Tag Archives: first date

Throwing Caution to the Wind: A Glutton Punished

26 Mar

Watch what you eat

I can no longer recall if it was a jDate or a Match.com hookup, but I do remember that it was a date, with a girl, and she was kind of cute. I was 27 or 28 at the time and she was 22, but she seemed a mature 22 so I took the plunge. We made plans to meet at the Park Bar, a loud but kind of homey after-work watering hole near Union Square. And there we were, sipping glasses of delicious wine and chatting about our respective lives. What could possibly go wrong.

6 hours earlier…

A work potluck can be really fun. It gives you a chance to show off your skills in the kitchen and easily and superficially impress your coworkers. If you’re on the lazy side, it gives you a chance to sample all of your really meticulous coworkers’  detailed preparations. At that point, I’d already cemented by reputation as an office glutton. Our receptionist/office manager routinely alerted me to meeting leftovers and various treats that were brought in, even as he mocked me for my indiscriminate consumption of anything and everything that was free.

This particular potluck, I really went balls out. Sampling fried chicken, mac ‘n’ cheese, beans and rice, and various ethnic preparations, I gorged myself with absolutely no regard to dietary sanity or human decency. And, when my stomach could take no more, I went back in for dessert.

6 hours later…
The girl wasn’t the problem. The problem reared its ugly head a few minutes into our date, when I realized that the air surrounding me was fragrant not with romance or the scent of spring, but my post-potluck flatus. I panicked. I only half-heard everything the girl said from that point on, and since she was pretty happy to talk about herself my distraction was somewhat accommodated. Yet I kept looking at her, wondering if she could smell it too. What is she thinking? Is this over before it began? Will she say something?

The small room was packed and I was barely able to snag a seat at the bar. There was no way I could move us somewhere else. The room was a fishbowl, slowly filling up with nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and methane expelled by yours truly. There was no mistaking it. I knew my own fart. Irrationally, I feared going to the bathroom would immediately trigger/confirm her suspicions and seal my fate. For some reason I had to stay at the bar and suffer through this charade. Just as my anxiety was quieting, some dude walked over to order a drink and wasted no time commenting, his armpit flailing over our heads, “Man, it smells like ass here! Wooh!” Asshole!!!

I kept looking at my date but she was shockingly unmoved—either she was too polite or her septal deviation was even worse than mine, blocking all olfactory sensors. After about an hour, the flatulent menace penetrated my nasal passages and put a squeeze on my mind, pulsating like the beating heart from Poe’s famous story. I could take no more and declared that it was “getting late” (it was 9 pm on a school night) and I had to go home. At this the girl seemed genuinely shocked and taken aback. Could it be she was actually having a good time despite my awful wind-breaking? It didn’t matter—whatever she might have thought before, she was now sure that I was peacing out. We walked to the train stop quietly, commenting on the weather and TV shows. We hugged and never saw each other again. I’ve farted many times since then, but never with such devastating effect.

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Poke, but Don’t Superpoke

23 Mar

Text with caution

By popular demand (and by popular I mean two female friends of mine have discussed/requested more coverage of it this week), we’re going to talk about some Dating Rules, specifically regarding first-date follow-ups. Who should message whom first after a first date? Here we run into the issue of gender dynamics and control.

So you’ve had that really nice first date. He came in looking all dapper and not at all socially awkward as you had imagined from the multiple references to Game of Thrones and Battlestar Galactica. She was super-quirky and charming, not at all the distracted cat lady you were expecting from her profile. You hit it off right away, discovering shared interests in college hockey, zip-lining in Costa Rica, and Deathcab for Cutie (remember them?). She giggles nervously at his jokes, he adjusts his and watch several times throughout the night (without ever looking at it). Minutes turn into hours and before you know it, 2 AM is here and you both have work the next day. You part with a really tight hug, exchange promises to “do it again,” and maybe even part with a brief but meaningful smooch.

What’s next? I try to play it by ear, but these days, if I like the girl, she’ll know about it within 24 hours or less. Some people like to text immediately after parting, and this might be totally appropriate and heart-meltingly awesome in some cases, but I saw an insight from some girl on Twitter who said (paraphrasing): “Let me marinade in the last few hours and take you in before you start spamming me.” There’s definitely something to that. Human beings are complex creatures and sometimes we need to miss a person to realize their full value. Maybe a first date is more appropriate for a head-on collision of unfettered emotion, or maybe it’s occasion for a more nuanced and flirtatious “dance.” The one thing I unequivocally won’t do is wait some arbitrary amount of time. This is juvenile and unnecessary. If you want to feel like the other person has options/is busy yet still takes the time to tepidly tell you that he/she likes you, you may want to think about how you ascribe value to people.

The question I was asked, though, is what do you do if someone tells you that you’re awesome and he/she would love to see you again, and even keeps texting over the next few days, but stalls or waffles on asking you out again. Ladies, it may not shock you to learn than even as a guy, I’ve limited scope on this turn of events. Why isn’t he setting a date? This is one area where a red flag, which I normally hesitate to raise, may be indicated:

  • Maybe he’s got other options
  • Maybe he’s already in a relationship
  • Maybe he lied about having a good time
  • Maybe he caught a bug from a “too nice girl” and is phasing you out slowly
  • Maybe he needs a nudge
The first four cases are ones that are pretty straightforward. If you don’t hear from him/her within 48 hours of a mutually stated desire to rendezvous again, assume one of the above and take no action (if there’s an exception, you’ll hear from them eventually). If you think (think really hard about it—you want to be sure) that a nudge might just be the ticket, be proactive but subtle. If you’re absolutely certain this could be the beginning of something beautiful, drop him a casual text and see if he’d like to join you for some specific activity (concert, gallery opening, wine tasting event, etc.) and name a specific date. Or (may the gods of dating forgive me) use a light fib to tell him you’ll be super-busy next week, so if he wanted to get together, it needs to happen Friday (or whatever your dating calendar allows). This way you can draw out his attentions in a direct manner without too much manipulation/game playing. If, after all this, he/she is equally reticent or noncommittal, assume they’re playing the field and move on.

To Beard, or Not to Beard

15 Mar

Will you be my beard?

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.” — William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

A few months back, I contacted a very comely lass on OkCupid with whom I’d had a few flirtatious exchanges. We didn’t have a terrible lot in common but—and unfortunately—as a man, this didn’t stop me. In fact, my mind works in such strange and mysterious ways that it can twist what is an ostensible and fundamental mismatch into an exciting challenge. After a few exchanges, and due to her taking a week to respond to 2-line messages, I could tell the thing was going into pithy pen pal mode. So I requested a face-to-face. Her reaction to this was not quite what I expected:

“Sure, it would be fun to go out. But I must ask you, do you have a beard? Some of your pictures suggest that you do and others suggest you do not. Sorry to be blunt, but I’m not a fan of facial hair.”

Well, this was a new one. She was skipping the phase where we go out and pretend to like/tolerate everything about each other until a meaningful connection is formed and negotiating capital accrues. She was going straight into deal-breaker negotiations! I told her that I do currently sport a beard, but assured her it was well-trimmed, encouraging her to give facial hair a chance. She replied indicating that while it was a dealbreaker for romance, a beard would not stand in the way of friendship, to which she was also open.

Unsure of how to proceed, I dispatched a teasing message suggesting that her adamant stance might be more flexible upon a live encounter, and I was willing to take the chance. She, in turn, burned me by questioning whether my profile, which also indicated friendship among the menu options (just covering my bases, folks), was in fact accurate, and whether I even knew that it said that. SLAM! My ego was slightly hurt, and I was getting a little pissed, but that lizard brain was now firmly in control and wanted to meet this girl, if only to show her how cool I really was.

When the time came for our date, I wondered what the hell I was doing seriously considering trying to “convert” her into a scruff-lover. What to do?  How was I to respond to her all-of-nothing attitude? A quick and informal poll of my male (and some female, even) friends revealed that this was not a tough question at all: “Shave it,” was the most common answer to my predicament. At this, I bristled. Pardon? I should shave off my prized beard as a first-date investment? Maybe if we met, clicked, and fell in love, then I could grudgingly renounce and subsequently shear off my furry mask. But this was a FIRST DATE, for Pete’s sake!

So after taking immaculate care trimming my shaggy blanket into a well-manicured stubble, I went out into the night to meet her, on Christmas eve of all times (neither of us is Christian). She had already asked for 2 short extensions, which I granted, but when I got off the train I got another text asking for another 30-60 minutes. This should have been a major red flag but I had already schlepped into the City from Brooklyn, so this was happening. She texted to see if I wanted to do it another night and I tried to keep my reply from sounding too pissy. After about 20 digital pages on my iPad at the bar, and her getting lost (aka 1.5 hours later), she finally showed up. We had a nice time sipping fancy brews and chatting about our very different backgrounds (she’s from North Africa and I’m from Eastern Europe). At the end of the night, unsure of how to address the elephant in the room, I made a joke about her mulish beard ultimatum. It cracked a smile but not her firm position. With neither of us able to compromise our positions, we were deadlocked. We hugged, said goodnight, and went to our respective homes, her holding on to her pride and I to my beard.

Meet and Greet

3 Mar

Who needs spontaneity?

Timing Your Affection

22 Feb

Does, he, doesn't he?

The following is inspired by a “girl” question: “When is it right to sleep with someone you’re dating?” I say girl question because few guys ever really ask this question, or pose it this way. At a younger age, guys might show their interest in a friend’s love life by asking, “Did you pork her yet?” An affirmative response will net you a high-5 (do kids still do that, or is it a high-4 or low-3 these days?)  while a negative response would earn you a look of pity or snorting disdain. But it wouldn’t get to that because you’d probably lie and say you had, even if privately you told the girl how much you love her and that you’re willing to wait for the right time.

But guy clichés aside, this question becomes more important to both genders as we grow older and remain single. Thus questions like “Is it right to sleep on a first date?” and “How many dates should I wait before banging so he doesn’t think I’m a slut?” occur with some frequency among daters. The desire for objective protocol to distill the confusing smog of romance is universal. If you’re not religiously orthodox and observant of sexual purity before marriage, you still need some sort of anchor. But as we all know, it’s hard to know when to drop one in the choppy waters of personal relationships.

Let’s start with the obvious: in most cases, the woman is the driver. Unless you’re an Antonio Banderas type (or a rapist) you will make your case, but the final decision will rest with the fairer gender. Thus I assume the vast majority of us, if we’re meeting a total stranger for the first time, don’t expect to go from banal questions over awkwardly sipped cocktails to hot monkey sex, or even gentle canoodling in the space of 2-3 hours. What we’re looking for is some sort of connection, hints of something greater, excitement for a second interview. But there is that rare occasion (rare for many of us, anyway), where the timing is so right, the conversation so good, the jokes so rip-roaringly funny, and the booze so potent, that you’ll end up doing something biblical by night’s end.

Personally, when it comes to formal “dating,” I have not experienced first-date sex. More tangible than love at first sight, it’s still very elusive. At no time during a first date was there a point where I’d dare say, “How about we move this to your/my place.” If there’s good body language and the signs are there, a great date is one that ends in some quality, tipsy tongue-twisting. If you’re lucky enough, as has happened to me, it might take place in the rain. If you’re not Spider Man like me, a simple kiss on the lips can mean the difference between an iffy/confusing “Do I see him/her again?” and a “Wow.” That’s because first dates are inherently awkward and confusing.

For me, if I have a great time on a first date that ends without any preview of physical affection for next time, it makes the second date kind of tense (though sometimes more exciting). Of course, obsessing with getting action can be harmful and disconcerting. At least the first two dates, I’m more concerned about that first kiss than the unrealistic jackpot of bedding someone. From there, the story will unfold as it will. But the first kiss is crucial–it’s like passing that first level on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? where your money, paltry sum though it may be, is guaranteed. The second date is pesky, undefined, and often guided by the rhythm of the first date. If you made out at the end of that first night under the romantic glow of the F train in Brooklyn while a bum lubricates the tracks with his urine, your expectations for date #2 go up. I’ll be more relaxed knowing the next date can start with a kiss, but I have no idea how it will end. The stakes are higher. You must build on and exceed the success of the first. If it ends without a kiss, you will wonder if there’ll be a second date, even if your companion “had a wonderful time and would love to do it again anytime, really, call me.”

In short, there is no rule, but a great sequence over 3 dates might be kissing>more intense kissing>play/sex. Then again, I’ve had relationships where I’ve waited weeks/months, and others where it took 2 dates. Nowadays, 5 can seem like a long time if I’m really into the girl. On the other hand, it’s crazy that a month is “too long.” It’s all about chemistry, timing, and effort, in that order. (The pickup artists among you might disagree, but this is just my POV.) If you sleep together on the first date, it mind be mind-blowing, or it might be a little anticlimactic (no pun intended). It could also defuse the excitement and mystery that come with sexual tension. A guy might not care about his reputation or how he will be perceived in social terms as much as a girl, but that doesn’t mean that every guy wants to immediately shag the girl with whom he just had a great night and might have a future.

Ultimately, it’s all about what feels right and when. I’m willing to bet that for every time an aggressive guy makes his move too quickly, there are us tentative guys who don’t make the move fast enough. I’ve had the experience of “overthinking” the timing of sex. Later, I laughed about it because I realized that waiting for 4 dates was completely arbitrary and only confused a girl (who was clearly into me on the first date) as to my intentions. I was driving myself into the “Friend Zone” one wonderful date at a time. My best advice is: don’t overthink it. Go with your gut and make your feelings known to the extent possible. But pay attention to the other party. Getting to she show a few minutes late is much better than missing it altogether.

Top 10 Things You Should Bring to a First Date

13 Feb

Czech or American, bring some cash, my dude!

Do Bring:

  1. A wallet. If you’re a guy, it should definitely be full of Andrew Jacksons. If you’re a girl, don’t bother filling it with money. In fact, you can bring an older pocketbook you no longer use, but you may need to make “the gesture,” and you don’t want to come to a military parade out of uniform. Of course, if the guy calls your bluff, make sure you have at least one credit card on hand.
  2. Decent clothes. Guys: It’s a tired cliche, but you only make a first impression once. You might be desperate, but a first date is no time to telegraph this. Dust off a nice shirt and clean your shoes, man! Not every girl is obsessed with style, but almost every girl will notice if you don’t
  3. Energy. Of course, it can be a nerve-wracking experience, but don’t be a wet blanket. Once you get past the pleasantries and tentative bullshit, a date should be fun. Even if the girl you’re meeting is not the size 2 hot mama her pictures suggested, or the guy you’re meeting is only 6 feet tall in Disco Stu platform shoes, don’t be a jerk. make the best of it and call it an early night if you have to, but don’t fall sullen when your unrealistic expectations aren’t met.
  4. Full head of hair/pride in your chrome dome. Though I’ve yet to part with my hair, I do wonder when it might happen. From conversations with women, hair is not as important as we men think. Sure, we don’t like to see our lush manes reduced to wiry sprouts, but girls want to see a man who’s self-assured, not one whose confidence is receding along with his hair line. Polish that cue ball and ditch the old baseball cap!
  5. Jokes. Everyone loves to laugh. Your date loves to laugh…and if she doesn’t, run, run, run. Humor is the single best weapon a man has in the absence of obvious looks/height/status/power/affluence/charm/charisma. Catching a girl’s ear can be just as big as catching her eye. If you’re not a natural Paul Reiser or Carrot Top, it’s OK to bring a couple of boilerplate “seed” jokes as icebreakers. By the way, ladies, you are not absolved of this responsibility! From your profile, we know you like to laugh, and we also know you love to make people laugh, so bring it–do what you love!
  6. Punctuality. I know that society tells us a lady should be fashionably late, but there’s a fine line separating longing/excitement and annoyance/disrespect. The 5-minute rule is in effect, but beyond that, send a text or make like a phone and dial! And don’t ask for a half-hour extension.
  7. Curiosity. In my unfortunate turn as a sometimes-serial dater, nothing would turn me off on a first date quite as much as someone who never asks a single question about you. Yes, we’re all waiting for our turn to speak, and yes, sometimes it’s better not to play the question game, but if you find yourself prattling on about your latest jaunt to Machu Picchu or playing up your general awesomeness (come on, guys), take a breath at some point and ask yourself if you’ve learned anything about your date. This is not a bookstore appearance!
  8. Comfortable shoes. Girls, let’s agree that we will never understand each other on this issue. Some of you will never give up on your heels, through rain, snow, and bloody injuries. Why? Let’s compromise and get you into some comfortable flats for the first encounter. If it works, I promise you can loft yourself on special occasions.
  9. An open mind. So, that starving artist who captures your imagination actually builds Lego castles out of popcorn. And the saucy burlesque performer you were having wet dreams about is more man than woman. (Okay, that last one is pretty tough to swallow.) You’re here, grab a beer, work up some cheer. So what this won’t be the “How I Met Your Mother” story you’ll change years from now to something sexier. Maybe you’ll learn something new. Maybe you’ll actually have a good time.
  10. Photos of the 4 kids you forgot to mention in your profile. This would be the time, people. On second thought, what the hell?

My First OkCupid Date: It Happens to Everyone.

9 Feb

The most understood fruit...and people

Today, I’d like to take a break from generalizations, labels, and ranting (don’t worry, these being my M.O., we’ll be back to them soon enough) that might paint me as some curmudgeonly misogynist (nothing further from the truth, ladies). Let’s go back to Event Zero: That’s right, my very first OkCupid date. Everyone has one. Hopefully yours was or will be good, but because we live in an unfair world, good judgment, pre-date screening, and your best tingling spider sense for a good match are sometimes not enough.

Months after a long-term relationship, I’d ventured into the online dating realm. It began with jDate (more on this in future post), continued on Match.com, and, after a string of disappointing, go-nowhere dates, emails, starts/stops, a friend finally nudged me toward the free dating world. Used to shelling out something on the order of $39.99/month to access jDate’s repository of Hebraic/Jew-friendly dames (it pains me to write this now), I was understandably skeptical of joining what appeared ostensibly to be a free dating site for hipsters. Paying for a service is usually the best and most basic filter there can be for a dating site. {Hear that, Plentyoffish}? But, like a man on a ledge, with goons in pursuit, I took the leap.

Granted, this was a particularly vulnerable time for me. Having finally overcome the lingering heartbreak of my prior relationship on the strength of a then “life-altering” Birthright trip to Israel, I dove head-first into jDate’s comely profile pics and professions of “being equally comfortable going out and staying in.” The reality of 20-question first-dates and communication games soon sunk in and by the time OkCupid came along I was cynical and somewhat battle-weary. I was Prince Bolkonsky after the Battle of Austerlitz (and jDate was my Austerlitz). I wish I could tell you that my first OkCupid experience was an epiphany or a great and wondrous turning point. No, it was rather the hammer that beat the nail further into my already hardening heart.

The girl was cute enough, a Russian Jew, a free spirit en route to grad school spending the summer taking in New York in Hell’s Kitchen. We’d gone back and forth on our activity and somehow landed on a Michael Jackson tribute in TriBeCa (part of the Film Festival). When we met up, MJ (this was pre-death) was quickly forgotten, becoming a backdrop to a hastily arranged dinner at some lame and overpriced tourist haunt somewhere on the West Side. She opened by bragging how she’d just spent a year abroad in New Zealand, quickly moving into a diatribe about how people misunderstand and underappreciate the “Kiwis.” At the time, the word Kiwi meant little more to me than a potato-looking fruit I didn’t like. Soon, I learned about how awesome they really are. (I love New Zealanders, btw.)

When it came time to order wine, she dismissed the wine list because it didn’t feature any New Zealand Rieslings. I informed her that California produces some solid wines these days (this was 2008 and had long been true), including my beloved German varietal. The girl informed me that while she’d been away and couldn’t say for sure, she highly doubted that America could produce decent wines. She then waxed poetic about her fluency in French and her time there, downgrading the U.S. to some discoloration on the body of the world. Next was what I call education-preening: puffing up the school she went to (I forget), lamenting not getting into Harvard and detailing the reasons why she didn’t, then boasting about the grad school program she got into (Chicago or Northwestern). This would have been forgivable if she hadn’t proceeded to express extreme surprise, bordering on insolence, that I had gone to a relatively esteemed institution myself. (Seriously? Was it my controversial remarks about the quality of U.S. wines that disqualified me from being an academic pimp?)

This was the part where I should have let my pride beat out my fear of social impropriety and let her pay half of the bill. After all, she offered to contribute her share and even mocked me for “having to be a man.” Instead, I played the disenchanted gentleman and agreed to go walk off our meal along the water on the West side. Here she’d remembered that there were two of us on the date (not uncommon on first dates) and proceeded to ask me some obligatory questions about my life. Learning that I worked in marketing (at the time), she immediately slammed this as a job/career choice and informed me that while it may be fun, it’s a total waste of time in her eyes, falling well short of the social value offered by whatever post-modern Ph.D. program she was joining.

Usually comfortable with just about any date and more than willing to squeeze lemonade out of a moldy lemon, I had the very rare urge to just shut down. Lacking the wisdom and cajones to wish her a good night and bolt, I continued to subject myself to her grilling. Figuring that she’d gotten the answers she wanted and would do me the favor of ending it herself, I was pretty surprised when she said,

“Oh, my, God, do you like hookahs? I love hookahs. Let’s go to the village and smoke one right now.”

“Umm, I’ve got a lot of work to finish for tomorrow,” I lamely replied. At the moment, I hadn’t realized that despite her uncouth manner, this girl was actually into me. I figured she just really wanted me to buy her a session with a water pipe. My pride finally got the better of me and I set us on a subway path. But my Cupid was not satisfied.

“Aren’t you doing anything interesting with your life, at least, writing or something?” some rays of hopefulness cracking through the dark clouds of her pity. So not only was she judgmental, she was also kind of a b—h. I gave a tentative response, ignoring her comments about some author I just had to check out. The post-date hug couldn’t come fast enough. I raced down the steps into a wonderful MTA escape hatch, my wasted night and disappointment anonymized and thrown into a blender with my fellow passengers’ daily anxieties and preoccupations.