wonder what is is hiding?”
Women are naturally suspicious of men in most circumstances, and honestly unless you look like Brad Pitt they are looking for any excuse to drop you like a bad habit (Fight Club image courtesy of the movie t shirt category). I have said dating is like moving across a mine field, and in many ways it is, but I also see your date as occasionally chucking grenades at you. Not in a malicious, actually-trying-to-kill-you sort of way, but more if you aren’t paying attention you will get blown up pretty bad.
So you are now required to tell her something about yourself. The best thing you can do is try to boil your life down into some amusing, self-depreciating anecdotes. Tell her about where you grew up (as a rule, try to make it sound as much like Mayberry as possible. You will seem cooler coming from bucolic small town America than some kid growing up on the gritty streets. The weird part is she will want you to seem kind of gritty and street wise, but in general I have found that women don’t like to hear about a gritty and street wise childhood), your family (whom you love a lot, but who all have humorous habits that drive you crazy, making it OK to only talk to them once in a while, except your mom, whom you speak with at least a couple times a week), your job (which you enjoy and are upbeat about, but are looking to move up to something else. Be specific), the neighborhood you live in (more on that in a second), and your friends.
I want to get into more in depth on each of these little sub-topics, but for this one lets discuss the neighborhood you live in. No matter how you spin it, it will fall into one of three basic categories in her mind: bland suburban hell hole, urban ghetto, or upper class whatever. If it is an upper class neighborhood than no spin is necessary. She will be duly impressed. Of course, if you live in one of those areas I don’t know why you are even reading this. You should be getting hooked up on a regular basis with that kind of scratch.
So how to spin the other two types of neighborhoods to seem less lame or dangerous? If you live in the suburbs you need to emphasis how close to the nearest decent metropolis and how much time you actually spend there. Go ahead and lie about it, as odds are unless she lives in the metropolis she will lie about how she spends every weekend in the city rather than cruising strip malls out in Antioch. Talk about how you used to live in the urban environment (anywhere. You must have lived in a big city at some point in your life) and got tired of the traffic/crime/phony people. The only really good excuse for living in the suburbs is if you bought a house out there, but if you don’t own then do your best.
If you live in the city odds are it is a crappy neighborhood (mine is). This is bad in that many women don’t like to feel like they are in any kind of danger, so be sure to not tell any stories about the crack dealer across the street or how many cars were burned in the last set of riots. Instead, play up all the wonderful cultural experiences available just around the corner. Be it ethnic food, a local club, an independent theater that shows artsy films, or a non-Starbucks coffee house decorated to look like the inside of an alien spaceship (this was a place I used to frequent in Los Angeles. They made great peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches. If you haven’t tried one I highly recommend them), make sure you talk about how cool it is and how often you can be found there.
That’s really the best you can do. Just know that either living situation has it’s down points for most women and try to ameliorate the damage. Also, know that most women will be inclined to prefer one of the other, and inevitably you will live in the wrong one. Thus is the nature of dating life.
More topics later.
I am going to start a whole new section here. We have talked about what to avoid but now you are in the zone of actually coming up with something to talk about. This is a bit of a tough subject and I think it will end up going a few posts.
The best thing to talk about is her. Let her tell you about her life, her pets, her parents, what she studied in college, and which bead stores have the best selection of ceramics (I could only dream of a girl who was into beading, or for that matter anything at all. Most of the girls I meet seem to have no interests whatsoever). The problem is you can’t just space out while she blabs on. You actually have to pay attention. She is setting traps to catch you in on the next date when she says something like “Remember what I told you about my cat who got caught in the combine?” The correct response to an obvious trap like this is “You mean the one you called Tripod?” not “You had a cat?” Remembering and referencing details she has told you will help you score points on the later dates, and can also save you some pain if she is the type to tell you the same stories over and over again.
So encourage her to drone on. The big mistake here (and one that I still fall into all the time) is having her tell you something painfully boring but reminds you of something funny from your life that you feel compelled to tell her about. Next thing you know dinner is over and you have done nothing but tell her stories of your childhood or t-shirt selling website.
The next thing you need to do is look and act like you care about whatever she is talking about. Pay attention, look her in the eyes, ask insightful, provocative questions, and encourage her to give you details. This takes practice, but once you learn it you can kill an hour easy. (I don’t care t shirt courtesy of the novelty t shirt category)
Of course, it helps immensely if you are actually interested, not only for the date flow but also for the possibility of an actual relationship. My cousin reads this blog and she will beat me if I indicate there have been dates wherein I wasn’t really interested in the girl’s life story but feigned interest. I guess I am due for a beating.
Anyway, this is a good way to start off the date. Unfortunately it will not suffice. We’ll go into some other things to talk about on the next post.
It’s now time to impress your date with your wit and verve, or at least not weird her out to the point that she runs out into the night screaming. This is harder than you would think, and honestly even if you are good at it is probably the most onerous part of the date. However, once you get into the swing of it you can have a lot of fun and still not freak out your date.
When we spoke about opening conversations I stressed not actually talking about anything actually about you or her. You were supposed to discuss observational things from around you. Unfortunately, at this point you are now obligated to actually tell her stuff about you, which is a trap on the order of the Hellraiser cube.
(image courtesy of the movie t shirt category)
As always, however, before we get into what we can safely talk about I have to go into what you cannot talk about. Here is a partial list:
1. Any issues or problems you have. This is all stuff you discuss on the third date.
2. Any ex-girlfriend.
3. Religion or politics unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure you totally agree with her.
4. Anything medical.
5. Your horrible relationship with any of your family members, especially either parent (this one has bit me on the ass many times. The ghost of my father haunts me to this day).
6. Your nerdiest habits, unless she is a true nerd too. It’s OK to tell her you like Star Wars, but don’t go into a diatribe about how TOS is far superior to TNG. Never admit you go to any kind of convention that supports your bad habits. Don’t talk about anything you collect, unless it’s money. Eventually she will learn about your comic book collection and weird obsession with Farscape, but honestly I would wait until you get her into your bed. If she is truly the one for you she will accept your nerd habits eventually, but you don’t have to unload both barrels into her fact in the first hour. Let the pressure build over time instead of hitting her full bore.
7. Yourself all night.
Again, this is a short list. Next post we’ll get into what you can actually talk about, but if you can avoid most of these you will do a lot for you.
So you’ve managed to meet up with your date, either by picking her up or meeting her somewhere, without stepping on any dating landmines. How, then, to comport yourself while on your date?
I’ll take a second here to remind you that all the dressing and grooming rules I gave you when I first started this opus are still in full effect. Make sure you are showered, well dress, well groomed, and generally good smelling (<–important).
Anyway, I would recommend that you act like a gentleman. It is true there are independent women out there may find this offensive, but honestly those are in the minority (also, they tend to be a huge pain in the ass to date. Better to offend them politely then find out two months down the road) and the vast majority of women will appreciate it. In fact, if the last couple guys they dated were jerks you will only look that much better.
Here is a (short) list of gentlemanly behavior:
Gentlemen open doors for ladies-this specifically included car doors. In other words, walk to the passenger side of the car, unlock the door, and open it for her. While walking around open all doors for her. This can sometimes be a little awkward, especially if you aren’t used to it. Practice on your mom or something until you make it smooth.
Gentlemen walk on the outside of the street-again, try to not make it look like awkward. This tradition started back in the days of horse travel. The gentleman was attempting to protect her from splattered horse dung being splashed up from the street. By the way, while you should try to stay on the outside, if you see up ahead a crazy looking homeless man panhandling the gentleman will interpose himself between his date and the insane lunatic. This act will most likely gain you a lot of points with your girl.
Gentlemen do not put their hands in their pockets. Furthermore, if you need to guide her or attract her attention for whatever reason the gentleman will touch her gently on the shoulder, NO WHERE ELSE.
When entering a room or narrow corridor the gentleman allows the lady to proceed him slightly. If you are on a staircase the gentleman gives the lady the side closest to the wall.
These are kind of the basics. There are more detailed rules you can find here, but a lot of those will also make you look kind of old fashioned. You have to read your date and figure out at what point she stops being impressed and starts being annoyed. Error on the side of too gentlemanly rather than not enough.
Steam punk Abe Lincoln was most certainly a gentleman (image courtesy of the steam punk t shirt category).
Next post we’ll talk about talking.