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I am, I guess what you'd call, traditional. I like to have a casual dinner or lunch or brunch. For me, starting with an activity(eg. going to a museum taking a walk, seeing a movie) does not let you look into the other person's eyes, or see who he is, or how the two of you interact. My first date with my present husband five years ago was at a low-key restaurant in my neighborhood which I suggested. I figured if we didn't hit it off, I could get home quickly.
Initially, we were awkward. He was very quiet. I filled in the spaces by chatting away. After we sat down and got through the business of ordering, we became increasingly comfortable. One of the things that excited me: he did not do a monologue(so many men I'd gone out with have). He asked very interesting questions about writing, about everything...and told me about his work, his kids and even some personal things about his previous relationships and marriage then said he found me fun and easy to talk to, confessing he didn't typically open up to such a great extent. Our conversation flowed. I found him physically appealing. He had/has a twinkle in his eyes, which I wouldn't have noticed or blushed so if he hadn't been sitting across from me. After dinner I didn't want the night to end, but I certainly wasn't going to invite him to my place yet, so I offered to show him a view of the city from the top floor of an NYU building on Washington Square where I teach. It was all very romantic. I liked him a lot by then and still didn't want the evening to end.
Obviously, my dinner dates with other men did not have such a happy ending, but I think it is easier to pick up signals and see who people are and if a second date is in order when you sit across from them, see something about them, and share a meal. Nancy