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Dating Advice #48 - Blind Date Etiquette

May 8, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

He's tired of expensive dinners that lead nowhere. For the first date, isn't there a better way?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I enjoy reading your columns and thank you for having such a nice site. I truly hope you can answer me this question as it has been bothering me a lot lately.

My question concerns "blind dates." Is it incumbent on the man -- meeting a woman for the first time, not knowing what she looks like, and not knowing what the woman will think of him -- to take the lady to a restaurant on the first meeting?

I have met women over the Internet and through ads who seem to believe that it is a requirement that the man take the woman to a restaurant even before they have laid eyes on each other.

Is this correct etiquette? If I meet a woman over the Internet and speak to her on the phone, would it be improper on my part if we met over some coffee and cake, or pizza and soda, on the first occasion? My point is, why spend so much money on a blind date (not to mention all that time), if I find no chemistry with her, or if she finds none with me? Wouldn't we both be uncomfortable and just faking it?

And if a woman suggests a restaurant for the first encounter, would it be right for me to suggest something less expensive -- without sounding like I am something less than a gentleman? I've heard stories of women who meet men for the first time, and know they did not like them, but "take" him for whatever they can on the date, and then say, "Sorry, I'm not interested."

Please advise me on this issue. Thank you in advance.


Dear Steven,

Frankly, we think that dinner in a restaurant is not one of the best settings for a blind date (neither is a movie), although many people seem to think that etiquette demands it.

Our reasons are practical as well as economical. A blind date should be treated as an opportunity to learn about the other person, to decide if there is enough between you to get to a second date. Trying not to talk with your mouth full, and praying that you don't spill something or get lettuce stuck between your teeth, is not the most conducive atmosphere for conversation. Moreover, we think it's unfair to expect a man to spend a large amount of money on dinner when a blind date may not lead to a second date.

We have found that the best blind date is one that is not centered around a meal. Consider adopting the approach that many daters like to use. They go to a place with some visual or auditory atmosphere, like a botanical garden, hotel lounge, art gallery, promenade or other pleasant place to walk, or even an informal, open-air concert. This gives them an opportunity to talk, and provides something to look at and even refer to during those awkward silences we all experience. During the date, the couple can enjoy some light refreshments -- coffee and cake, a drink, or dessert. These activities fill about three hours, which we think is a good time frame for a first date.

This type of first date is usually less expensive than dinner, but shouldn't be viewed as a cheap alternative. There may be an admission fee to a park or museum, the snack or dessert should be enjoyed at a pleasant, attractive cafe, and the man should escort his date home (or to the location she chooses) in his car or a cab, if at all possible.

Of course, a man should let a woman know these plans in advance, so she doesn't skip dinner in expectation of a large meal!

It's a sad fact that so many men and women have become jaded by unpleasant blind dates, so now they either go on these dates with a defeatist attitude, or have expectations that are impossibly high to meet.

We'd like to go a step further and suggest an approach that will make blind dates more enjoyable -- or at least bearable. Instead of worrying about how your date will turn out, just relax and try enjoy your surroundings, the activity you are engaged in and your date's company. Don't imagine being married to the stranger you're with, or think how much you do or don't like the way your date looks, sounds or walks. These thoughts prevent you from learning about the person you are with. Try engaging in "airplane talk" -- casual conversation about each other's backgrounds, hobbies, interests and careers (don't dwell on any one subject for too long), Jewish geography, and other topics that tell something about each other -- but don't reveal information that should be reserved for someone you know well.

We also suggest going forward with a second date, even if your first meeting was only lukewarm (but not if it was a horrible or unpleasant experience). First dates are often awkward, uncomfortable experiences, and as much as both people try to be at their best, most fall short of this goal. Since neither the man nor the woman can really be themselves, we recommend that even if a first date is simply passable, a couple go out a second time.

Many of the happy couples we know weren't overly enthusiastic about their first date together, but found that things improved markedly the next time they went out. On the second date, people are usually more at ease and the conversation is less forced.

Many people also find that even though they didn't feel an instant connection on the first date, this started to change in subsequent meetings. That's because developing a good courtship is a process. Most happily married couples never experienced the instant "connection" we are conditioned to expect on a first date. Instead, they started out simply thinking the other was just "okay," and as they gradually got to know each other, it developed an emotionally intimate, close relationship.

We don't like the word "click," because it brings to mind an image of an instantaneous awareness. For most couples, the awareness that they share something special is more gradual. That will come as the couple becomes emotionally intimate, and emotional intimacy takes time to build.

Sometime between the second and fifth date, the man and woman should sense that conversation becomes easier, they enjoy being with the other person, and their date "looks" better in terms of physical attraction as well as emotional attraction.

However, don't keep dating someone just because "there's nothing negative I see in him." At this point, you should see positive qualities in the man you are with, enjoy his company and find yourself attracted to certain elements of his appearance. If you don't see this happening, stop dating him. You're not going to suddenly develop feelings for this person, and it's better that each of you look for someone else.

This can also be true of physical attraction. There's no question that physical attraction plays an important role in every relationship. However, unless a person is really turned off by the way his/her date looks, they should give the physical element a chance to develop. Sometimes, a date may not initially seem like your "type," or fit the ideal you fantasize about, but after a couple of dates things may appear different. This happens more often than you think.

We hope our suggestions help revitalize your approach to blind dates and we wish you much success.

Rosie & Sherry

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