FIRST DATE ETIQUETTE: I recently posted a film review in this group about the movie "Bye Bye Love," a comedy about three divorced men. In this little clip from the film, we see one of the men (Vic) on a blind date with a beautiful but neurotic partner named "Lucille" who takes offense to everything he says, takes hours to order a meal, and gets offended when he asks her if he can order for both of them -- but later insists on switching him meals when his looks better than hers. She also dumps her divorce story on him the first date. Of course, he starts the whole date off on the wrong foot when he started the dinner conversation by asking, "So . . . what do you weigh?" Adding insult to injury, he then overestimates her weight by 17 pounds.
This little caricature is funny, but hits the mark in how awkward it feels to get out there dating during the middle years when you haven't dated anyone but a spouse in decades. We have a whole chapter on this subject in our book to be released this fall. However, here are a few tips that I think will help:
1. If you don't know your partner well, we now almost always propose to meet in a public place that is well lit. When I was dating my first wife, it was customary to pick up your date at the doorstep of her home. Internet dating has changed all of that. We are often on first dates with people we don't know very well, if at all. A first date is often the first meeting in person. It is now very well accepted safety practice to meet in a neutral, public, and well-lit location and to leave that location separately. There are occasional exceptions. On a couple of occasions I had dates with women who did not own cars, who asked me to pick them up at their homes. If you are specifically asked to pick someone up, it is okay to do so. Otherwise, it is safe to assume that your partner expects to meet you wherever you are going on the date. Men, at the conclusion of your evening together, be sure to walk your partner to her car and make sure it starts before you leave. Putting a premium on her safety is an important gesture of respect. Whether you are male or female, follow your gut about any exceptions and put safety first.
2. Nowadays, a hug on meeting and saying goodbye is customary (pre-Covid anyway). I think it is a nice way to express a little affection and acceptance. But don't read too much into it. It is a custom. It does not imply serious interest or a willingness for more affection.
3. The asker pays. Nowadays, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to ask a man on a date. However, when she asks him and makes the plan, she controls the cost. The person who controls the cost pays the bill. If the partner offers to pay the bill or the tip or to split the bill, it is acceptable to graciously accept the offer.
4. Stay off your phone. If you have minor children at home, it is understood that you do not stop being a parent when you are on a date. However, instruct them not to call you unless there is an emergency. (A disagreement about whose turn it is to pick the TV show is not an emergency.) Other than your children or your employment (and only in an emergency or if you are on call) you shouldn't allow anyone else to interrupt your date. That is fundamental to having respect for each other. I have had a few experiences where my date was constantly checking social media and laughing at things that I was not in on. Bad form folks. On one occasion, a date called me out for texting another girl while I was with her at an outdoor concert. I was actually communicating with a client, but I could understand her frustration. It would have been best if I had texted the client that I was on a date and would call him the next day. Cathy
reminds people that having your phone out on the table in front of you is distracting even if you are not actively on it, and it indicates in a subtle way that your partner is not as important as your phone.
5. Keep the discussion of former spouses and dating partners to a minimum. You are here to explore a potential relationship with THIS partner, not to rehash the details that broke your heart. This can be a serious temptation if the date is between two divorcees. If a relationship develops, there will be opportunities to share your divorce story and it will be important to do so. On a first date, take the opportunity to get to know your partner by asking thoughtful questions about other subjects and how that person sees life going forward. If you turn it into a therapy session, it might feel good at the time, but the atmosphere will not lend itself to a positive connection. If anything, it is a connection of the walking wounded and you don't want to build a relationship on that.
Well, there's a lot more I could say, but these are a few pointers to help you get started if you haven't started dating yet -- or even if you have. Good luck!
Feel free to post your own tips and suggestions below.