Does she really like me? Is she losing interest? Should I be playing it cool? Is it too soon to send a voice note? Is he taking a long time to reply? Is she replying far too quickly? Should I be saying what I really feel?
Exhausted just reading that? We don’t blame you. Dating can be a minefield; and never more so than when we’ve all been locked-down for the past year. Whoever you are, whatever your situation, dating during the pandemic has been tremendously tricky. But don’t blame Covid-19 for all your romantic woes and worries. Dating was difficult before the pandemic — and it’ll be difficult after.
"Dating can be a minefield; and never more so than when we’ve been locked-down all year..."
So, if you’ve ever scrolled endlessly in search of hidden messages, agonised over where to go for a hyped-up meet-up or just sat and grit your teeth through the worst first date imaginable, you’re not alone. And you’re certainly not the first man to ask: ‘Just what is it that women want?’
Well, I certainly can’t speak for all women, but if you are looking to re-enter the dating fray, I can offer an insight into what many women would like men to know about dating. You can take it or leave it: but if you end up in a happy relationship as a result of this article, you owe me a drink. (And no, that is not me asking you on a date.)
Before the date, make sure to do some planning
Ok, you’ve done it. You’ve plucked up the courage, and asked out someone you’ve been dying to date. It might not be a Hollywood meet-cute, but it’s happened — be it on Bumble, Hinge or maybe even (gasp) in real life. Either way, good for you. You obviously haven’t misread any signals; and there is some level of interest there.
So far, so good — but now is no time to get complacent. To date, we want you to have a plan. ‘Shall we meet at the tube station and see where we end up?’ simply doesn’t cut it. Personally, that’s only happened to me once, but it was once too many. We wandered past countless perfectly good bars because we hadn’t made a plan; both too nervous to suggest actually going in for fear it wouldn’t be the other’s ‘sort of place’. It was cold, awkward and we soon ran out of conversation. Not a great start.
So how to solve this planning problem? It’s easy. Pick a place, and put some thought into it. Has she mentioned she’s a vegetarian? Why not suggest a vegetarian restaurant? Has she expressed a passionate love for mini-golf? That’s your date sorted. Nonchalance and laziness are rarely sexy; but consideration and proactiveness certainly can be.
While preparing for the date, remain in your comfort zone
So a plan, we’ve established, is essential. But don’t go overboard. You want the date to feel natural and comfortable for you. Because, if you don’t feel comfortable, I can guarantee that your date won’t. Plenty of disappointing dates occur because the person who picks the place doesn’t know anything about the establishment and completely overdresses for the occasion; and what can be a fun night ends up being a scene of forced formality and a misjudged wardrobe. (Yes, this very-specific story did happen to me; at a five star Kensington hotel, no less. And no, it was not fun).
Another time, I had someone — very kindly — offer to cook for me. This is a very nice offer to receive. It’s not ideal, however, when it turns out they actually don’t know how to cook anything more sophisticated than a bowl of cereal and ask you to do most of the cooking. Again: embarrassing. What’s the lesson? Stick to your skills and plan a date in your comfort zone and your wheelhouse. If you’re relaxed, we’ll be relaxed.
Additionally, try not to put on a ‘date persona’. He may be the most charismatic, suave, Martini-swilling version of you — but we’d rather see the ‘real’ you. That sounds like a cliché, but it’s been overstated for a reason.
On the date itself, keep things relaxed and respectful
First things first. Don’t ask why she’s ‘still single’. Many men think this question is a compliment. It’s not — but it’s a question men ask women with bizarre, baffling frequency, and one we really don’t know how to answer. The last time I was blindsided with it, someone threw the word ‘beautiful’ into the mix — which reeked of fakeness (we were deep, deep into puff-eyed hay fever season).
In fact, steer clear of anything that makes it sound like there’s something wrong with being single: because, really, there isn’t. As for other things women don’t like, try antiquated ideas. If we want to pay for ourselves (or even for you) on the first date, let us.
And, finally, consent. Always (always, always) talk things through before making any sort of move. Remain aware, at all times, of body language and tone of voice. But that’s not to say we want you to strip the romance away from things. ‘Can I kiss you?’ is an essential question, but doesn’t always sound especially natural — but if it doesn’t feel excruciating or embarrassing when it does pass your lips, you’ve probably picked your moment well.
Of course, if she doesn’t look like she’s keen to take things further, that’s because she’s not. And in that case (not that we should have to tell you this), it’s time to move on.
Follow up after the date (even if you’re not interested)
If it’s not going to work out, and the date wasn’t what you expected, that’s okay. Not all matches are made in heaven. But — and this is a serious, sincere plea from womankind — don’t ghost her. Instead, drop her a friendly, respectful message, make your feelings clear and, above all, be kind. Don’t leave any room for misunderstanding, ensure you both remain gracious and move on with your heads held high.
The same applies if she decides not to pursue things any further. Maintain the same courteous, respectful tone and, if she genuinely says that she’d like to remain friends, don’t complain about being ‘friend-zoned’. It’s one of the most overused and misguided phrases in the entire dating phrasebook (if you’d like to know why, here’s our gentleman’s guide to the ‘friend zone’…). Instead, be happy you’ve made a new friend and connection. And, after you’ve processed that dating experience, get back on the scene…