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Millenials don’t date, we just hook up, according to the semi-weekly Huffington Post article about what millenials are doing with our junk. But the thing is, dating can be fun and great! First dates are one of my favorite things, because either it goes well and maybe you get to kiss someone or go do more fun things with them, or it goes horribly and you get a hilarious story to tell on Twitter. First dates can also be extremely intimidating, because you are giving a relative stranger access to your face, words and time, and you have no idea how they are going to treat that privilege.
A couple disclaimers: My only online dating experience was traumatizing, and I know that’s how many of you are meeting other cute humans these days, so hopefully you can apply the following advice to that situation without me addressing it directly! Secondly, I cannot give you any tips about how to turn good first dates into relationships because I keep falling for people who live 300 to 3,000 miles away from me like a doofus. But I have first dates on lock. Let’s explore a few different kinds of first dates, and then please get in the comments and tell us all how you impress babes via 2-5 hour social engagements.
A few basic first date ground rules:
1. Do a thing you both want to do. If one of you is bored out of your skull because of the activity, it will bomb.
2. Have an escape plan. Tell a friend where you are planning to be and ask them to be your emergency contact if you need to gtfo because the person is dangerous, a racist, or some other instant dealbreaker.
3. Don’t go into a first date looking for a ring. Just have fun and let things move naturally.
4. BE YOURSELF. Wear clothes that make you feel great and be prepared to talk about things you love. You are great, and this person wants to get to know you.
The First Date After You’ve Already Slept Together
Sometimes you have what is ostensibly a one night stand with someone and then realize you might actually want to interact with them again. The first time I ever went home with a girl I snuck out of her room at 7 a.m. because I was terrified of everything. But I did leave her my number, and for whatever reason she decided I wasn’t a total asshole and texted me. We agreed to hang out in the daylight, and I agonized over what we should do for our first date. I thought it had to be perfect and magical so we wouldn’t just be trapped as hookup gal pals forever. In the end, she asked me to come by the coffee shop where she was doing her engineering homework to hang out while she took a break. I had been running errands, so I was wearing a tank top and jorts. She was in study mode. We were not cute, but she was so cute. I drank hot chocolate and blathered on about how “Pusher Love Girl” by Justin Timberlake as performed at The Grammys was the best thing I had ever heard, but the album version was disappointing.
I don’t remember what we did for our first actual date where we put on makeup and otherwise tried, but I do remember sitting across from her at Caffe Medici and having one of the most blissed out hours of my life. All this is to say that with enough hormones coursing through your brain, literally anything is a good first date activity.
The Unicorn Meet Someone And Mutually Decide To Go Out First Date
Sometimes you meet someone in a place and talk to them and decide you would like to hang out with each other in another place and time. This happened to me once: I saw her across a giant party and we locked eyes, and after like two hours of staring at each other we both casually went to buy water at the exact same moment. We started chatting, danced some cumbia together, swapped numbers, and made plans for the weekend. (Don’t get too excited about how well this is going; she moved to Argentina the following Tuesday.) Anyway y’all, with this kind of first date where you have met and made googoo eyes but don’t know each other at all, I cannot advocate enough for going out to dinner. You know you might be into in each other, and the pretense of a coffee or casual drink makes things more awkward than just leaning in and spending a whole meal together. We went out to dinner on Valentine’s Day at a very normal restaurant and accidentally told each other our life stories, like what cars we drove in high school and our experiences being queer in the church. I don’t advocate for making a formal list of questions but a little mental note of conversation topics never killed anyone. After dinner we went to meet her cousins at a very straight bar and acted very gay all over it. It was a truly delightful evening.
The Cutesy Outdoorsy First Date
This was my first first date, and I was 17 and so nervous I wanted to puke. I went to pick him up straight after church so I was probably overdressed. He gave me a mix CD that included my first exposure to The Strokes, which was an A+ move by him. I remain an advocate for mix CDs as tools of wooing. What do kids do now, make each other Spotify playlists? We found the cheapest loaf of white bread at the grocery store and went to a nearby park to feed ducks. At one point he tried to get the ducks to come eat out of our hands and I was envisioning a very About A Boy kind of situation.
We didn’t actually commit avicide, but we did HOLD HANDS. It was very exciting. Our brief, fraught relationship should probably be made into a young adult novel about what happens when two queers try to heterosexually date while they’re both in the closet (hint: we ended it after he stood me up at a Rocky Horror Picture Show viewing party) but this was a really solid first date. An outdoors activity forces you to interact with this person you barely know, but if you don’t know what to talk about you can comment pithily on what you are seeing and doing. The Autostraddle staff agrees that going to a butterfly conservatory is a very adorable option. KaeLyn once went on a date at a berry farm at age 8, and Rachel once went apple picking, both to great success. So, fruit gathering is an ideal date option for people of all ages. I’d like to add flower gardens, swimming holes and hikes to the list. But also, some people would rather murder you than go hiking, so read your audience I guess.
The First Date With Someone You’ve Been Friends With For Years
This one has a lot at stake. I think when most people try to transition a friendship into a more deliberately romantic relationship, they probably just start making out and maybe change their relationship status on Facebook so they don’t have to explain themselves to their friends. But if, as I am, you are committed to first dates as an institution, having a specific demarcator can be helpful. Eddie and I had been friends for about three years when the romantic tension came to a head. We lived 200 miles apart, so asking him to come see tiny Swedish guitar playing heartthrob The Tallest Man On Earth with me in Austin was more of a commitment than meeting for drinks down the street. I advise making your first date with a friend an activity that you would have done with them as friends anyway. Go to a concert, wander around a bookstore, see a movie in a genre you both love or eat at your shared favorite restaurant. That way, if the date aspect goes to hell, you’re still doing a thing you really enjoy with a person you like being around. In our case, we embarked on an 18 month longish-distance relationship during which we both wore a lot of flannel and did a lot of things we both really liked doing together.
Is This A Date?
There’s nothing more awkward and precious than hanging out with a cute human who also thinks you’re cute and having no idea whether you’re on a date or not. I think this phenomenon is especially common in queer gal communities, because the line between platonic fawning and flirting seems to be inherently blurry. When a college acquaintance/Twitter friend asked me to get drinks when I was back in Austin for a visit, I was instantly thrown into full on “Try but not too hard because is this even a date?” mode. I met her at a hipster design bar and ordered a chili cheese dog, which I immediately regretted because there is no cute way to eat a chili cheese dog. Later, I taught her to two-step at my favorite honky tonk and then got super flustered when someone else asked me to dance because did that mean I wasn’t obviously on a date? I returned to Nicaragua, and it took us about 10 months to confirm that, yes, we were probably on a date that night. Despite our mutual uncertainty, we had a really fun time doing activities we both enjoyed, and I didn’t get chili on my shirt. Not having clear terms was part of the fun and actually took the pressure off. Activities in group spaces with open-ended closing times are good here, because if things go wrong or your not-date starts talking about their monogamous girlfriend, you can call a friend for backup and turn it into a fun, clearly platonic hangout. Or just bail.
PS: Our second non-date was watching Boys Don’t Cry on Netflix together via Skype. Neither of us were aware of how the story ends and then our connection jammed up. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS.
What’s your favorite kind of first date? What makes first dates terrible or amazing for you? Let’s help each other find love, or at least have a decent time with with a gal pal for an evening!