What A First Date Is Really Like, According To A Dating Columnist

My most recent first date was with a guy I met in a group setting. He was a friend of a friend's boyfriend's roommate, or something like that. We hit it off, he asked for my number, and he later texted me asking about my weekend plans. This might sound perfectly normal to you, but before him, I can't remember the last time I met a potential romantic interest organically and not on a dating app. For me, first dates usually also involve meeting said date for the first time. The truth of what a first date is really like — from the lengthy process of getting ready, to figuring out who should pay the bill at the end of the night — isn't always glamorous. Take it from a dating writer: You never really get over the stress that comes with a first date... even when studying and analyzing everything there is to know about dating is basically your job.

So whether you just had your first-ever real date or you consider yourself a serial first dater, you'll definitely relate to these 14 brutally honest phases of going on a first date. As for my solution? Have a glass of wine, enlist the help of your best friend, and embrace the inevitable awkwardness. Remember, eventually, one of these experiences will be your last first date. Dating might not always feel like a fairy tale, but you can still go into every situation believing that your happy ending awaits.

1You Sit On Your Bed In A Towel For Way Too Long

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You showered and feel shiny and new, but suddenly, you lose all of your energy. Washing your hair is hard work, so you plop down on your bed to relax and dry off. You then proceed to stare at the wall and contemplate the meaning of life for a good 15 minutes.

2You Try On Multiple Outfits Before Going With The First One You Picked Out

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You've had the perfect outfit in mind for days, but when you finally put it on, it somehow doesn't look as good as you'd imagined. So you try another option, and then another, and soon your room looks like a tornado blew through it. Eventually you decide to stick with your original choice, telling yourself you'll put all those clothes away later.

3You Decide Now Is A Good Time To Try Out That Lipstick You've Never Worn Before

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Once you're dressed, it's time for hair and makeup. You stick to your usual routine of foundation, mascara, and blush, but something is missing. Instead of reaching for your favorite pale pink lipstick, some part of you is convinced you should try that dark purple shade you bought on a whim and never used.

4You Check The Time And Realize You're Going To Be Late, So You Magically Pull Your Look Together

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You realize you really need to leave your apartment if you want to get to the restaurant anywhere close to the agreed upon time. You throw on some jewelry and perfume, and call an Uber.

5You Do One Last Full-Length Mirror Check While Waiting For Your Uber

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Maybe it's just me, but this Princess Diaries quote often goes through my mind when I give myself the once over before leaving my apartment. Like Mia Thermopolis, you always try to keep it real. Your approaching ride may be a Toyota Camry and not a stretch limo driven by a balding man full of wisdom like Joe, but the point still stands.

6On The Way There, The Nerves Really Start To Kick In

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You frantically try to remember whether or not you put on deodorant as you start to sweat through your silky top. First date anxiety is no joke — especially in the summer heat. It's totally acceptable to roll down the window or ask the driver to crank up the A.C. You don't want those curls to suffer.

7You Arrive, Spot Your Date Across The Room, And Wave Awkwardly

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The awkward "Hey, it's me" wave is so painfully real — but it's better than the alternative (missing each other entirely). If you somehow manage to arrive before your date, you have to switch off between frantically looking at the door and pretending to be so fascinated by the location's decor that you're unaware of the people entering.

8You Silently Compare Your Date To Their Photos, Completely Aware That They're Doing The Same

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Once you've said hello, you not-so-subtly check out your date's IRL physical appearance. Hopefully you're pleased or even pleasantly surprised, but it's OK if you don't feel an instant spark. There's still time for them to wow you with their charm and intellect.

9It Comes Time For Small Talk While Contemplating The Menu

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Once you're seated, those initial few minutes are usually pretty awkward. You haven't yet established a rapport, plus you're both still getting yourselves settled. On top of that, you're probably trying to order food or drinks. If you're struggling with what to talk about at the beginning of the date, though, there are plenty of unique questions you can ask your date to get to know them better.

10Your Date Goes To The Bathroom, Which Gives You A Chance To Send An Updated To The Group Chat

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This is a key moment in the evening. You have to tell your girls you're alive and well, but you also know they're all waiting for the verdict. You only have a few minutes, so you opt for a simple text like, "Not so bad so far," or, "Can you call me with a fake emergency in five minutes? Thaaanks."

11You Offer To Split The Bill, But It's Mostly A Test

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When the check comes, you'll probably offer to pay for yourself. If you're anything like me, though, this is really a test to see if they agree, or if they insist on paying for you. I believe in being treated, at least on the first date. After that, we can split the bill or take turns paying.

12You Ask Yourself Whether You Should Go In For The Hug (Or Kiss)

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When it comes time to say goodbye, there's usually a brief moment of hesitation between you. Do you hug, kiss them on the cheek, or — yikes — go in for the handshake? I suggest doing whatever feels natural. There's no pressure to kiss or even hug on the first date, but if you feel like it, that's cool, too.

13You Say Goodbye And Gather Your Thoughts

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Pay attention to how you feel right after you turn and walk away from your date. Are you smiling uncontrollably, or do you feel a sense of relief at being on your own again? You'll likely start to overthink the details once you get home, but those immediate reactions are often very telling of how the night actually went for you.

14You Wait For Them To Text You Again

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If you had a good time, it can be really sweet to text your date to thank them for such a great night. Or you could wait for them to text you — but try not to watch the clock too hard. Chances are, they'll follow up when you're least expecting it, especially if you felt like the two of you hit it off.

First dates are complicated, and you never really get used to all the feelings that come with them. At the very least, you can be content in knowing that pretty much every woman has experienced the same things — and lived to tell the tale.

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