Let’s face it – first dates are usually awkward. Now, we’re openly admitting that we’re not experts (if we were, we’d be running a dating site), but dining out is the most common first date activity, and it’s our job to make your dining out experiences good ones. So, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to provide you with some simple first-date do’s and don’ts that might just take your evening from good to great!

Do:

Be Good Company – Let’s get real, internal monologues on first dates generally go something like this:

Girls – Is he looking at my hair? $#%& I knew I shouldn’t have put it up. I wonder if he thinks this is going well. It’s going well, right? Good chemistry, good food, great lighting. He has such great teeth. Our kids totally wouldn’t need braces.  I’m only having two glasses of wine…I’m only having two glasses of wine…I’m only having two three glasses of wine. Did I turn my curling iron/straightener/ rollers off before I left? I hope my apartment hasn’t burned down yet. ..

Guys – If she moves her head just a little to the left I can almost see the highlights.  Are you kidding me? Brady connected with Ochocinco for two scores!?  I knew I should have started Ocho. I’m an idiot…wait, what did she just say?  Just smile and nod…

Step one to first date success: shut your inner-self up and pay attention to what your date is saying. Focus on the person you’re with, not the other things your brain is screaming at you.

Step two: ask engaging questions that aren’t about your date’s job or the weather. Try finding out what their favorite childhood present was or why they have a 12-disc collector’s album of Enya AND a self-made map of Middle Earth (yup, we’ve been that date). Most of all, take a breath, relax and smile like you mean it.

Make Eye Contact – Maintaining eye contact will make your date feel comfortable, and it shows that you are interested in what they’re saying. First dates aren’t for people watching, they’re for person watching. We know, we know…you just met and eye contact is, well, a little awkward – but it gets easier. And there’s a scientific bonus to this tip! Want to know whether your date is into you? Check out their pupils. The human pupil dilates when an individual is exposed to something that he or she likes. For instance, the pupils of women and infants (but not men) spontaneously dilate when they see babies. Pupil dilation is an honest indicator of interest and attraction.

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Stay in Your Dining Comfort Zone – First dates are not the time to try and impress someone by trying an exotic, fancy, or unique cuisine. Instead, play it safe with a well-lit
environment (see our previous note about eye contact and that ooh-la-la sign you’re hitting it off) and food you can both pronounce. When in doubt, think “Along Came Polly” and go with a safer option. There are plenty of sites where you can find lots of great reviews and information on local restaurant gems. Do a little leg work and find something you’ll both enjoy. (We happen to know of one site with tons of great options. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.)

Don’t:

Talk, Text, Email or Even Look at Your Phone – Seriously.  Don’t put it on the table, don’t leave it on vibrate just in case an important call comes through, just don’t. Girls, this rule even applies to the “emergency phone call.” You know, the one your best friend is making 54 minutes into the date in case you need an “out.”  Table-time phone-checking is a non-negotiable. It’s rude, it’s disrespectful, and it tells your date that the Facebook update with a picture of your friend’s dog smoking a cigar is more interesting than they are. (Which may be true, but you get the point.)

Be Closed Minded – You wouldn’t be going on a first date if what you’ve tried in the past had resulted in bells, whistles and life-long romance. All the more reason to be open minded. Maybe he’s shorter than your last 12 boyfriends. Maybe she has three cats. Or, maybe you both can quote every line of The Goonies and you’re destined for eternal bliss. You’ll never know if you don’t give it a shot. So, be open to new possibilities. It’s an hour of your life. You’ll survive, and you might even have a great time. Besides, bad dates make GREAT stories. If you walk away vowing to unfriend the person who set you up, at least you’ll have the best story at the next happy hour.

We’d love to hear your tips too! If you’re a guy, did you open your date’s car door or pull out their chair? Ladies, did you offer to pay or split the bill? Were you affectionate or reserved?

Please share your own dating advice in the comments section below!