Nothing gets your heart pounding like the nervous anticipation that comes with going on a first date with a guy. Whether it’s a blind date or someone you already know, the first meeting with a dating prospect brings with it a number of emotions, most commonly a mix of excitement and nervousness. As the turning point approaches, thoughts can turn to questions like, “Will you like me?” “Will I like it?” “Will you be the chosen one?” “What if I screw things up and make a fool of myself?” “What am I going to talk about? What if I run out of things to say?”
Everyone’s experience is different, but the common denominator that most daters would attest to is that it can be difficult to navigate through the waters of man-to-man dating. Although it is changing, we gay men have few role models when it comes to love and romance. There is no role model and we were never taught how to flirt and date other men. There are no rules, structure, or guidance. How do two men join in the “courtship dance”? While the lack of rules for gay dating can be a good thing, as it lends itself to greater creativity, spontaneity, and individuality, it can also lead to anxiety and a sense of “disorientation” about how to meet and date successfully, something like a car without a driver.
This article will offer some tips on how to approach your first date with that lucky guy you chose to meet in the sequence of that date. While these are by no means “rules”, these ideas can offer a means of landing and making the most of the experience without sabotaging it before it takes off. Choose the ones that seem right for you and create your own principles as a means of being a healthy person who lives with integrity and follows your own values.
Before the date
When setting a time and place for your appointment, make sure it is a short meeting (1-2 hours) for the first time and select a location that is activity-oriented or allows plenty of opportunities to speak. Skip the movies and instead opt for a short meeting at a coffee shop or the zoo. Keeping it short takes a lot of pressure off you, especially if you find that the two of you are not compatible, and allows for a healthy rhythm in your dating relationship. You can always extend the date if you get along.
De-emphasize it being a date and instead see it as an opportunity to meet a potential new friend. This can help “calm down” and allow you to relax without focusing on the outcome of the appointment. Avoid placing too much hope and expectation on the encounter; Let it evolve naturally and if a spark lights up during your time together, that’s an added bonus!
If you are particularly nervous, take time to do some relaxation exercises (deep breathing, visualization, etc.) to help you calm down and focus. If you’re concerned about what to talk about, come up with a list of possible ideas beforehand and role-play with a friend to build trust. But don’t trust this too much or it will seem stiff and rehearsed. Be cool and be yourself. It’s not about performance.
Dress comfortably and in clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Make sure you and your date are on the same page about dressing style for your date. On my dating days, I showed up for a second date in a nice oxford shirt and jeans only to find my other half dressed to the nines in a French suit without realizing her intentions for the night. It was a very embarrassing moment, and he canceled our dinner reservations for us at a luxurious, fine-dining establishment. Then he put on more casual clothes and took me to a family restaurant. Oh! His image of me instantly changed and he stopped seeing me after that. He did both of us a favor by finishing things off, but at the time it was quite humiliating. So be clear to avoid miscommunication.
During the date
· Be on time and relax. No matter how attracted you may be to the man sitting across from you, it’s your responsibility to be yourself – avoid trying to make a facade and be someone you shouldn’t try to impress on your date. You are cool just the way you are. Let me know your true self; otherwise, you are participating in a form of deception that will only come back to bite you later. Be authentic and eventually you will be rewarded with a truly compatible partner.
· Be attentive to your appointment. Show respect by keeping good eye contact and don’t let those eyes drift if there are other attractive men in the room. Keep an open posture and let your non-verbal communication and body language convey interest in learning about your date. Stay out of your own head and turn off those distracting thoughts; really listen to what he’s saying. Balance active listening with sharing things about yourself. Ask open-ended questions to get more detail about the points that were made in your discussion to extend the conversations and learn more about your date. This is especially effective if you feel shy or lack things to say because it makes the other person talk more, allowing more details that you can start other dialogues on. Be positive and let your sense of humor shine through.
· Avoid controversial discussion topics, as they may be offensive to your date. You can get acquainted with these the more you get to know him. Avoid alcohol, as this can disrupt your behavior, and stay away from sexual content and innuendo. Unless sex is the motivation for your date, introducing sexual conversations on your first date can set the tone in an inappropriate direction. Discussions about sex and sexual preferences may come later, after you’ve been able to establish a more genuine and mature connection. Questions like “Are you from above or below?” It may appear rude in a first meeting and may cause an unfavorable impression of you to form on your date’s mind and image.
Whether your date was a huge success or a disaster, have good manners and thank your new acquaintance for the date. If you want to see him again, tell him this and give him a call in a day or two to ask him out again. Don’t get caught up in the dating game of “How many days should I wait to call him and avoid looking desperate?” or “I’m going to let him call me.” If you like it, take charge of your life and make that call. If you didn’t feel a “love connection” with the guy, thank him for the date and kindly and tactfully tell him that he’s not a match. While this can be extremely difficult, it is always best to be honest and direct in a kind and polite way. If you’d rather try to develop a friendship, suggest it. But be honest and direct and don’t tell them that you will call back if you really don’t mean to. That’s cruel.
Do a few briefings after your appointment and reflect on your behavior, as well as that of your appointment, and perhaps keep a journal about the experience. How did you feel? How did you manage during the date? What would you have changed? What went well? What did you learn about yourself as a result of this date? How would you rate the date and the guy you met? From what you can tell so far, is there compatibility with your personal requirements and a life partner’s vision? Does it correspond to your needs, desires, goals and values so far?
Dating can be a daunting and stressful task, particularly with the lack of dating education available to us as gay men. What traditions and roles our heterosexual dating counterparts have apply to us, if any? What are we supposed to do?
The key is to have fun dating and take a light approach. In my opinion, dating is both an art and a science, combining common sense decision-making with self-awareness of what one wants and needs for a happy and fulfilling lifestyle. When your dating behavior is aligned with your values and vision for a relationship, you will live with integrity and can approach all your dates with a more relaxed tone and confident demeanor. It will make the process much easier and more rewarding. Cheers on your dating success!
© 2005 Brian L. Rzepczynski
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Brian Rzepczynski, certified personal life coach, is the gay love coach: “I work with gay men who are ready to create a roadmap that will lead them to find and build a lasting partnership with Mr. Right.” To sign up for the FREE Gay Love Coach newsletter full of dating and relationship tips and skills for gay singles and couples, as well as to check out current training groups, programs and teleclasses, visit www.TheGayLoveCoach.com.
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