I know this is the last thing any dating writer should say, but I am terrible at abiding by standard first date rules. I've got a terrible habit of rolling up far past what would be considered "fashionably late," have never been great at keeping my mouth shut when it comes to politics, and I've also got an unfortunate knack for working religion and old flames into the conversation.
That said, I rarely commit all of these faux pas in the same date. At least, I hadn't until recently. A few weeks back, I decided to conduct a little social experiment and see how a fellow I'd met on a dating app might react if I broke every single first date "rule." No topic was too taboo, nor anecdote too bizarre.
Did I drink too much? Discuss my ex-boyfriends? Tell the story of that one time in high school I thought I was the next Virgin Mary? Talk Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and Theresa May? Why yes. Yes, I did. On purpose. And it went surprisingly well! Probably because my date had no idea what he was doing, either, and was undoubtedly relieved to see that I'd thrown the bylaws out the window.
Here's how it all went down.
1. I was super late (and felt super free)!
Naturally, I started by stumbling into the pub where we'd planned to meet 30 minutes late and feeling like the world was my oyster. (Don't worry, y'all, I'd texted him in advance and he was cool with it. I was being rebellious, not a monster.)
In nearly every other situation, I'm the kind of socially anxious person that breaks out in a stress rash and says things like, "So weird, I must have gotten sunburned earlier... you know... thanks to all of this London sun..." But abandoning the rules and walking into a date knowing I was about to be weird AF was shockingly freeing, and not at all nerve-racking.
2. I brought up sexual assault, of course.
I am a very firm believer that the topic of sexual assault needs to be discussed more regularly — it's important, impactful, and should never feel taboo. But picking up the newspaper on our bar table and immediately saying, "What do you think of all of these allegations against Harvey Weinstein?" is a pretty aggressive way to start a conversation with a stranger.
My date definitely flinched a little, but he had three sisters and a Masters in Human Rights, so he was quickly able to declare that he hoped all of the men involved in these allegations would swiftly lose their jobs. Then he dove right into talking about how politicians should be doing more to tackle this issue.
3. We talked about exes.
I'm fuzzy on how the conversation shifted from sexual assault to his past relationships, but while the night was still young, he started talking about how he once lived with his ex-girlfriend's family in Bavaria? And explaining that he felt like his last date went south when he got every question right on a Harry Potter quiz and freaked the girl out?
I wasn't entirely sure what to do with this other than show him the Harry Potter tattoo on my wrist and assure him that I could probably get 100 percent on that quiz, too. Oh, and then I talked about how my ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend had claimed to be carrying his child while we were still dating (true story!).
He seemed soothed.
4. I asked about his religious beliefs.
Now felt like the right time to ask my date how he felt about Jesus (I mean, the ex-girlfriend pregnancy scare made for a perfect segue into that high school Virgin Mary story I'd mentioned earlier).
I genuinely can't remember his answer, but I do know that he looked a little concerned — possibly about my social skills, possibly about my understanding of the human anatomy — and suddenly had "to use the restroom."
But when he returned, he cozied up next to me in our booth (he'd been sitting across from me up until that point). So, like... something was working.
5. I started to give up.
At this point, I was a little toasty and fresh out of rules to break, so I decided to mix things up a bit. Instead of breaking the standard first date rules, I broke a few of my own.
Ordinarily, if I'm having a good time and feel like I've got a connection with someone, I'll always, always, always kiss them on the first date (how can you really tell if you guys truly have chemistry otherwise?). But at the end of the night, when homeboy tried to grab my hand and lean in, I turned away pretty abruptly. For experiment's sake. Just to see what would happen.
"I can't tell if you're messing with me or not," he'd said.
6. I asked him out on a second date.
After this semi-confusing end to our evening, we'd texted here and there, but I was admittedly a little nervous that I'd taken everything a bit too far. This kid seemed pretty cute and smart, and I'd treated our entire date like a social experiment instead of, you know, an actual date. So a week later, I decided to break another major dating rule and texted him to see about going out again. I straight up said, "Know this is breaking standard dating protocol, but I don't think either of us were great at that to start." He was in.
While date one was a fun break from tradition, though, date two didn't measure up. My rule-breaking behavior had clearly encouraged him to break a few rules of own, but there are still lines in the sand, and he managed to cross them. He continued to bring up past flames (I get it, you've gone out with other people; same), called me an idiot at a few different points, commented on how many French fries I was eating (I know), and blatantly turned away when a few drunk strangers aggressively started hitting on me.
Needless to say, there was no date three.
So, what was my major takeaway from all of this? Some dating rules exist for a reason; others are just an excuse for sticking to polite, boring conversation. Talk about anything and everything you'd like! Text him first! Be a rebel! Just... be a respectful one.
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