While you’re casually spritzing those three extra sprays of perfume on your cleavage or ironing out your good slacks, there’s only one thought going through your mind: God, I hope this date doesn’t suck. Compatibility and personality traits will determine if there’s a second date or not, but a few key etiquette tips can ensure that the date is not a downer.
Phones are strongly discouraged: I’m not completely sure if people recognize this fact, but we go on dates to get to know other people. Look them in the eyes, converse, laugh, and maybe develop a bit of a crush. It’s not a free meal where you get to spend some quality alone time with your iPhone. There is nothing more disrespectful than having your phone out on the table, ready to pounce on it whenever someone texts or mentions you in a tweet. It says “I don’t really care how much you love The Departed. Honestly, I’m more interested in what word my cousin is going to play next in Words With Friends. Thanks for the drink, I guess!” Even if you don’t ever get around to that second date, at least you get to have a real live conversation with another person.
Don’t get drunk: Two drinks maximum, and if you want to draw out your time together or haven’t eaten a whole lot that day, pace yourself with a glass of water in between. You want to be funny and charming, not slurring and going to the bathroom every 10 minutes. Try to drink slowly and savor the moment; don’t down cocktails like shots — it makes you look like you’re in a rush to get the heck out of there. On that note, don’t do shots.
Don’t bring up the ex: It’s tempting to compare your new love interest to your old one, but if you must, keep it in your head. It’s a total mood-killer to say something like “My ex loves Dave Matthews Band too!” Or “My ex always ordered a gin and tonic, good choice!” And if anyone does this to you, head for the hills because they’re still hung up on that person. They still have significant feelings of love, lust, or bitterness. Whatever it is, it’s not you in the forefront of their mind, and that’s a problem. You can mention (if you wish) exes after the second date kiss. Nothing kills all those romantic butterflies faster than reminiscing about your previous boo-thang.
The Check: This is probably one of the trickiest elements of casual dating. Your bill arrives, or you get up to the ticket booth, and you look at each other awkwardly, pulling out your wallets and dancing the dance of the shiny credit cards. No one really wants to foot the whole bill; a good rule of thumb to go with is that the inviter pays because it was their idea in the first place. If the meal was particularly expensive or you’re doing several different activities, go halfsies. We’re all trying to recover from economic setbacks, and paying for someone’s steak, beer, movie ticket, candy, and cab home will force you to eat only dry cereal for a week.
Keep the ending on the friendly side: If the date is going awfully, stick it out. No matter how weird or crazy this person seems or how much they talk about their ex, you’re still hurting their feelings by having a friend call you saying, “Come home quick, the apartment’s on fire!” If you don’t want to see them again at the end of the date, give them a firm handshake and be very gracious in your thank-yous. And then don’t answer their texts, which should make it clear, if the clinical handshake wasn’t obvious enough. And if you did have a fun, contact them the next day, saying what a great time you had. The three-day rule is officially dead. If you really like someone, what’s the point of hiding your feelings for that extra 48 hours?