Season two of Netflix's Master of None is thoughtful, funny and often quite touching, but mixed in the fray is an episode that portrays the awkward world of online dating better than anything else out there. And, as it turns out, there are some great lessons buried beneath all that cringe-y humour.
Image via Netflix.
Not only is "First Date" a fairly accurate representation of what online dating is really like — for men at least — the women Aziz Ansari's character, Dev, dates represent a laundry list of things you shouldn't ever do on your own first dates, regardless of gender. Many of the mistakes these people make, in addition to Dev's many missteps, act as a sort of cautionary tale. There are red flags aplenty, and a multitude of rude or insensitive actions the characters don't realise they're doing but are obvious to you, the viewer.
Here are some examples of the stuff this episode demonstrates as things you should avoid doing, as well as red flags you should watch for:
- Don't push or pry on subjects when asked not to. Dev asks Christine questions about her job at the Dog Hotel — something she said she didn't want to talk about. Dev gets away with it by using humour and asking somewhat interesting questions, but he's lucky she's a good sport.
- Don't get high or get too drunk on a first date, especially if you're not doing it together.
- Don't tell people why you cancelled plans if it's going to be off-putting. Stephanie revealing that she cancelled plans with Dev to watch wrestling on TV automatically makes him feel like she's not that excited to meet him, which isn't the best way to kick things off. This is one of those instances where it's totally fine to say you had something personal come up.
- Don't disappear for 15 minutes to handle work stuff. This is something that's inevitable at times, but best avoided. If it happens, apologise as best you can.
- Don't send the same message to every person on your app, especially if it's just "hey" or "hi". Dev's opener, while better than just saying "hey", doesn't play to the individual at all. Read their profiles, look at their pictures, and open with something you think you'd both find interesting or amusing. It should be something that starts a conversation. "Hi" doesn't do that when you're not face to face.
- Don't ramble on about things you know your date isn't interested in. If it's clear they don't like wrestling, video games and what have you, find something else to talk about.
- Don't treat the wait staff like crap, then act like they're the ones being rude.
- Don't take videos, photos or stupid Snapchats at inappropriate times, like when two dudes are fighting in front of you.
- Don't use dating apps while you're on a date. This is something that shouldn't have to be said, but it does actually happen.
- Don't use dating apps and go on dates when you're not interested in dating. If you're using one of those apps only to find friends, be upfront about it in your profile and during your chats before meeting up.
- Don't sleep with someone you have a moral issue with just because you want to get some. Not cool.
Of course, there are a few good things these lost, young romantics do as well:
- Do use humour to break the ice and keep the atmosphere light and fun. Just make sure your jokes are tasteful.
- Do clarify that you are, in fact, on a date, and not just hanging out as friends. It's important to clarify the issue if one or both parties are unsure!
- Do go for a change of location if things are going well. First dates should start at a bar, cafe, ice cream parlour or so on where you can talk and get to know each other. No movies! If things are going well, you can move the date to another spot — like dinner, more drinks, or a nice walk — and it's almost like you're on date two. Resetting your environment resets the mood now that you're hopefully a little more comfortable with each other.
- Do call it a night when your date makes you uncomfortable or does something that really rubs you the wrong way. It's important to meet somewhere on a first date, using your own method of transportation, so you can bounce whenever you need to.
Of course, Ansari is no stranger to breaking down how the modern dating scene operates. His book Modern Romance was a fascinating look at finding love in the digital age, as well as what psychology and neuroscience says true love actually is. If you've read the book, watching the "First Date" episode will basically feel like a fun review of all the faux pas you've already read about.
But there's still a lot to glean from this episode, even if you haven't read the book. It's basically a crash course everybody should take when they're single and ready to mi- well, swipe. Hopefully recognising these mistakes can help you avoid terrible dates in the future, and avoid being somebody's "Oh, there was this one awful guy/girl..." dating story.