We’ve talked a lot about how to get back into dating after so many months of isolation last year, but for plenty of people, first dates have always been hard, whether coming out of a pandemic or not.
It’s a complicated situation: You want to give your date enough information about you that they can assess whether a second date or potential relationship is feasible, but you don’t want to overwhelm them or come off too strong. Here’s what not to bring up (or do) on a first date.
First, don’t be rude
First things first: A faux pas isn’t necessarily dependent on what you say, but how you say it. Don’t be rude to a partner or a potential partner. Don’t be rude to your friends, classmates, coworkers, family members or people you encounter in daily life. Don’t go into a first date defensive or dismissive. Don’t try to act smarter or cooler than the other person. What’s the point? Are you looking for a love match or bedmate, or are you looking for an ego boost at someone else’s expense?
Katie, a 20-something in New York who declined to give her last name, recalled going out with a guy she met on a dating app whose job put him in close proximity to celebrities and sports teams.
“We sat down and he was making no conversation so I asked him how he liked working [there] and he said it was fun. I proceeded to ask if he ever got to meet James Dolan, the owner of the Knicks, and the guy flipped out, telling me I was not a feminist for liking sports and hating James Dolan and if we were going to work out I’d have to stop.”
The date, she said, insulted her values and her intellect. Then, she recalled, he ordered food — but told the server not to bring any for Katie since “it was fried” and she “didn’t need” it. She left, and if you act like that, your date probably will, too. Again, don’t be rude.
Don’t talk about other hookups, matches, potential partners, or exes
This is the gold standard of off-limits first-date chat. Don’t bring up an ex or talk about your love life. Sure, be open about your expectations of monogamy if the other person seems like they want to have a serious relationship talk, and don’t lie and say you’re not sleeping with anyone else, but otherwise, don’t suggest you’re still smarting from a heartbreak or a total player. Focus on the person in front of you and make a real effort to get to know them instead of thinking of them as a disposable option in a sea of matches.
One Boston woman in her late 20s told Lifehacker, “I went on a date during the daytime and near the end of it he told me he had another one in the afternoon.”
Even worse, she said, after she left, he texted her, “Come back. I miss your vibes.”
Sometimes, of course, past traumas are too foundational to your life and personality to be ignored. Use your best judgement about when to bring them up, but know that a first date isn’t always the best option unless the person’s understanding of who you are is already tied to their knowledge of what you’ve been through. Here are some tips on sharing past traumas with your partner.
Don’t be phony or shallow
Grace Goldberg, a 20-year-old in New York City, said, “I don’t want to talk about boring small talk. I want real conversations about life.”
Remember, this is your opportunity to showcase the best things about yourself. If all goes well, you’ll have plenty of time to reveal the worst things (and so will they) but for now, you have to be sincere, genuine, and interesting, to the best of your ability.
Don’t just say you work in sales. Tell the person an interesting fact about the industry. Don’t just say you grew up in flyover country. Give them a little-known fact about your hometown. It’s not just that you enjoy contrived network dramas, but that you secretly binged all of The Blacklist during quarantine.
…but don’t just talk about yourself
All of that said, it’s great to tell someone about your interests and the real goings-on of your life, but don’t be self-centered. This is a date for two people, so the conversation has to include both people. You need to learn about them and decide if you like them, too.
“I don’t want to talk about all of his accomplishments,” added Goldberg. “If he’s going on and on about himself and not asking me about myself, too, it’s gonna not work out.”