I don't like dating. Mostly because no one seems to understand what dating is supposed to be anymore. These days, there are so many different ways to define a “date.”
Listen, there is nothing wrong with casually hooking up, as long as you’re both honest and direct about your boundaries and intentions.
I know that sometimes, this can be easier said than done. In fact, I was so used to pseudo-dating that when I found myself on an actual date — like meeting up for drinks or coffee — I didn’t know how to act. The truth is, I wasn’t quite sure what a “real date” was supposed to look like. So, I’ve compiled a list of things that are supposed to happen on real dates for you, so you don’t have to stress.
If you're going on a date, but aren’t sure how to behave, there’s no need to panic. It’s totally natural to experience some pre-meeting butterflies. And If you can’t remember what it’s like to truly date someone — and I can't blame you for that — there are a few things that might happen.
1. You feel a little nervous.
If you're not excited about the date, then why in the world are you going on the date in the first place? Pre-date jitters are totally natural and can be a product of the thrill that comes with connecting with someone new. However, you never need to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. So if your nerves begin to take a toll, it’s always 100% OK to cancel or schedule. Do what’s best for you and your mental health.
2. You spend a lot of time getting ready.
In the same vein as number one, if you find yourself spending an extra five minutes curling your hair or changing your outfit 17 times before a first date, don’t freak out. The time you spend getting ready could be a reflection of your nerves and excitement. But remember: The first impression you make on a date isn’t about what you wear, but who you are.
3. You coordinate when to meet.
Before a first date, you and your crush might message a bit about what time and where to meet. Whether you meet them at the restaurant, pick them up on your way there, or ask them to show up at your doorstep, coordinating busy schedules is a typical precursor to a first date.
4. You make small talk.
When you first meet up with your crush, whether that’s at the date spot or beforehand, it might take you a little bit of time to warm up to each other. If the beginning of the conversation takes a while to get into a groove, don’t worry! Chemistry can often build over time, and participating in a bit of small talk is no indication that your date won’t be one for the books.
5. You discuss what you’re going to order.
Whether your first date is at that cool new bar across town, a swanky restaurant, or your favorite coffee shop, looking over the menu and discussing what to order can be a great way to break the ice. You might even decide to go halfsies and share a couple of bites!
6. You ask each other questions.
The best way to get to know someone on a first date is by asking a lot of questions. Where did they grow up? How many siblings do they have? What’s their favorite TV show? Of course, you’ll want to be respectful of their boundaries. If your date says or implies that there’s a topic of conversation that’s off-limits, change the subject and ask about something else. Open and honest discussion is a great way to learn about someone new.
7. You actively listen to each other.
Once you ask each other questions, be sure to take a step back and actively listen to one another. Engage with each story, ask follow-up questions, and allow each point to lead into the next. Don’t just hear what they’re saying — listen closely. Active listening can help a match burn into a flame.
8. You figure out how to pay the bill.
When it comes to picking up the tab, whatever works best for you and your date is the right way to pay. Whether you or your date insist on treating or you split the check right down the middle, as long as you both feel comfortable, there’s no one correct way to pick up the bill. Just don’t dine and dash, folks!
9. You say goodnight and part ways.
Maybe one of you walks the other home, as you continue your conversation. Or perhaps, you say goodbye at the date-spot and call an uber right then and there. Whatever you decide to do, if you enjoyed your time together, make sure to express it directly. Communicate and make your intentions known.
10. Or you spend the night together.
There’s nothing wrong with going home together after a great first date, as long as you’re both on the same page about your intentions and boundaries, and actively discuss consent. As long as all parties feel cared for and supported, feel free to follow your heart and your loins.
11. You discuss the future.
No need to wait three days — if you had a great first date, feel free to bring up seeing each other again. On the other hand, if you didn’t feel a spark, you can thank your date for a lovely evening, but communicate about how you feel, to avoid leading them on. Whatever the case, open up a conversation, and be prepared to walk away if either of you doesn’t feel the same connection.
Remember: A great first date is entirely dependent on the individuals who plan it. Whether you make small talk for hours or walk each other home, a date is supposed to look like whatever feels right to you.
Additional reporting by Iman Hariri-Kia.