Author Perry Brass at the Brooklyn Book Fair, 2014.
Huge numbers of people now meet on the Internet, and often they find their Internet dating experiences disastrous. This, unfortunately, is also true for a lot of their other dating as well, including “fix-ups,” that is dates arranged by other people, the regular old “blind dates” that most people either fear or find funny in a bitter, ironic kind of way—and then hate, as well as many “fantasy” dates. These are the dates that feel like they’re going to be heaven, then end up in hell.
Here are 10 important things to think about before you go on any date, whether it’s an Internet thing, the efforts of well-meaning friends, or the someone you spot on the street, at church, or anywhere and are fortunate enough to connect with.
- Dating is hard—and unfortunately our own life history makes it harder. Dating in adulthood is difficult because of your own expectations. If you remember high school and college dating it was easier simply because you didn’t have the expectations that every date was going to end up as something “serious.” There is a lot of stress here, as in what you look like and appear as, and what the other person looks like and appears as. Do you look like and appear as the person in your profile? Ditto for that person who has already become an “eye candy” fantasy element that you were able to connect with, and the fantasy suddenly exploded. He (or she) was just “too human.” He showed his bad side way too fast, even if his outside was initially pleasing.
- Try to get sex as far out of your mind as you can on that first date. This isn’t always easy, but it’s important. In other words, as soon as he or she walks through the door, don’t have her (OK, we’ll call him “her,” since I’m writing for both genders) already naked and propped up on a pillow. If you get sex out of the equation, a lot of other things can walk in, and these things can lead to a genuine, satisfying sexual attraction. How is that? Face it, we are attracted to people who show us things that please us, like a real sense of humor, an appealing interaction with life, compassion or a feeling for others, a lack of fear, and the cool, sweet presence of curiosity and adventure. Psychologists call this “investiture.” When you allow yourself to invest some of your real emotional self in another person, they also become sexually more enticing to you. This investiture may not happen on the first date, but might on the second or third as both of you allow yourselves to reveal more of your important inner material to one another.
- But, an important bit of advice: Don’t offer too much of yourself immediately. A lot of people feel that they have to “get it all out in the open” to make sure the other person is not scared off by all of your hidden warts and past misdeeds. They spill out all their dirty laundry from the past, their endless health problems, their feelings of inadequacy, their sensitivities and history of problems. In other words, they unload every bit of baggage to you, when you barely know their names. You might be able to do that at a 12-Step meeting, but you don’t need to do it on a first date.
- However, a little bit of honesty can go a long way—and it should. Offer just an inner peek at yourself, a keyhole view that basically invites your date to want to see more. You can pick some part of you that makes you seem more rounded, interesting, and human. This is not a job interview, although in our 24/7 hard-sell environment, it has become that for many people. Remember: You don’t have to be constantly perky, optimistic, and bright. You can have moments when a darker side of you comes out—but just keep them as moments.
- You don’t have to make every single point in spades: This is especially true for men, but I find that women now do it as well. Part of the inherent territorialism of men is that they too often lay out their opinions and immediately pounce on anyone contradicting them. Retract. Realize that within every difference of opinion are some elements of truth. People love being told, “ I think you’re right about that.” Use that expression a lot. As I wrote in The Manly Art of Seduction there is something wonderful about learning that you are not always 100% right—that is, in seeing another side of an opinion, feeling, or experience. Open yourself up to discovery, even if it’s only to say, “Uh huh?”
- On the other hand, allow yourself to be strong by being centered, and allowing someone else to be pulled into that center. So don’t belittle other people, even in your mind—you’ll be surprised how easily others pick up on even your unexpressed feelings. Just realize that in a dating situation people easily become unnerved and some of their lesser sides, even their worst ones, can surface. So allow yourself to feel comfortable with yourself, and then bring that other person into your own, more secure area of comfort.
- Don’t expect perfect dialogue from other either one of you. In The Manly Art of Seduction, I talked about how TV dialogue—written by professionals—has skewed so many people’s ideas of what real conversation should be. They think that everyone, including themselves, should always be fun, witty, sparkling, and have a whole arsenal of zingers. Frankly nobody is, except on TV. Awkward moments are wonderful. They invite a moment for a genuine touching closeness to take place. Try taking someone’s hand. When she stops talking, or you have, just relax. Now you can provide a sanctuary of quiet and closeness that in a noisy world is perfectly welcome.
- Learn how to smile and invite others in with that smile. Smiling is wonderful and contagious. But too often we confuse the salesmen’s high-voltage, 100-watt grin with a real smile. I advise people to look at the light in another person’s eyes, not directly at his eyes but just at that light, and smile because you’re connecting with it. These are moments of quiet romanticism. They’re beautiful. They can make any date.
- Grooming, clothes, and the rest of our physical-appearance package are important parts of showing who we are—in that we are taking some effort to look good. But remember, in a dating situation, all of these should be used to invite someone to come closer to you, and not as a way of holding them at arm’s length. So you don’t have to be up-to-the-minute on the latest in style—this is not Fashion Week in New York. But it’s your time to be yourself as your better self (not even your best, remember that). If you are going to wear a fragrance, keep it as low key as possible. Make him or her have to get closer to you to smell it. And don’t wear anything that becomes more of a show than you are—keep that in your closet for another occasion.
- Be honest, but don’t slam the door in anyone’s face. You can honestly say, “I’m not sure that I came off really well tonight, but I’d like to see you again.” Or, “We really didn’t get to know each other, but I think there’s room to know each other more.” In other words, don’t push a situation that may not be there, but try to open it up gently. Also remember that there may something about a person that you just don’t “get” on your first date. It may take a few days, or even weeks for that thing to find its resonance with you. Maybe it was the way she talked, or was really interested in you, or was—and you knew it—overcoming a lot of her own shyness and reticence just to be with you. So don’t shut the door hard by making her feel that it’s over, when it really isn’t. Dating, like wine, needs a little time to “breathe” in the glass. Give yourself that time.
Perry Brass is the author of the bestseller The Manly Art of Seduction, How to Meet, Talk to, and Become Intimate with Anyone. His next book will be The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love, How Connecting with Your Own Deeper Self Can Bring You Happiness, Sexual Satisfaction, and Save Your Life in a Difficult World. The author of 18 books, he is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and a past contributor the Good Men Project. You can connect with him through this contact form, or through his website, http://www.perrybrass.com. You can also friend him on Facebook, or through his fan pages there.