For many of us, the first date is a terrifying ordeal -- a mind-wrenching minefield of awkwardness, littered with stilted conversation and utter embarrassment.
But fear not, because we've gone and put together a fool-proof guide that's guaranteed to transform you into a first-date expert.
Here are the things you absolutely shouldn't say on a first date:
Ali Campbell is author of dating manual More Than Just Sex. He says, "It's smart to leave her intrigued and wanting more. I'm a big fan of the false time constraint - tell her at the start you've got to be home by 11pm to let your flatmate in, or you've got an 8am meeting." This takes the pressure off, since you both know when the night will end.
Even Barack Obama looks like a sullen teenager when he's staring at his phone. "Keep your phone in your pocket - while you're waiting and for the duration of the date, says relationship psychologist Arthur Cassidy. "It reassures her that she's the focus of your attention."
Stylist Liz Taw makes middle-aged women sweat with her grooming of Gary Barlow, and has mastered the art of making men look suave and smart, yet never stuffy. "If you're wearing a suit, avoid looking too 'done' by going for stubble and/or roughed-up hair," she says. "Conversely, if you're dressed casually, smarten it up with neat hair and a shave." This neck-up/neck-down balance shows you've made an effort, without coming across like a preppy school boy.
Tonight, you have to impress not just a girl, but the whole world. Charm the waiter. Smile at the people at the next table. “Don’t write anyone off; be polite to every person you encounter,” says networking expert Andy Lopata (lopata.co.uk). “People will judge your character by how you treat people seemingly ‘less important’ than you.”
On a first date you need to give a BAFTA-worthy performance of a sober version of yourself, on the tacit understanding that six months down the line you’ll be hammered at least three nights a week. “Getting more pissed than the woman is undignified and unmanly,” says dating guru Humfrey Hunter. “Steer clear of spirits for the first couple of hours.”
Every girl has been on a date where the bloke has listed his achievements in a bid to impress her, while she silently wishes he’d frozen to death on the Duke of Edinburgh trip he keeps banging on about. “Your aim on a first date isn’t to prove how great you are, it’s to make her feel comfortable and appreciated,” says Lopata. “Never talk more than you listen.”
Ambiguity is for wimps. “Either say ‘I’ve had a wonderful evening and I’d really like to see you again,’ or ‘I’ve had a wonderful evening but I really don’t think the chemistry is here – I’m sure you agree,’” says relationship expert Susan Quilliam. Wave her off with a cheery “Bye! I’ll text you!” and you’re potentially setting yourself up for a drunken, sobbing call from her next weekend.
Women respond to men who take a bit of effort to impress. “Smile at her, but not too quickly,” advises Leil Lowndes, psychologist and author of How To Talk To Anyone. “You’ll look more sincere if you pause for a moment when she makes a joke, then let a slow smile spread across your face. This signals discerning approval.” Basically, you’re aiming for Mad Men lothario Don Draper’s wry smile.
Avoid a wacky first date like an open-top bus tour, or a long country stroll. Remember the three S’s: Simple, Short and Structured. “There’s nothing more painful than running out of stuff to say, or realising you hate this woman and are stuck on a barge with her,” says Quilliam. “A meal and a movie night might be a cliché, but that’s because it works.”
“It’s your job to wait, so turn up at least five minutes early,” says Hunter. “The key to styling it out is to look like you don’t mind having to wait,” says Hunter. “A book or newspaper is perfect to make it look like you’re happy having some time on your own.”
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