I squirmed in my chair at a hip coffee shop on the Upper East Side. As chat we over barely consumed lattes it becomes evident that we have absolutely nothing in common. Not only that, he was interrogating me on my untraditional career choice. With each question, I felt smaller and smaller like he was sizing up my IQ based only upon the premise of my choice to pursue acting professional and my fuschia heels. Suddenly not only did I feel awkward but I felt angry. Forget this guy! I didn't owe him anything and I certainly didn't need to be looked down upon for something he didn't even entirely understand. "I've gotta go," I blurted. He seemed surprised. Maybe he thought it was going well? I don't know. I clumsily stumbled out of my seat and repeated myself. "I've gotta go. Bye." I don't really remember what happened after that because I made a beeline for the door and the five train. I wondered how this could be such a poor match after pouring over his Bumble and Facebook profiles, and having a number of good conversations with him over text. Alas, there I was on 68th and Lexington thinking "I need to get smarter about this." As I became seasoned in online dating, I developed some tactics to making these awkward first dates go as smoothly as they can.
1. Plan an out
This sounds cold but I find it to be really valuable. One time I went on a dinner date with a guy that I had absolutely no chemistry with. I sat through the entire dinner wishing I had planned a shorter outing. Now, instead of enduring a two hour long dinner or giving my dates an indefinite time frame, I pick something more casual like coffee, a walk in the park, or an activity with a time limit. Sometimes I even schedule a light commitment or errand for afterwards that way I know exactly how long I've committed to the date. You can always plan for a more extensive date next time or reschedule your errands if it won't affect anyone and you're really having a great time.
2. Let him pay the bill
I have a lot of pride and I used to hate letting my date pay for me. As a stanch feminist I don't believe in traditional dating practices but there is definitely nothing more awkward than fighting over the check. I quickly learned in my online dating escapades to offer to pay your half but let him take care of it if he insists. I dated this wonderful guy for a while who took me on the best dates and I always felt guilty in how much money he dropped on me. In my usual fashion, I've offer to get the bill each time. To compromise, he offered that I buy us dessert afterwards. I loved that suggestion because it made me feel like I was taking care of him too and it continued a date that was already going really well!
3. Drop a pin
When my mom found out I was online dating she was skeptical. Even though it's been mainstreamed, friends even worried about the safety of it. Want to avoid all of the check in texts? Drop a pin to a trusted friend or family member before or share your location on Find My Friends. It'll make you and your loved ones feel safer and it'll eliminate the burden of your phone buzzing every two minutes.
4. Set boundaries
In the heat of the moment it's easy to feel pressured to go home with someone. Things are going pretty well, he or she is cute, and why the heck not? You go home with them and just as things are heating up, you change your mind. I like to set boundaries for myself before going out. That doesn't mean things can't change but knowing what you expect out of the night from the get-go helps you make a more educated decision later on if the opportunity arises. It also will hopefully ease any indecisiveness you have when they ask!
5. Go casual
Usually actors are encouraged to wear a traditional audition outfit. For girls it's a jewel-toned fit and flare dress with shinny nude heels. One wise acting teacher advised me against this normality. He told me that if I step into this same "audition outfit" every time, it'll trigger any anxiety or audition butterflies from past auditions. My body will say "This is my audition outfit and therefore I am nervous." He encouraged us to wear normal street clothes to auditions and to express our personal style because the casting directors want to see YOU anyways. I think the same goes for dating. Wear something comfortable and casual that shows off your unique vibe. Last week, a friend of mine went on a first date wearing rain boots and while some of our friends gave her slack for it, I applauded her. She's a practical and fun girl and by wearing what she was comfortable not only did she probably feel more comfortable but she also showed him her true colors. P.S. she got a second date! I took note and from now on I'm leaving the heels at home!