I confess: I haven't been on a date in more than two years. Four years prior to that was the last time I'd been on a first date, so I'll acknowledge that my romancing skills are more than half a decade out of touch.
I can say, however, that they are not half a century out of date.
There are some individuals who get into the all-out declarations of romance before the face-to-face meeting has even taken place.
Some women are charmed by guys who show up on the doorstep with flowers, walk them to the car and open the door, so they don't chip a nail. All of this happens before they even exchange a hug.
Others find this flat-out creepy. If you've never before met the prospective love of your life, it's best to err on the side of caution.
Guys, unless you've established, through a series of messages, phone calls or texts, that the woman you fancy wants to be swept off her feet in a manner befitting a Disney princess, play it cool.
From a woman's perspective, it's safer to keep things casual, low-pressure and split straight down the middle at first.
Here are aspects of "real" dating you should save for later... so you can ensure there is a later:
1. Going on a full dinner date
A dinner date as the first interaction is a great idea in theory because, depending on the restaurant, you probably have at least an hour to get to know each other better.
An hour is an incredible amount of time to get to know your date's life story and draw some conclusions as to how you match up on big life issues.
But, there are plenty of dates when you just know it's not a match within the first 10 minutes. Maybe the chemistry's not there. Maybe one of you is still so hung up on an ex that he or she pops up in conversation every thirty seconds.
Maybe your date spies a baby across the room and can't stop gushing about how adorable it is.
Going to dinner when you're only taking the initial foray into learning about each other can be a huge waste of time (and money).
If you meet for coffee, you can order the smallest size and make some pathetic excuse about a forgotten appointment to save both of you some agony if the verdict is crystal clear after five minutes.
2. Picking her up before the date
Assuming you had a scenario like the busted coffee date, you'll both want to make quick escapes. Neither of you will be happy if you have to sit next to each other in the car, making sporadic and uncomfortable comments about whatever's playing on the radio.
If differing opinions on Rush Limbaugh or Katy Perry have already led you to an impasse, you're stuck because you're still committed to the rest of the date. You can't exactly kick her out of your car if you've already presented yourself as being the chivalrous sort, after all.
3. Bringing flowers
She could be allergic. Or, she could panic because she doesn't have anything physical to give you in return. Or, she has an ex who was a raging jackass and only bought flowers after a particularly nasty bout of jackassery.
Don't spend the money unless she's expressed a love for all things floral, which is almost certainly not going to be the case if you haven't had a date yet.
4. Insisting on buying the meal
If you ignored the advice about choosing coffee over a five-course meal on the first date, or even if you didn't, don't pull out your debit card until you get a cue from her.
But, there's enough of a stigma against cheapskate men that you should be prepared to hand over your card with a smile if she makes no move toward the check.
If she insists on paying for all or her part of the meal, however, let her. Women have been on enough dates with guys who expected sex as repayment for dinner, and even if a woman is into you, she may not be THAT into you just yet.
Not pushing the issue when your date wants to cover her meal lets us know that you respect our decisions, which can only help you in the long run.
5. Taking her home
Yes, it's still risky to walk the streets late at night by yourself, particularly if you're a woman. But, many women will have planned for the eventuality that they will have to go home solo.
They've either insisted on bringing their car, taking a bus route or have a friend ready to pick them up. If the date goes well, they may be open to your invite to come home.
This, however, is another situation in which you want to follow your date's lead and not insist if there's no invitation. Even if the date went well, she may want the rest of the night to process her thoughts about you, or (again), she may not want to get physical with you just yet.
If she didn't drive herself, feel free to offer, but be gracious if she turns you down.
6. Opening doors and pulling out chairs
Like the flowers, this is one trick you should save for the second date unless she made it clear in her prior communications that she's into being treated like a lady.
It may seem harmless if you're constantly opening doors, pulling out chairs and dropping napkins into her lap, but the "lady" in question may prefer to do these things for herself.
However, as with all other aspects of human interaction, no set of quirks or irritations is universal. You may follow all of this advice and think you hit it off, only to discover that she felt you weren't "gentlemanly" enough.
If you aren't sure whether she wants the courtly treatment, and you can't get enough clues from mutual friends or her dating profile, there's no harm in asking. Otherwise, sit back, relax and enjoy dating on equal footing.