For some people, the worst thing about a first date might be picking out an outfit, initiating the conversation, or figuring out how to say goodnight. (Do you go for a hug? A kiss? A handshake?) But for me, the worst part of a first date was always the anticipation — until I discovered a first date hack for introverts that actually worked.
In general, I'm a pretty introverted and anxious person. I hate talking on the phone. Sometimes, I'll go out of my way to avoid interacting with someone on the street. Friends constantly ask me what's wrong because I have what I call "resting nervous face."
As behavioral scientist and relationship coach Clarissa Silva previously explained to Elite Daily, "Introverts tend to relive every single moment and replay all of the moments that they think went wrong." When I'm not reliving all my cringe-worthy moments, I'm dreading moments that have yet to happen — and that's especially true with first dates.
In college, no one used the word "date." Instead of being asked to go out, I was asked to "hang out" or "chill." I was invited to "grab lunch" but never dinner (unless it was in the dining hall). It wasn't romantic, but at least it was low-pressure. As I saw it, I wasn't going on real dates, there was no real reason for me to get nervous about them.
But after graduation, when I was living with my parents in West Hartford for the summer before going to grad school in New York City, I decided to join Tinder. At first, I swiped through profiles, chatted with matches, and — the minute anyone tried to initiate an IRL meet-up — promptly blocked them. The idea of sitting across from a stranger and somehow keeping them engaged was simply too terrifying. Eventually, it occurred to me that, if I wanted to date like an adult, I'd probably have to, you know, go on an actual first date.
I finally came across a former college lacrosse player who seemed nice enough. He graduated from college the same year as me, we shared a mutual friend, and he was also living with his parents for the summer. Somehow, these things made him feel less like a stranger in my mind. When he asked me if I wanted to "grab drinks," I resisted my temptation to block him out of existence and said yes. He didn't say date, but I knew that it would probably be the closest thing to a date I'd ever experienced. We set a date for a week away, and for those seven days leading up to it, I felt sick with regret. Every night, I opened up our conversation with the intention of making an excuse and canceling, but I never did. (Yes, that's right. I chickened out of chickening out.)
Three days before the date, I confessed to my parents that I'd met someone on a dating app and he was taking me out, and — once I explained to them what a dating app was — their reaction didn't help matters. My mom wanted his full name so she could look him up online. My dad volunteered to park nearby the restaurant we were planning on going "just in case." When the night finally arrived and my Tinder date knocked on my parents' front door, my first reaction was to hide.
But here's the thing: The date went fine. I used to have a hard time relaxing and being myself on dates, but I have no trouble keeping the conversation going. With the Tinder guy, I pretended that I was a job interviewer and just kept asking questions until we finally finished our drinks, and I'd thoroughly exhausted both of us. We saw each other half-a-dozen more times before I left for grad school, and he moved to England for a job. By the time I arrived in NYC, I felt more confident in my dating skills, but the nervous anticipation leading up to a first date still persisted.
One Friday afternoon in September, I came home from class to find that my new roommate had a friend visiting, and she invited me to help show the friend around the city. I'd been planning on eating chicken nuggets and watching Netflix in bed, but something compelled me to accept the invite. I'd been chatting off-and-on with a new match from Tinder for the past few days, and — as I walked around the city with my roommate and her friend, wondering why my instinct had been to say no and stay home — I felt bold. I was in his neighborhood. I was planning on visiting my parents that weekend, and I wouldn't get to meet him for another week if I didn't take a chance right then. And so I texted him and said, "This might be random, but I'm in the area — would you be down to grab a drink in an hour?"
It was wildly uncharacteristic. But it worked, and he said "yes." I didn't have time to go home and change or even brush my teeth, so I stopped by a CVS to get some gum and lipstick and ducked into a Starbucks bathroom to fix my hair. There wasn't time to be nervous, because I didn't leave myself time. An hour later, when I met up with the guy, I'd barely had time to even process the fact that I'd initiated a date. We got a drink at The Dead Poet on the Upper West Side, and afterwards, he invited me to his friend's birthday party at a cigar bar, where I felt so calm and confident that I barely recognized myself. At the end of the night, we shared a somewhat weird hug and I went home feeling proud of myself for taking a chance.
Four years later, he became my husband.
So, my first date hack for introverts like me is this: Ditch the anticipation, and dive right into the date. The less time you leave yourself to worry, the less likely you are to put unnecessary pressure on the night. Introverts don't tend to be impulsive individuals, but sometimes, taking that leap saves you from overanalyzing before anything even happens.
"Focus on your date but remember the big picture," dating coach Nina Rubin previously told Elite Daily. "If you're dating to get into a relationship, keep your eyes open and remind yourself that going out with various people is part of the process."
Remember: First dates are only as big of a deal as you allow them to be. And while you may not meet your future spouse on your next first date, you could potentially save yourself a lot of grief if you leave yourself as little time as possible to wonder what could go wrong. Trust me — I tried it!
Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and relationship coach
Nina Rubin, relationship coach