Listen, I could sit here and talk all day about my own first date foibles, and we’d probably all learn a vicarious lesson in misplaced confidence and Songs Not To Sing At Karaoke. But frankly none of us want to revisit Creme Caramel-gate again — and anyway, I’m told by at least one girl that a short screenplay of my restaurant form is in the works (and it’s not for me to endanger a press embargo.)
Instead, I thought I’d crowdsource these answers from some of the all-female WhatsApp groups I’ve insinuated myself into over the years. Though I have dated a handful of the respondents (and certainly dropped some playful hints to the remaining quartile), I’d hope that none of these answers are too biographical. Anyway, here are the 8 things you shouldn’t do on a First Date, from the people who really ought to know.
1. Talk politics
“Once, just before the referendum, this guy kept asking me which way I was going to vote. I didn’t want to tell him as it’s incredibly boring, but he wouldn’t drop it and got really frustrated that I wouldn’t say which way I was going, and implied we could never trust each other if I didn’t tell him. Eventually he stopped talking to me altogether.” — Lucy, 25, PR
“I had a date who was lovely, and it was going really well. Then as we got a bit tipsy he started lecturing me about Jeremy Corbyn and why it would be so terrible if he got elected, and I didn’t say anything for about half an hour as he spoke me through the failings of the labour party and the build up to the financial crisis.” — Millie, 30, Finance
What to do instead: Apologies if I’m teaching you to suck eggs here (perhaps that should be rule number 1.1, while we’re at it — never actually suck eggs on a date). But it’s usually just a good idea to ask your date questions about her life, her interests, her job and her passions. (I’ve also got a nicely rehearsed anecdote about a punt, but that may not necessarily be applicable to you.)
2. Drink too much
“There was one guy who sank three bottles of wine and four martinis and then screamed at me till I cried because ‘I don’t text him back enough.’” — Alexandra, 25, underwriter
“I was once vomited on in an Uber, and he left me to pay the clean up fee. Still mates, though.” — Poppy, 27, teacher
What to do instead: Pace yourself, drink water, and sit up front with the driver if you get car sick.
3. Talk about how many people you’ve slept with.
“One guy even had a spreadsheet on his phone. I’m not even joking.” — Harriet, 28, journalist
“I think anyone who’s slept with more than 50 people is probably not to be trusted — especially if they talk about it on the first date.” — Lucy, 26, asset manager
What to do instead: I would generally leave sex out of the conversation until it becomes absolutely necessary to address the subject (which may be any time between date three and year six, in my experience). You’re not Italian, are you?
4. Use any of those tactics in that book ‘The Game’
“Why do boys think this is effective? The whole ‘negging’ thing is bizarre, and feels very teenage. This guy I know used to always open a first date by telling them their hair looked ‘odd’, and asking them if they’d come straight from work. He also used to tell them they looked tired halfway through. He did sleep with a lot of girls, but then you’ve got to ask — what kind of girls? He also had a pretty sweet pad in Chelsea, so maybe that helped.” — Millie, 30, Finance
What to do instead: If you need to get your dating advice from a book, you’re already in trouble. I’m not going to say be yourself, because that’s probably a terrible idea too. But pick the three or four positive and popular attributes of yourself, and bring those to the fore. Television producers call it ‘selection and compression’ (I have an AS level in Media Studies), but I just call it common sense.
5. Look at your phone
“Just bad manners, and shows you aren’t interested.” — Lucy, 26, asset manager
What to do instead: Look into her eyes, I’d imagine (Not all the time, I mean — only when you’re talking and it’s relevant. No-one wants a staring contest halfway through the truffle tagliolini.)
6. Name drop
“Not impressive, not cool, just dumb and boring.” — Harriet, 28, journalist
What to do instead: It’s quite effective to say her name from time to time, if only to show you’ve remembered it and are on nodding terms with Russian syntax.
7. Plan an activity that’s short on conversation
“I once went bowling with a very sweet and shy boy, which I thought was quite a fun idea. The problem with bowling, I soon discovered, was that you never get any time to speak. When one of you is bowling, the other is sitting down watching, and vice versa. We just sort of kept high-fiving as we walked past each other, and probably said about 6 words. Maybe that was part of the plan from him. There was no second date” — Poppy, 27, teacher
What to do instead: I don’t know, go for a drink, go to a restaurant, go for a walk, make some ceramics. Who do you think I am, Hitch? (The Will Smith character, not Christopher Hitchens. Though he was probably pretty convincing one-on-one, too.)
8. Get too intense
“There was this one guy, who after the date was over became obsessed with me. He climbed up the side of my house at 4am, and I woke up with him standing at the end of my bed with a bottle of red wine, saying ‘let me take you on another date. Also, another guy, whilst in bed, told me to ‘speak to him like I was his mummy and to tell him he’d been a bad boy…” — Alexandra, 24, underwriter
What to do instead: I have no idea, actually. My Hail Mary move on most first dates is to tell the girl I love her just before the steak and get my mother on speakerphone as we’re cutting into the creme brulee. It really separates the men from the boys, which, on reflection, is not a helpful analogy at all.
Wondering which restaurant you should take her too? Here’s a pretty good suggestion.