The First Date….and How To Get A Second One.

Let’s assume you’re on a good date with someone you’d like to see again. (Bailing on a bad date is another article entirely!) If you’ve ever watched gymnastics during the Summer Olympics, you know how important it is to “stick the landing.” A great evening can’t stumble at the end if you’re going to leave the best impression on your date. Cut things short and it seems like you didn’t have fun or didn’t connect. Overstay your welcome and you squander your goodwill. And what about “the kiss?” If you’re too shy to make a move, you can come off as cold. If you slobber all over your date, you seem pushy or desperate.

How do you guide the date to the best possible conclusion? These five simple rules will you see you through!

RULE NUMBER ONE: HAVE A EXIT STRATEGY

Once you know things are going well and you don’t need to fake an appointment or a mild heart attack or have your BFF call to tell you about a sudden emergency, tell your date when you need to get home and why (work the next day, a breakfast meeting, you were dancing till dawn last night—whatever). If it’s a weeknight, it’s often best to wrap things up by 10 p.m. If it’s a weekend, I suggest you set 1 a.m. as the time you vanish or turn into a pumpkin. If possible let them know ahead of time when you need to leave so the end seems preordained, rather than due to a lull in the conversation or some imagined misstep.

That said, if conversation stalls completely, you start to get tired or you catch your date yawning, don’t pass out the Red Bull. Get out while the getting is good and save it for next time. Just like a movie, when the date reaches its climax, its best to resolve the storyline and roll credits. Even a good date can turn into the Bataan Death March if someone flat out runs out of steam. Just because you or your date had an appointment with your personal trainer at 7:30 this morning doesn’t mean your chemistry is off—gracefully exit with enthusiastic suggestions for the next outing.

RULE NUMBER TWO: GAUGE INTEREST AND ACT ACCORDINGLY

As the date’s conclusion draws nigh, consider the clues, cues and signals your date has sent you and plan your affectionate farewell. Did she touch your arm a lot, giggle, blush and bat her eyelashes? Did he seem entranced by your eyes or shower you with compliments? Did you kick around ideas for your next five dates? Did your flirty banter threaten to set the dinner table on fire? If so, put some thought into when and where you’re going to lock lips. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

From personal experience, I can say the car is not ideal. It feels so static to be sitting there not driving or getting out—obviously, we’re supposed to kiss now. Awkward! What’s more, the seat belt, gear stick, drink holder or fuzzy dice might get in your way. Trying to kiss with your neck bent at a weird angle is gonna cramp your smoochy style. On the other hand, the mood lighting of a dim doorstep can be quite romantic, unless you’re under a security lamp spotlight. If you see one coming, make your move on the closest, most secluded sidewalk. It’s actually good to be spontaneous with the goodnight kiss. If you can both practically see the neon sign flashing “This is the point in the evening where we kiss,” you’ve probably waited too long.

RULE NUMBER THREE: DON’T GUSH

There’s no need to recap all the laughs, romantic vistas or moments of bonding that occurred, as if your date needed to be reminded why you should go out again. Don’t say how amazing you think the person is and how this might be the greatest night of your life. Act like this isn’t the only good date you’ve ever been on and no matter what happens, it won’t be the last. Be cool. That’s sexy and self-possessed.

RULE NUMBER FOUR: DON’T BE DISTANT

Here’s the flip-side. You had a great time and you want to see the person again, right? Here’s how you let that show. Did the night have a running joke? See if you can toss out a clever callback to cap off the night with some symmetry. Or reference something said in passing, hours before, to show you were really paying attention. Maintaining eye contact at this point is vital. If we’re post-kiss and you liked it, grab your date’s hands and give them a good squeeze as you step away.

If you’re a girl, say, “Call me tomorrow?” If you’re a guy, say, “Can I call you tomorrow?” I know that sounds a bit controversial after a decades of being told “don’t appear too eager”, but honestly—if you had a good date, why not speak briefly on the phone the next day? It keeps things fresh and maintains the connection made during the date. Absence only makes the heart grow fonder when you have more than a few drinks worth of conversation to remember about the person.

RULE NUMBER FIVE: MIND YOUR MANNERS

My friend Paul has the art of the farewell down to a science. He thanks his date for the pleasure of her company and wishes her a good night and sweet dreams, in those words or something like them. He always walks a woman to her car or her doorstep and makes sure she gets in safely. If a woman might be too intoxicated to drive, he makes sure she either takes a cab or accepts a ride home. He is bold with his good night kiss but brief. If the woman responds, he kisses her again. He never asks to come inside, with or without some pretense, unless invited to do so. Basically, guys, go for Sir Galahad rather than the Lusty Pirate.

Ladies, express your gratitude for dinner, drinks, or whatever he bought you with a “thank-you” and a specific appreciation. “The crabcakes were divine, that wine was exquisite, that’s the best movie I’ve seen this year,” or whatever the case may be. Don’t expect him to be forward with you—he might be so polite that if you want to make out, let alone invite him upstairs for “a nightcap,” you’re going to have to make the invitation clear.

Follow these five simple rules and you’ll find yourself with a fitting finale for your first, fifth or fifteenth date.

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