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What You Shouldn't Say or Do on a First Date

To avoid first-date disasters, harness your impulses

You did your homework, wading through dozens of online profiles to find someone you click with. Then the two of you emailed, talked on the phone and arranged to meet over coffee. But now, waiting anxiously for your date to appear, you may be second-guessing yourself: "What have I done?"

Couple sitting together at restaurant

First date? Smile, take a few deep breaths — and dodge these first-date boo-boos. — Getty Images

Meeting in person for the first time is like going through airport security: You can't help feeling discombobulated. So if your heart races as you sit across that tiny cafe table from a potential new partner, let it. Just don't forget to smile, take a few deep breaths — and try to dodge these first-date boo-boos:

Spilling your guts. To avoid blurting out embarrassing confessions (or puffed-up pronouncements) on a first date, install a time delay in your head similar to the ones that block expletives from airing on live TV. If your date asks a tough question or makes a bold, challenging statement, activate your time delay. You want to appear ready for prime time, so it makes sense to pause and consider any response before you broadcast it.

Acting desperate. Looking for a phrase guaranteed to make a first date your last? Try "I know this sounds crazy, but I think I'm in love with you." Yes, it does sound crazy — because it is! It's cool to feel excited about being with someone new, but suggesting a profound emotional bond right away will be a warning sign to any rational person.

Suggesting risky business. "How about we go back to my place and get it on?" Saying this to someone you've known for all of an hour is more than just a daft notion; it's also a potentially dangerous one (see Diseases, sexually transmitted). And if a first date agrees to the proposition, you're likely headed for a world of trouble: The 1960s have come and gone, and casual sex is no longer a smart way to start a relationship.

Next page: Who pays? And what about kissing on the first date? »

Waging a gender war. You might think it sounds sophisticated to tell a woman, "I won't be doing this again because the sexes are equal now" as you open a door for her. But that's silly, not savvy. Being a gentleman — or, to depoliticize matters, acting polite — has nothing to do with gender equality; it's a gesture of respect. Most women appreciate good manners and like to feel feminine, and most guys like to reinforce those feelings.

Springing an ambush. Even if you're the second coming of Johnny Depp, planting a surprise kiss on your first date's lips is never a cool move. A first kiss occurs naturally — a treasured moment that couples refer to years down the road.

Purchasing affection. A successful first date requires balance, not bravado. So don't make a show of grabbing that first check. For starters, it's ostentatious. Worse, it can appear you're trying to buy a relationship. When things are just getting off the ground, it's logical to split the check or take turns paying for successive ones; that way neither party feels marginalized or obligated.

Acting cool. Forget about putting on an act, a mask or a show. Instead, just be yourself — and you'll be fine. The problem with trying to impress a first date, even if you succeed, is that no one can sustain that performance level. So practice the golden rule of dating: Show the same authenticity you'd like your partner to.

Rushing things. Wait until the end of the first date (or, ideally, after it) before you suggest a second. Any relationship develops more naturally when neither party has an agenda.

Tensing up. As often as necessary, order yourself to relax; you'll be much likelier to enjoy a first date when you do. The "primary mission objective," after all, is to have fun!

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