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First-Date Do’s and Don’ts

Follow these crucial rules if you want a second meet-up

  • Istock

    Do wear the right clothes

    If an article of clothing seems more suitable for your grandchildren than for you, leave it home. This includes anything you would wear to a club or a church, anything that could double for trick-or-treating, anything casual enough for painting the shutters and anything skimpy enough to make your date shudder.

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    Don’t bling out

    Keep the focus on you, not your bling: Decommission any big shiny belts, gold chains, sparkly rings, flashy cuff links or other jewelry before your date shows up. You can impress him or her with your other talents later on. For now, telegraph taste, not tackiness.

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    Do arrive on time

    Keeping someone waiting is rude and therefore unacceptable. You want the other person to know that you think meeting him or her is important. When you set up a date, exchange cellphone numbers. Call if you get stuck in traffic.  

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    Don’t commit cellphone suicide

    The only call that’s permissible to take or make on a date is with a doctor or babysitter. I’ve been on dates with cellphone talkers who were neither firemen nor cardiologists — so I checked out, too.

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    Don’t meet at either party’s home

    Your date is probably not a felon, a rapist or a raving loon. On the other hand, do you really want to find that out the hard way? Giving a stranger access to your home is too intimate a way to begin — or end — a first date. Wait for the right time for a home visit.  

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    Do stifle the cat pix

    He or she probably does not want to see pictures of your cats. The same goes for photos of dogs, children, grandchildren, home renovations (before or after), vacations, your last haircut or anything from your last relationship.

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    Don’t meet at awkward places

    No first encounter should involve a location requiring extensive travel or a surprise activity. A man once invited me to swim at his gym. He was terribly out of shape and looked worse in his trunks than I did in my bathing suit. Bonding over dinner later was impossible — by then I deemed him all wet.  

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    Don’t order wearable foods

    Avoid any dish that’s likely to get stuck in your teeth or must be cracked with a mallet. If there’s one time you don’t need to feel self-conscious about smiling, it’s now. Plus, lobster is often the most expensive thing on the menu.

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    Do keep your politics and religion to yourself

    The problem with getting up on a soapbox and holding forth about loaded topics is that doing so could explode in your face. A conversation about movies, books, vacations or just about any other topic is a better idea because it makes you more likable.

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    Do listen attentively

    People like to talk about themselves. By giving someone space to do just that, you can discover who he or she is. Should that process reveal that you’re sitting opposite a crashing bore or the orator from hell, you needn’t waste another evening listening to him or her.

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    Don’t reveal too much too soon

    I applaud your willingness to be transparent, but please avoid discussing your strange family or past relationships on a first date. You’re looking to create a bond, not become a bane. So save the soul-baring for another time — or ideally, for another person such as your best friend or a therapist.

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    Do keep food issues off the table

    Don’t roll your eyes if your date takes forever to order a potato, details her allergies to the waiter or goes berserk when two foods touch on his plate. Sure, you may be the healthier eater, but I’ll bet you’ve got a food issue or two yourself. If that’s so, you’re in no position to pass judgment.

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    Do tune out social static

    Your adult children, best friend, next-door neighbor and piano tuner may not be the best “experts” to consult with about who or what is right for you. So don’t seek their opinions. Instead, trust your brain and your gut to tell you whether a first date merits a second.

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