Last night I went on my first date, my first in 14 years. It may be another 14 years before I do it again. Don’t get me wrong— my date was intelligent, cute, funny, and possessed one of my favorite qualities: self-deprecation. This was especially impressive because he is a doctor. Correction: a surgeon. I think I should have started with a paper boy.
On my drive home, I replayed in my mind every excruciating moment. I had an overwhelming feeling that I had broken every dating rule ever written. So when I arrived home, I logged onto firstdate.com. I read in horror the long list of “dating don’ts.” Sure enough, I had unwittingly committed nearly every one. The only thing missing was my photo, hanging above the list like a wild-west wanted poster. In the 60-watt clarity of my desk lamp, each of the rules seemed so obvious:
1. Do not talk about your ex-spouse on a first date. Not only did I talk about my ex, I practically told his entire life story, starting from conception: his terrible childhood, his resultant baggage, his brilliant mind, and the fact that, although he is my ex, we’re still good friends and I love him. At this point, I’m sure my date was trying to figure out how long it would be before my ex and I were back together…unless he was too busy looking for the restaurant’s emergency exit. Thankfully, I left out the part about my ex having intimacy issues and all that that implies. How I managed to contain this part of the story, I have no idea. I must have actually let my date speak. Or, perhaps seeing where I was going with this storyline, he was kind enough to interrupt me.
2. Do not mention sex on a first date. Well, technically, I did not break this rule, as I believe this actually means you’re not supposed to mention that you’d like to have sex on the first date. But here’s the rub (at least figuratively): since my job involves learning about teens and their everyday challenges, when my date asked what my research shows, I could have mentioned peer pressure, drinking or drugs. But no, I had the uncommon good sense to talk about the recent trend of girls giving boys oral sex as routinely as those of us from decades past used to French kiss. Only I didn’t say “oral sex,” I said “blow jobs.” Talk about polite dinner conversation! According to firstdate.com, this is grounds for an immediate end to any date, unless you’re actually offering said blow job. To be fair, my date did not seem put off and, in fact, said he had heard about this trend. Still, I don’t think I scored any extra points in the lady-like department when I tried back-pedaling, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for oral sex.” What in the world was he supposed to make of that?
3. Do not mention the date’s ex on a first date. I don’t know how we got on this one, but in fact, both of my date’s exes were mentioned. Unlike me, he was smart enough to give abbreviated versions. At least I was able to reign in my journalistic tendency to ask 100 questions in 60 seconds. One point for me. Not nearly enough to make up for my failing score.
4. Ladies should not drink beer on a first date. Not only did I order and drink a beer, I explained to my date that the café we were patronizing used to carry a fabulous beer that is no longer available due to the fact that the brewery – which had been owned by a woman, no less — was recently shut down, and I was terribly disappointed because it was one of the best-tasting beers I had ever had and if I could, I would buy that brewery. Yes, I actually said that, and without a breath, just like it reads here. At which point my date said, naturally, “Oh, you really know your beers.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.
5. Do not talk about marriage on a first date. Now, to my credit, I didn’t start this topic of conversation. My date asked me what I thought made for a good marriage. I have no idea why he asked me, since I had already made it clear that I had recently come to the conclusion that marriage pretty much kills a relationship. In fact, I said that I supported Katherine Hepburn’s view of marriage and quoted her as saying “married couples should live near each other and visit frequently.” (By the way, there is no rule about trashing marriage on a first date; I think the website feels this is so obvious that it need not be mentioned. Obviously, they were wrong.) In hindsight, I think the question about what makes a good marriage is one of those Miss America-type questions, where I should have given a non-answer answer about saving the world and feeding the hungry. Instead, coming from the marriage I was in (see number 1 above), the first thing I said was “sexual compatibility.” My date tried to help me out, saying that surely I meant the greater good of intimacy and closeness, etc. I guess that was his Miss America response. But I was steadfast in my answer. After a while, my senses returned and I remembered to mention honesty, trust, respect, friendship and the true number-one for me, sense of humor. So maybe he thought I was kidding all along. One can only hope.
6. Do not kiss good night on the first date. Gotcha. You don’t actually think I got close to breaking this rule, do you? Instead, I did the awkward shaking hands with my non-handshaking hand thing. It was like I was possessed by my grandmother. And then, as if straight out of the Mary Tyler Moore show, I said I’d be glad to help if he ever needed information about things to do or see in Atlanta. I didn’t offer to take him or go with him, just to point him in the right direction. After that, I wouldn’t even ask me out on a second date, and I know all the really good stuff about me. Needless to say, there was no “I hope to see you again” or “call me sometime.” It wasn’t until I got into my car that I realized I hadn’t taken a breath for the past three hours. Surely the lack of oxygen was responsible for my impossibly geeky behavior, right? If I had only passed out, the evening would have gone much better.
There are actually 22 “don’ts” on firstdate.com. Among the ones I managed to avoid were:
Don’t smoke. Not cigarettes, not marijuana, not crack cocaine.
Do not bring your child. Duh. I also left the baby album in the car at the last minute. So there.
Do not wear a low-cut or revealing top. In hindsight, this might have helped things considerably.
Do not recite from the bible. Although I managed to steer clear of both testaments, I did quote a People Magazine article, which is actually number 11 the “don’ts” list.
Do not tell your parents you are going on a date, especially when it is with a doctor-correction-a
surgeon. When I called my folks the next day to give them a very brief synopsis, I heard my father yell to my mother, “Cancel the caterer, honey.” I then explained that I wouldn’t be telling them about any future dates since I never again wanted to make that day-after-the-date phone call. For this, my mother has not spoken to me in over a week — which is actually the silver lining to this whole ordeal.
Although it is hard to tell from my rate-a-date score, all in all, I’m very glad I went out, if for no other reason than to have done it. There is only one first date after a divorce, and I was lucky to have had it with such a nice guy. He walked me to my car, and even made a thoughtful, understanding comment about the necessities of motherhood when I pointed out that mine was the mini-van among the Lexuses and BMWs. I had considered renting a convertible for the evening but nixed the idea when I thought about how awkward it would be if we made it to date number two and I had to explain why my cool car had turned into a mommy-mobile. Obviously, I needn’t have concerned myself about the possibility of date number two.
As for showing up in that mini-van in the first place? Violation of rule number 22.