As a bartender, it’s easy to spot the tell-tale signs of a standard first date: stilted body language, awkward pauses in the conversation, and the unmistakable whiff of self-conscious insecurity: the jitters.
But then there are the first dates that just seem to flow easily – like two humans getting to know a new friend instead of future spouses sizing each other up.
Everyone gets the jitters sometimes, but no one wants them. From my behind-the-bar perspective, I’ve learned a lot about how to make first dates less stressful and more enjoyable:
Tip #1. Obvious yet often ignored, the #1 tip is don’t drink too much. It’s natural to want a little liquid courage during a first date, but it’s really easy to cross the line especially if your date drinks more than you do. Decide how many drinks you will have before the date begins.
Tip #2. If you are choosing the place to meet, pick a place that you know. Being in a familiar setting will make you more comfortable.
Tip #3. Don’t arrive too early or too late. Either situation means that one of you is going to be waiting around for a while twiddling your thumbs on the date, which increases anxiety. Show up between five minutes early and five minutes late.
Tip #4. Visit the restroom first for a last-minute mirror check to make sure there is nothing in your teeth, on your face, or down your shirt. Double-checking your appearance will help you chill out.
Tip #5. Jitters often manifest by talking too much or talking too little – and you probably know which type of person you are. If you tend to button up, brainstorm conversation topics beforehand. Talk up a stream? Take deep breaths throughout the date, and don’t assume lulls in conversation are a negative thing.
Tip #6. Put your phone AWAY – in your purse or back pocket. Not on the bar, where you’ll be tempted to check it out of nervous habit. This not only makes you look nervous, it also makes you look uninterested and unengaged – a first date death knell.
Tip #7. Don’t ask the bartender where to find a hooker when your date goes to the restroom *true story.
Tip #8. Have an exit plan. Even when the initial meeting goes well, it’s not a bad strategy to leave him/her wanting more. But as the date winds down, things can get awkward. Do we stay? Go? Have something planned so you can say goodbye gracefully.
Tip #9. Tip the bartender extremely well. Generosity is a characteristic that is appealing to everyone (had to throw that one in there).
Tip #10. If you are looking for a real relationship vs. a booty call, focus on making friends with the person first. If you can’t hang out and laugh together, it will never last. Plus, making friends is much less stressful than finding “The One” – which means that you’ll be more relaxed on your first date.