While there’s no playbook for how to make the perfect Christmas card, there is one thing that’s traditionally true: you don't usually take Christmas card photos with your date. Especially not with someone you just met through a dating app. So when I walked into my Tinder match Haley’s apartment last Saturday night with a bag of festive décor, I knew things were going to get interesting.
When Haley super-liked me on Tinder, I truly thought it was an accident. A Victoria’s Secret Angel look-alike who loves fashion design, Haley was intriguing to me from the moment I (virtually) laid eyes on her — I mean, swiped right. We exchanged a few messages about how funny it was that I had the same name as her dog and how hard it was to meet girls. Then, after a few days of texting, we decided to meet in person to get to know each other better.
We planned to meet for Monday margaritas at a Mexican restaurant in the West Village. I’ll admit, I was really nervous at first, but then our conversations came so easily (or maybe it was the tequila…). Hours flew by, and I learned so much about Haley. She's a fashion design student, a low-key sci-fi writer, a coffee enthusiast, an animal activist, and she even speaks Japanese. She only designs zero-waste clothes made from vegan products, sometimes uses flower petals as a paint brush, and is addicted to YouTube. Not surprisingly, I was hooked.
We continued to hang out after that date, and as the first snowfall hit New York, it started to feel like the holidays. Like clockwork, awkward family Christmas cards poured into my mailbox. Since I’m Jewish, I never got the chance to make one of my own. I thought that Haley was the perfect person to star in my Christmas card debut.
So how exactly do you ask someone you casually met through a dating app to have a Christmas-themed photoshoot with you? The same way most Millennials start awkward conversations: through text. Although I knew Haley had a great sense of humor, I was surprised that she enthusiastically agreed right away.
That night, Haley opened the door dressed in a black dress and bright red lipstick. You could tell she thought this through. I, on the other hand, didn’t notice that my burgundy romper would clash with a red Santa hat. I joked about not being the stylish one, then anxiously handed Haley the bag of decorations, telling her that she could direct the shoot. Without hesitation, Haley turned on a Christmas music station, created a backdrop with the holly-printed wrapping paper, and stacked shoe boxes on top on a chair so that the camera would capture the right angle. I posed for a few test shots, struggling to make my droopy Santa hat look presentable.
"OK, so like, how about we hold the gift bags over our shoulders and look sassy?" she suggested. "And then, we can hold the sparkly sign with really over exaggerated smiles. After that, we can end with fake candids in Santa hats?" She sounded really into it; I've heard her talk about her designs featured at New York Fashion Week, and yet this was the most excited I'd ever seen her.
We took a few pictures with our props, and then put on matching lipstick for what we called "aesthetically-pleasing purposes." We could hardly hear the sound of the self-timed camera going off over how much we were laughing. Instead of stressing out about how ridiculous this whole thing was, we vowed to wait until the end to look at any of the pictures. At one point, mid-shot, we both said, "Wait, is this Miley?" at the same time, referring to the rendition of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" coming from the speakers. It was so refreshing to be around someone who was willing to let loose and not take things so seriously.
After the photoshoot, we realized that we were late to meet her friends; we had gotten completely carried away. With fingertips covered in glitter from holding the two-dollar "Joy Peace" sign, we went through the pictures. We both thought it was hilarious how droopy and disproportionate our Santa hats looked, but agreed that there were definitely some card-worthy gems. When a dubstep remix of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" came on, we danced around the apartment before ditching the hats and heading out for the night.
I can be really shy the first few times I hang out with someone I’m casually dating. But while striking Santa-approved poses in front of the camera with Haley, I wasn’t overthinking anything; I was just having a good time. The carefree mood from our holiday pregame set the tone for the rest of the night. When the DJ at the club started playing "All I Want For Christmas Is You" at 3 a.m., we pushed everyone away from the center of the dance floor and delivered a full-out lip-sync battle, which gained the attention of several surrounding tables.
In holiday seasons to come, I think I’ll leave the cards for my family and close friends. But I’m glad I risked potential awkwardness (and straight-up rejection) and asked my Tinder date to make a Christmas card with me this year. It definitely made us feel more comfortable with each other and made for a good laugh. So while you may not want to bring matching Santa hats on one of your first few dates, don’t be afraid to propose a fun idea that will take you — and your date — out of your comfort zone.
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