I am a woman rife with "scaries." I get the "Sunday scaries" every weekend when I remember Monday is mandatory. I get the "missed-call scaries" when I receive a call from an unknown number because what if they were calling to deliver the worst news ever?! I get the "Are-they-judging-me scaries?" every time I interact with a human person. So naturally, I'm super calm and collected when I go on a first date!!! To get over the "dating scaries" once and for all, I brought my best friend on a first date with me.
Let me clarify: I did not ambush my date by having my best friend at our table while my date and I asked each other how long we've lived in New York back-and-forth forever. (Come on, you know how those awkward first dates drag on forever.) Instead, I promised my bestie and business partner free drinks if she would come spy on me across the bar in the name of journalism. I also hoped that maybe, if a friend observed me on a date and confirmed that I did an OK job on them, I'd finally lose some "date scaries" after all.
Here's the thing: Knowing your friend is watching the split-second you have to commit to either a hug or a handshake is actually more nerve-wracking than the knowledge your bartender is peeping your date, because you're actually going to get feedback on your first impression. It's a regular peer review! Do I come across like an uptight jerk? A shrinking violet? An overzealous consumer of adult beverages?
I was additionally worried that my date might recognize my friend across the bar and assume I was a serial killer, con artist, or some combination of the two. This is because my friend, Liza Renzulli, and I co-own a video production company and co-host a podcast about dating — there are a lot of places on the internet our faces can be found together.
I also low-key promote our company on my dating app profiles because money never sleeps! So when my date told me he had checked out our site, I almost told Liza she had to wear a wig and sunglasses.
We orchestrated an arrival plan — Liza first, then me — so that we could make sure we weren't sitting directly next to each other. A block away from the bar, I received a text from her that read, "I have the last seat at bar." My date texted me that he was at the first table to the right, so we were good. She wasn't directly facing the tables, but this meant that we wouldn't accidentally be sitting directly next to her. Phew!
I walked in and immediately found my date, but didn't see Liza. I sat down at a table, wondering if she actually did end up wearing a wig, but decided it was best to actually engage with my very sweet date rather than stare intently at bar patrons' hairdos. I finally spotted Liza (sans wig) and then focused back on my date.
Now, for the fun part: Because Liza is such an excellent friend, she took notes on my date. She was kind enough to let me publish them. And now, here's a first date I went on, as observed by a friend spying from across the room.
Liza: "The seats look uncomfortable. She is leaning forward a lot and crossing her arms. Guy looks more interested than she does. The service is surprisingly terrible. How many times can I turn around before the guy notices and is like, 'Who is that bar creep? Is she tryna find a threesome?'"
While Liza was focused on not projecting "wanna eff?" vibes, I was focused on not looking at her out of fear I would start giggling. But she was right — the couch-bench my date and I were sitting on was extremely uncomfortable. It was cushy and low — the kind of seats you want to woman-spread on. But since it was a first date, I minded my manners and ended up pulling a Quasimodo. I must admit that I had no idea my arms were crossed, which is definitely not the ideal first date body language. Oops!
Me and Liza.
Liza: "It’s weird to hear her voice. This is like a colonial bar and they’re playing Bob Marley. OK, did a big turn, and the guy is cute! I feel like such a creep. Should I get a $10 pretzel? Is it creepy at this point to put on my glasses so I can see them better?"
AH! I didn't realize Liza could hear me! I don't know why that feels weird since we talk to each other pretty much every day, but it does. The bar's theme was definitely "OG American Presidents" (it's the George Washington Bar at the Freehand Hotel in Manhattan) and Bob Marley was playing, but I definitely don't remember any of that because I was so focused on being on my best behavior. Important note: Liza, I really hope you got that $10 pretzel. If not, I'll take you back for one.
Liza: "She looks pretty. I should go on more dates by myself. This is nice. Her date is really cute, and she seems to be getting into it more — she’s laughing and smiling a lot. I wonder what cocktail she got. It’s annoying that she’s here, and I can’t complain about my cocktail. She’s talking with her hand and also looks very engaged. I can tell she’s probably explaining what she does for a living."
Because Liza and I both do the same thing for a living, she understands how vital expressive hands are for explaining non-traditional career timelines. ("If I wave my hand strongly, he will get that the Airbnb gig was a big deal!") I was also definitely smiling because my date was really easy to talk to.
As for my cocktail, it had egg whites and a sprinkle of lavender on it, and I felt like my date probably thought I was pretentious AF. It was, however, a very delicious drink. And thank you, Liza. It's really nice when friends call friends pretty. I felt like I had lavender in my teeth, so this is comforting.
Liza: "A big-headed guy just sat down in front of her, and now, I can’t see her face unless I lean back... and then, I feel even creepier. OMG, the people to the left of me at the bar must think I’m stalking them when really I’m stalking someone else."
Liza, I give you so much credit for participating in this experiment. I don't think my date had the slightest idea that you were stalking us, and I was definitely, totally focused on myself and looking inconspicuous. This is a really good reminder that on first dates, in meetings, or at any other social occasions, we are all more concerned with ourselves and how weird we look than anyone else is. Neuroses abound!
Liza: "You can tell she’s such a good date. She is, like, super charming, even from a distance, very animated, and very engaging. He’s into it. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of this guy. From a distance, it seems like she likes him. She’s doing most of the talking, so he may be quiet or a good question-asker. The bartender's name was Tristan, and I’m writing it down because I will forget."
I am blushing! Thank you, Liza! I was definitely doing a lot of the talking because, when I get nervous, I just start making shapes and sounds with my mouth and can't stop. I am working on this!
I thought my date was super sweet. He asked me to go to another bar for a second drink, which we did, sans Liza. It was all very nice. I did feel pretty guilty about the fact that I knew a friend was watching the date, and that I was going to be writing an article about it. But overall, having Liza confirm that I am not a total dud on a date was an extreme confidence boost.
Knowing Liza was at the bar was very comforting, and a little bit sad, because I just wanted to talk to her and have a drink with her! While this feels like a total trope from a '90s rom-com, I'm tempted to say that having a friend nearby to get you out of a date gone wrong doesn't seem like such a terrible idea. Especially if you really dread dating, or have a hard time ending dates.
I definitely wouldn't recommend your friend sit at the bar and watch your date à la this article, because it's not the most transparent first date vibe to put out there. However, if you organize a first date at your BFF's local bar, knowing that you can always text them to come "run in to you" might bring you some peace of mind.
Luckily, my date was a gem, and I felt no need to phone a friend (who happened to be 15 feet away from me). But thank you to Liza, and to my date! That was weird, but fun. Liza's very generous observations made me feel less awkward about first dates. It's very good to know that the impression I give off on the outside on a first date is relatively composed (if hunched), even if my scaries are creeping up on me on the inside.