BY CANDY PARKER
Good for you. You finally mustered the nerve to ask her out, perhaps even using one of the tips I shared in a prior edition of “Lesbian dating 101.” Now you’re counting down the hours until Friday night when you’ll be meeting for happy hour at the local lesbian watering hole.
If your date is someone you met online and, as a result, don’t know very well, you may be more than a little nervous worrying about how to make a good impression at that first encounter. While I can’t tell you what to wear—that’s a far too personal and subjective choice—I can tell you some topics to avoid if you’re hoping to have a chance of turning happy hour into happily ever after.
The “ex factor”
Exes: We all have them and they’re bound to come up in conversation sooner rather than later. Try to make it later. If you can’t avoid the topic completely on the first date—your new friend could very well bring it up—you still have a choice in how you address it.
You can go with, “We were together for about three years and it just didn’t work out. I’ve been single for eight months now and I’m very happy—and even happier to be here getting to know you right now,” and likely elicit a smile from your date. Or you can go with, “Oh my god, what a nightmare she is! Even though we’ve been split for two years she’s still sleeping on my sofa. She’s so jealous that I’m out with you right now, but I told her she just has to deal. Oh, she saw your photo online and thinks you’re cute, by the way,” in which case you can expect your love interest to excuse herself for a bio break and never return.
Approach the “ex factor” the same way a parent approaches sex education with a young child—answer any questions truthfully and directly, but don’t get into too much detail.
Skeletons are for Halloween
Everybody has baggage of some sort, our so-called “skeletons in the closet.” You may have some challenging family situations or medical issues; you may be a little bit OCD about the toilet paper rolling “over” instead of “under;” you may have a pending legal matter or five credit cards that are all maxed out. But none of these topics are the stuff of which fabulous first date conversations are made. While you may be tempted to share every little personal detail and idiosyncrasy, remember two things: One, this person is a relative stranger; Two, you’re trying to make a good impression.
I’m not implying that you should lie to your date. There’s more than one way to skin a cat (or so I’ve heard I’ve never actually tried it) and there’s more than one way to answer a question. You don’t know this person—you don’t owe them a detailed financial or medical history any more than you they need to know about your issues with your mother than trace back to your fractured childhood. Anyone who asks about such things in great detail—and anyone who responds—may want to Google a little something called “boundary issues.”
Leave the laundry list in the laundry room
A first date is not the forum in which to spell out all your “requirements” of a next girlfriend/partner. The woman with three cats sitting across the table from you doesn’t want to hear about how you could never date a woman with pets, the possible exception being if you have an extreme allergy of some sort, in which case you probably should have noted that in your online dating profile.
You simply don’t need to recite a catalog of characteristics you require your girlfriend to have or an inventory of activities in which she must express interest. If you are an early to bed, early to rise active lifestyle-type person and desire that trait that in a partner, you can convey that information by sharing information about yourself. “I usually get up around five each morning and head out on a 10-mile run” is more attractive (and polite) than mandating, “Any woman I date has to be willing to get up early and run every day—no exceptions.” If she’s Cathy Couch Potato or Nancy Night Owl, she’ll draw her own conclusions regarding your compatibility as a couple.
Inquisitions are for crusaders
No one wants to feel like they’re being interrogated while on a first date. After all, a conversation is more than a series of non-stop questions. Sure, you may be nervous and have a rehearsed script you’re attempting to follow to get past those first few awkward moments, but once you ask a question try to clear your mind of any thoughts about what to ask next and simply listen. Her response may trigger a memory for you of an anecdote about yourself that you can share to keep the discussion flowing.
Conversation is a two-way street. Allow your date the right of way at times—let her ask some questions or share a fascinating story. When you are asking questions, try to make sure they’re open-ended (not requiring only a “yes” or “no” response) or that they’re a logical follow-up to something she’s revealed. Most of all, try to avoid making your date feel as though she’s on the stand for a rapid-fire cross examination.
I’m the greatest and if you don’t believe it, just ask me
Granted, first date conversation is tricky territory. You don’t want to grill your date, but you also don’t want to make the entire evening about you and only you. Of course, you’ll need to talk about yourself a bit and answer questions, but it’s best to avoid monopolizing the conversation with lengthy accounts of your legendary achievements. Braggarts and narcissists don’t get the girl. Give her some time to discover you and figure things out for herself. If you’re all that and a bag of chips, she’ll figure that out once she orders the sandwich.