I know a happily married couple who had a disastrous first date.
The wife suggested miniature golf because that’s what she and her ex liked to do. The husband had never played any sort of golf but went along because he wanted to seem open and agreeable. He hated it—the long lines, the loud families and that stupid windmill that kept swatting his ball away. The two grimly endured the course and then went to dinner at a nearby brewpub. But by that time, they were both exhausted and irritated – and no locally brewed IPA couldn’t fix that.
“I’ll call you,” he said afterward.
“Sure, whatever,” she said.
He never called. But fortunately, the two bumped into each other about six months later, while volunteering for a local political campaign. Working together on a cause they believed in dissolved the tension of their bad first date, and they were able to laugh about it and try again.
First dates usually aren’t as do-or-die as this, but they can have an impact on how a relationship does—or doesn’t—begin.
As you figure out where you’ll meet for the first time, consider this your brief rundown:
Your Neighborhood Coffee Shop
Pros: You know the best place to sit that is quiet and not drafty. The staff will give you good service because you’re a regular and tip well (Ahem: always tip well).
Cons: Bumping into your neighbors while on a first date can be awkward. If your date has a negative opinion of your beloved hangout, it could color your thoughts of his or her entire character.
A Hike in the Woods
Pro: Rather than feel pressure to constantly deliver zippy one-liners, the two of you can relax into comfortable wordlessness as you enjoy the sound of crunching leaves and chattering birds. Plus, you’ll get to skip your next trip to the gym.
Cons: People can have very different definitions of what constitutes a ‘hike.’ For some, it requires fat hiking boots. For others, a pair of flip-flops will suffice. And even for those with equally reasonable footwear, endurance levels can vary wildly. You won’t make a good impression if you leave your date panting in the dust.
A Blockbuster Movie
Pros: If you were already planning on seeing the new Star Wars, then you might as well bring a nice date. And you’ll have an easy topic of conversation when you get a drink or a bite afterward.
Cons: The movie will probably set the tone for the rest of the evening—so if it’s bad you might find yourselves too drained to enjoy that glass of Malbec. Or if one of you is mesmerized by Luke Skywalker’s journey while the other falls asleep, undue tension could arise. So before you let Darth Vader dictate the tone of your next date, get a sense of what your companion might enjoy. And read a review or two.
Sara Eckel is the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.