So you've done the easy bit. You've arranged the date, spruced yourself up, shown up on time and, with a bit of luck, you're in the right place. Now all you have to do is fill the next three or four hours or so. If you're in a pub and drinking, the last two hours should fill themselves (don't expect to remember any of it the next day), but for those all-important semi-sober first 90 minutes or so, you're going to have to talk yourself charming. It's easy, honestly. There are just a few topics you might want to avoid.
Obviously, there are certain dates who are going to talk about the world of showbiz and every orange-faced, veneer-toothed airhead who populates it, but I'd say you should maybe leave it to people who work at gossip mags to chew over. Celebrity tittle-tattle is rather old-hat now; there are so many outlets for the stuff that most of it is made up or of no consequence whatsoever. Courteney Cox bought a new shower curtain - did you KNOW? And someone from a TV show you've never watched has done a thing you've never heard of with a singer you don't recognise. And you wonder why people have started becoming enthralled with celebrities tweeting what they've had for breakfast. There's nothing new to say about famous people. Having an unhealthy interest in reality TV stars isn't sexy. Seriously.
Your work problems
If you're lucky enough to find your job interesting, that's great, but don't forget that your date may not. Even if you really believe you have a truly fascinating job anyone in the world would want to hear more about, just wait until you're asked. Or perhaps take a copy of your résumé with you and hand it silently to your date while you go to the bar for more drinks. Make them doubles. If they're still there when you get back - brilliant. One aspect of your career to avoid talking about are those petty issues you have at work which can seem so vital to you, but will ultimately make you sound like a whining jobsworth who's as popular in the office as a bout of legionnaire's disease. Yes, yes, we know Tracey in Accounts takes more cigarette breaks than everybody else and that Kevin in HR has hands like an amorous octopus and is having an affair with that receptionist with the terrible acne, but such conversations should remain firmly at the watercooler. If you are unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of such chat, nod and smile for a short while, before quickly changing the subject to something more interesting, and with common ground for you both - perhaps the colour of the walls in the bar toilet.
You'd think this was blindingly obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people bring along someone else to the date: the spectre of their ex. If the ex comes up in conversation pretty early on, and unsolicited at that, you may well be in trouble romantically. The following information should never come up in a first date:
- where the ex was from
- how long they were together
- what their parents did for a living
- any infidelities or common arguments
- why they broke up
- how much they miss them, want to touch and hold them, just want one more precious day where maybe they could, oh, they don't know, just work through things, maybe make them change their mind or maybe start anew and try to forget everything they put them through
It's okay to mention them in passing, perhaps if you're talking about a holiday and your date asked you what made you choose that place, or a funny story to which your ex is merely incidental. If your date mentions an ex unnecessarily, don't ask or press for more info, just use that precious two minutes while they're in the bathroom to line up your next date, just in case this one is running back to the love of their life (not you, I'm afraid).
Your other dates
Online dating has made it easier than ever before to have more options on the go. You may be seeing Date A on a Tuesday, Date B on Thursday and dates right up to F or G over the weekend. Chances are that you've also got quite a chequered dating history behind you (I may just be talking from a very personal perspective here) and no doubt plenty of funny or disastrous stories to tell (again, maybe just me). Thing is, if you and your date are going on about other rendezvous' you've had, then you're not really making that much of a connection with each other. There's also the chance that your date will be a dating novice and you'll come across as a vacuous slut who spends weeknights making clumsy passes at men off the internet (no comment to make here). If they ask about your dating experiences, try to stay positive. Your story of a dating disaster may sound very one-sided or, worse, your date will stand up for your nemesis. And worst of all, the dating world being little more than a village of hapless souls looking for love, you may well have been on dates with the same people or, 100/100 for awkwardness, each other's exes. Oh, God, please call me a taxi now; I feel ill.
These are OK, but be careful with...
Politics - It can be a great subject to get going on, and lively debate is likely to ensue, but if your date involves alcohol and you disagree with each other, things can get very unpleasant extremely quickly. Definitely don't blurt out "You have GOT to be joking!" after every outrageously narrow-minded political thing they say. That doesn't tend to go down very well.
Sleaze - A good innuendo or two can be well-placed if you're on the same wavelength and there are definitely occasions when a languid, lecherous look is most welcome. But choose your targets carefully. There is every chance that the prim and proper guy who smiles politely at everything you say *isn't* just a sexually liberated tiger underneath, so don't try too hard to tempt it out of him.
Family - Most people are generally interested in your background and will ask about this. Keep your family chat light and nostalgic; nobody really wants to hear about your uncle's drug problem and what a total bitch your brother's girlfriend is. Not on the first date, anyway.
Yourself - It may be a cliché that you're 'selling yourself' on a date, but some clichés are true. That doesn't give you carte blanche to prattle on about great big wonderful you for hours on end without pausing for breath. Keep your self-promotion to the level of a high-profile advertisement spot on TV, even a touch of product placement. Beware, though, of sounding like those loud, overbearing infomercials which blare out before the real programmes start on the cable TV channels, or a 'free home trial' of your date may never happen.