First dates have implied rules. No-one likes admitting this, but we tend to treat first dates on a similar parallel to a job interview. Showcase your strengths, play down your weaknesses and be on your best behaviour. In past experience though, I’ve stumbled across individuals who are blind to this premise…
Since becoming half of a massively happy and loving relationship with my wonderful partner, I’ve sometimes cast my mind back to all those now funny, but back then stomach churningly bad first dates. I love him with every part of who I am and right from the first few sentences we exchanged, I was aware of how awesome he was. This is in part, due to my many experiences of not-so-awesome. Over my few years as an ‘adult’ that ‘courts’ I have come to recognise a few no-nos that serve as immediate red flags. These kinds of people are lacking in some of the most basic social skills and shouldn’t have carried on calling me after 4 months of me not calling them. This brief list is dear to my soul.
1. The trash talking of an ex.
To even talk about an ex at all on a first date I find a tad bizarre. But if you’re going to slag off the person you used to bed to the very person you’re currently trying to bed, how can you be surprised by anything other than a lukewarm response. I can’t think of a more efficient way to publicise how not over them you are.
Of course I’m not naive, even at that the tender age of 24, we all have exs. None of us waited for marriage, exs exist for all of us. But to talk about them to a near stranger? If you talk about an ex, then you’re thinking about an ex. For me if I’m still thinking about an ex, I’m not over them yet. Wouldn’t it be more polite to just assume we all have a dating past rather than bringing it up out loud? There’s no plausible reason to discuss that certain individual unless you cannot get around it any other way.
‘Yeah I genuinely don’t own a TV haha. It belonged to my ex, what you gonna do?’
Any more detail than that is completely unnecessary. And to trash talk? I cannot think of an easier way to appear a bitter and resentful human being. Now I can’t assume for anyone else, but for me that’s all kinds of no. No no, no thank you.
The solution? If it comes up in conversation and can’t be avoided because you don’t like to lie then yes that’s commendably honest. But talk the absolute minimum about them as possible, stay positive, and move the conversation on to something different.
Personal best? An individual took great pleasure in telling me in detail that the reason they didn’t currently have a TV was because their evil succubus of an ex-girlfriend took it without paying him half and also stole his cat shortly after she’d completely crushed his sense of self worth but it was ok because he could do better anyway… Reign it in a bit dude.
2. The sympathy vote.
For me, confidence is sexy. Not arrogance, but a happiness in yourself and who you are that is comfortable. Whinging about how terrible your life is? Why do that? Being deliberately self deprecating about yourself? Why do that? Spilling the details of all the unsuccessful dates you’ve recently been on and how much you’d love to feel less alone? Why do that? Go into detail about how many things you’ve failed at and how much further along you wish your life was? Why do that?
If the person you look at in the mirror is so under par in your eyes and generally unlovable, what’s going to make me think any different? You have known yourself your entire life. If you call yourself a loser, I will believe that you’re a loser.
The solution? Focus on your positives. Talk about the things that are great in your life, the things you love, your interests. Show an interest in the person you’re talking to, rather than seeing it as an opportunity for free counselling.
Personal best? Oh you hate your job that much that you got into a fight and threatened your boss and now you’re worried you’ll end up out of work, back at your step dad’s house again? The guy that you let patronise you even though you’re an adult and should laugh it off because he’s an immature jerk? The guy who cheats on your mother but she’s ok with it? Well shit, Mandy has left the building.*
3. The third degree.
The very beginnings of knowledge you have of each other is stemming from this primary meeting. Since when did grilling a person you hardly know on the deeply private parts of their life become acceptable? I only have a few expectations for a first date. Chat about the day you both had maybe, try to ascertain if you have compatible senses of humour or interests, watch over body language and eye contact for physical attraction and that’s roughly it. The heavier content can be discussed at a later date when you feel more comfortable and there’s more trust invested. If I’ve been in your company for less than 3 hours I certainly don’t want to talk about my parents divorce, long running illness or my most private insecurities. Who wants to bear their soul to a stranger?
The Solution? Try to keep the topic of conversation light while simultaneously trying to avoid stumbling into a suburban white picket fence nightmare. Pay attention for any signs of discomfort as an initial response to a question and accord your inquiries as seems fit.
Personal best? First I was asked about my childhood and which parent I had the stronger relationship with. … Er… My mother, but why do you ask? Well this is interesting actually, I think a smart girl like you will be fascinated. Typically women that form a closer bond with their mothers (as opposed to their fathers) have a healthier attitude to sexual relations, more likely to be adventurous sexually and view sex as a none existent taboo… Would you say that’s accurate?… Sex certainly isn’t taboo but you certainly are rude. Plain straight asking me if I have daddy issues or not, get out.
And of course a few simple things I sometimes take for granted:
Manners, please, thank you, excuse me etc.
Neutral body odour.
Polite to waiter/waitress.
All these are massive red flags for me. The first three particularly so. I accepted a long time ago that I have a highly specialist talent for finding people physically attractive who also happen to have incredibly rude and obnoxious personalities. But that’s ok because I’ve been a picky, largely single girl for years on end until last year when I met him. And he was lovely. Polite, intelligent, interesting, funny and eventually I would realise perfect in every way for me. The moral of this blog is, even if you disagree with me on every point I’ve made you have to be brutal with dating and not settle. Never settle or put up with something kind of crappy just because everything else is mostly kind of bearable and you could see yourself maybe tolerating this jackass. You will end up miserable with only yourself to blame. Hold out for that person who fits you. That makes you happy. Awkward dates are a warning sign, be thankful you saw them early and get out of there. Be that person who didn’t put up with shit. Do it.
All my love and rage, Mandy xx.
*I will admit that that guy’s life was in a world of shit and he had every right to be a bit down. But seriously? Don’t unload on some poor girl who’s just trying to get laid through a socially respectable routine of dating first. Jeez.