First dates don’t have to be disasters

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Love, Interrupted

Photo Credit: Raquel Breternitz | Daily Texan Staff

In the world of Nicholas Sparks novels, first dates are life-changing events in which two absurdly attractive people almost instantly form a lifelong romance. In the real world, a first date isn’t as glamorous. From sweaty palms and anxious stuttering, first dates don’t always result in feelings of fireworks and butterflies.

The purpose of a first date is not to figure out whether the person in front of you is going to be your soulmate, but instead to find out if the two of you get along and have anything in common.

We often apply so much pressure on the first date because we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that it is our one shot at love. The pressure can make you second guess even the most minute details; you’re too busy counting the number of seconds you’ve been making direct eye contact to pay attention to what your date is actually saying. The more you fear that you’ll be a nervous wreck on your date, the more likely it is that you’ll be a nervous wreck.

Sam Greenspan, author of the advice book “11 Points Guide to Hooking Up,” believes that the primary focus of a first date should be to get to know your date.

“I think once you get to know someone on a first date, everything else falls into place,” Greenspan said. “You’ll see hints of chemistry, compatibility and future potential.”

Judy McGuire a dating columnist and author of “How Not to Date,” a collection of reader stories about bad first dates accompanied by advice, agreed that the purpose of a first date isn’t to decide if you’re going to love someone, but to simply see if there’s something you like about them.

“You hear them laugh for the first time ­— hopefully there’s laughing ­— find out what their butt looks like and discover if they’re really embarrassing to be around,” McGuire said.

From accidentally saying something offensive to having his car stolen while on a date, Greenspan has experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of the dating world. He used to get discouraged about his nervous mistakes on dates, but once he started to openly admit to being a little on edge, he instantly felt more relaxed.

“Saying ‘I’m a little nervous’ is a better way to save a date than saying ‘I like spilling on myself because it makes me feel like I’m baptizing our new relationship,’” Greenspan said.

McGuire believes that the best first dates are the ones that get you talking and recommends saving the movie dates for the second or third date.

“Dinner is okay, coffee is awful. Who needs to make themselves more jittery?” McGuire said. “When the other person finds out your interests and plans around them, that’s really great.”

Active dates, like mini golf and renting a canoe on Town Lake, are perfect for preventing the infamous awkward lulls in conversation during a first date. If you’re not ready to stray away from your comfort zone and insist on sticking with a tried and true movie date, at least opt for a more interactive experience like a drive-in movie or quote-a-long at the Alamo Drafthouse.

But even if you nervously ramble on about how close you are with your mother or accidentally call your waitress “sir,” you shouldn’t immediately assume that your date will never talk to you again. Both Greenspan and McGuire believe that it is possible to bounce back after a first date as long as you keep an open and hopeful mind and communicate with your crush honestly.

Despite having a terrible first date, McGuire and her boyfriend have been together for eight years, providing the perfect example that there is hope for a relationship after a bumpy start.

“He arranged to meet me at a place where all his friends were already hanging out. So not only did I meet him, I was scrutinized by all his buddies,” McGuire said. “Bad move, but here we are.”

Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: Dating consultants offer advice and perspective to give ease to first dates