Among the heated debates over if the three-day rule is still a thing and the drama around whether it's OK to kiss on the first date, there's a quieter — yet just as contested — dating dilemma to consider. I'm talking about the question of drinks versus dinner (or literally any other date activity). Is a drinks date a good idea? Some might argue that "grabbing drinks" with someone is overdone, or even a lazy choice. I think it's actually the quintessential first date activity. In order to defend my position, I'd like to take you on a walk down memory lane.
It's a Friday night in late April, and I'm bored. With no plans for the evening, I'm sprawled out on my bed, alternately scrolling through the endlessly uninteresting choices on Netflix and swiping past the equally numerous and mostly unappealing options on dating apps. When the photos of shirtless guys holding fish and the pictures of dudes in patterned shirts grasping red cups start to blur together, I decide to implement a new strategy. Rather than trying to get more matches, why not reach out to those who I'd already connected with, but hadn't messaged? This smaller pool means a higher chance of success, especially since all I really want is to talk to someone entertaining.
What I'm not expecting is to exchange a few initial messages with a guy, have him ask me to get a drink, and wind up walking into a nearby pub with him an hour and a half later. That's exactly what happens, though. There is barely enough time to experience first date jitters. I don't have the luxury of obsessing over my appearance. I throw on something, anything that isn't pajamas, run a mascara wand through my lashes a few times, and go to meet him.
I order a gin and tonic and clink my glass against his, careful not to send his whiskey ginger spilling over the edge. While I'd usually be politely sipping my G&T and nodding as my date struggles to remember what personal details we discussed over the app, this time, I am almost too engaged in the conversation to touch my drink.
Although I barely know anything about my date, I'm oddly comfortable being myself in front of him. Maybe it's his eyes that help me feel at home in his presence, a sparkling kaleidoscope of blues and greens flecked with gold. Or perhaps I am experiencing genuine chemistry for the first time in ages. Whatever the reason, my sarcastic, sassy personality — which I'd usually conceal in favor of a coy and flirty first date façade — is on full, unabashed display.
I look down at my glass, expecting it to be almost empty. I feel so giddy, and I had chalked it up to being tipsy. I'm surprised, though not in a bad way, when I realize that the adrenaline in my veins is stemming from the conversation, rather than the buzz of alcohol.
The beauty of going out for drinks is that neither one of you has much to distract you from the other person. You sit across a small table from an almost stranger and you're forced to try and find common ground. If you have nothing to talk about, you'll figure it out very quickly.
Going mini-golfing or taking a cooking class sound like cute and active first dates, but when you're just getting to know someone, these activities give you an easy out, an excuse not to get too personal. You can have what looks and feels like a fun time on the surface, but then you go home having learned almost nothing about the person you were with.
We have two drinks at the first bar, then head to a second location. It's late, and the Irish pub is busy but not packed. We sit at a dimly-lit table in the back, our faces cast in shadow by the fluorescent lights of several televisions. They're playing a mix of infomercials and sports recaps, and one TV is showing some kind of horse racing. Although neither of us really know the rules, we place bets on which jockey will take the lead.
Yes, you might say that my two and a half drinks helped loosen me up. And it's true that we could have met in a different bar, maybe one that was much louder, making it hard to hear. But when it comes down to it, we're just two people meeting for the first time over drinks. The low-pressure situation and the relaxed atmosphere provided the opportunity for us to take the date in whatever direction we chose.
Drinks are a simple choice for a first date, but simplicity doesn't always equal monotony. If you're like me, you'll probably "grab drinks" with someone new every week. You may start to lose hope of meeting anyone who makes you want to stay for a second beverage. You'll daydream of more romantic dates, and begin to question whether it's your choice of activity that is keeping you single.
Then, you'll wander into a pub with yet another date, maybe your 10th or 12th in the past few months. You'll tell yourself to have zero expectations, but you'll still feel that hopeful tremble in your fingers when you reach for your straw. You'll be at ease almost immediately, and your cheeks will grow warm and glowy in their presence.
And then you will be surprised to discover that the reason your head is spinning isn't because you've had too many drinks. That slightly dizzying, blissful feeling won't leave you with a hangover the next morning. You're drunk on good, old-fashioned human connection, and you can't get enough.
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