Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sex and the single girl (#GoodFirstDates)

4 Unexpected Qualities of a Good First Date
By Erika Abdelatif for love, -j.

Online dating is weird. Real weird.

Think about it: Previous generations learned to date by example, gleaning stories from their mothers and fathers, grandparents and so on. Online dating, however, has opened up our culture to a brand new form of relationship building with virtually no pre-established cultural norms. Anything goes. That’s nuts!

I love it, though.

Online dating has given me the chance to connect with a lot more people than I normally would otherwise. In the past year, I’ve gone out on a few dozen first dates. One thing I’ve learned is that good dates don’t have to look like the movies. In fact, there are times when certain unexpected qualities make a date stand out.

I recently launched a podcast called, I Met You on the Internet. It gives me a platform to interview other singles wading through apps and sites in search of love. Let’s just say the stories are amazing, and strange, and often hilarious. (Shameless plug: you can download     I Met You on the Internet on iTunes!)

Since I love sharing golden nuggets of wisdom with readers, here are a few on “unexpected qualities of a good first date” that I’ve dug up recently:

Silence is Golden

Fluid conversation is important, but can you handle some silence? Recently, after several hours of engaging conversation, my date stopped, took a breath, and said, "Let's just be quiet for a second." He was half joking, but we leaned into it. Surprisingly, it was great. It was a relief to let the moment breathe and to enjoy our surroundings without the pressure to manufacture conversation.

Agree to Disagree

Anyone who says online dating isn't hard is lying. Learning to gauge chemistry on a series of dates with strangers is challenging. You only have a small window of time to determine compatibility. There isn't much space to be inauthentic. That being said, I like when dates are open to raw conversation. I enjoy breaching difficult topics and observing how my date handles disagreement. 

For instance, on my last first date, we dove into conversation on the upcoming election. We didn't agree on everything and, at certain points, things got a little heated. It was great! You can learn a lot about someone when they're fired up. Does he shy away from conversation? Is he too aggressive? Or can he disagree with grace and curiosity? Points of conflict will come up sooner or later in any relationship. If we can agree to disagree early on, that's probably a good sign.

Embrace the Weird

A few months ago, I went out with a guy I was on the fence about. Our pre-date chats were pretty vanilla, but I thought I should give him a chance. Not everyone is a great online conversationalist. I get that. By the end of our date, I was stumped. Did I want a second date, or not? He was still pretty blasé, but I couldn't tell if it was his personality or nerves. 

Maybe this is frowned upon, but I threw him a curveball. I brought up my love of multiverse conspiracies. (If you're unfamiliar, the multiverse is a hypothetical set of alternative universes. There are conspiracies that suggest our present day reality could be layered with an infinite number of other universes, each with their own physical laws and constraints.)

And you know what? It was a flop. He was pretty weirded out and I was turned off by his weirded-outness. We didn't talk again. What can I say? If  you're gonna get with this, you gotta be down with some multiverse discussion.

Move it

Why do we think sitting across from a stranger is a good way to get to know a person? For me, it's quite uncomfortable to muster up small talk with someone new with whom you have virtually no outside connection. And it only makes it worse when you're sitting right in front of him.

I find that dates that involve some kind of movement can help me shake off nerves and build a connection. Walk around a park. Go kayaking. Take a hike. If you have an activity you can half-focus on, you won't be forced to stare at each other weirdly when/if conversation runs out.

What unexpected qualities have you appreciated on a first date? 

Original illustration by Helena Kontos for love, -j.