Darren posted recently requesting suggestions for first dates in Vancouver. Being that I went on a LOT of them until recently, I figured I should weigh in.
How does a guy (or gal) make sure his (or her) first date passes muster, especially where Ridiculously High Standards are concerned? Follow these RHS Approved Dos and Don’ts:
DO: Invite your date out for a meal of some sort. The great thing about meal-as-date is that the end of the eating (esp. if the date isn’t going super well) is a great “end point” to the encounter. It’s a natural point where one could feel no guilt about thanking the other for a lovely time, but I really MUST be going and I’ll call you…
DON’T: Try somewhere totally unfamiliar to both of you if such things make you nervous.
DO: Do your research, read some reviews of the venue, can you afford it? Figure out what you might want (or want to avoid) on the menu, and evaluate the dress code so you aren’t the only one in Jeans or the only one in Couture.
DON’T: Forget your wallet. You should always carry enough cash to cover at least your half of the bill, as well as incidental extras, parking, and a cab home should it be necessary. Do NOT stop at the cash machine during a date. It’s tacky, and makes you look unprepared (which you are).
DO: plan the “short date” and the “extended version.” If you are having a terrible time, there is NOTHING worse than not having an escape route. If the date isn’t like most of those I had, however, then you’ll be thankful to have an option or two planned and available to continue your time together. If the weather’s cooperating (or even if it isn’t) take a walk around a local park, along the beach, or even around a local campus. Bad weather? Visit a museum, gallery, or just suggest another venue for some apres meal dessert, drinks or coffee.
DON’T: Plan “wardrobe incompatible” activities. This one is for the clueless guys to consider, and mostly pertains to shoes. If you tell your date you’re going dancing, and she should dress as such, she’ll probably wear some sultry, sexy shoes she can spin in – and which will also make her want to chop off her feet at the ankles at the end of the night. Suggesting a muddy walk along a gravel trail while she’s wearing these isn’t the best idea.
DO: Throw in a test or two to gauge your date’s reaction. Yes I know nobody wants to “play games” – but that’s really what dates are for. To fill in the blank in your ___ ever after. Decide what’s an important trait for your mate to exhibit, and see if it comes out when you put him or her on the spot.
Ladies: Walk up to a door (establishment, vehicle, whatever) and just stop. See if he opens it for you. Let the bill linger on the table to see if he picks it up right away or hesitates. Heck – visit the restroom (even if only to touch up your lipstick) and see if he takes care of things while you’re gone (extra double-plus-good points for those ones!). Will he help you with your jacket? Up stairs? Off a curb? Into and out of the car? If you let your hand linger on the table, will he reach across to caress it?
Gentlemen: Does she reach for her handbag or otherwise indicate or offer to pick all or part of the cheque? Does she laugh at the unfunniest joke you can muster up – even if she’s just laughing at your unfunniness? Does she continually scan the room, or keep her attention on you, even when you start talking about things you KNOW she’s not interested in? And will she agree to that muddy walk around the lake in her uncomfortable designer heels? If she goes for that one, you KNOW she’s into you – and heck, you can always offer to piggyback her around the big puddles.
NOTE: ETIQUETTE POINT! The asker does the paying. Ladies, if you invite a genetleman out for dinner, the bill’s on you. It’s the classy thing to do. Guys, same goes for you, though this is not an invitation to stop asking women out. If either one of you is expecting to go Dutch, accept your date’s offer to cover his/her half of the bill. However, if s/he is ungracious enough to not even offer, don’t ask. Be classy, cover the bill, and trash talk them to your friends later.
As for local first date ideas – with the above considerations in mind, here are my suggestions for venues/activities:
Fooding: Almost anything goes, taking the following into account: First dates are awkward enough without navigating crowded tables, yelling over the music or other “ambient” noise, waiting hours in line at a place that doesn’t take reservations (have one!) or dealing with mediocre service. Some of my favourite places to eat (on dates or otherwise) include: Chambar, Cru, Gotham, Cin Cin, Tojos, Carderos and Joe Fortes. If you’re out to impress a non-foodie (since the food is good, but overpriced for what you get) with a spectacular sunset, try one of the revolving restaurants. Also, your Earlstone’s Club establishments tend to work well on dates – only because they’re ubiquitous and predictible.
Activities: The key for these should be that they’re enjoyable, casual, and leave you breathless with eachother – not effort. I’d recommend against a strenuous hike, or anything that challenges a phobia (such as a suspension bridge) unless you know unequivocally that you’re both a) ironman/woman and/or b) fearless. I’d also say that it’s safer to stick within the city. Vancouver offers plenty of stimulation within accessible areas that allow for easy access, stunning scenery, and a quick escape. I’d also avoid malls or shopping (window or otherwise) – best to leave your bad taste and/or bad credit out of a first date. And for the love of Pete – if you’re going to see a movie (horrible date activity as far as I’m concerned), at least see it FIRST so you can talk about it afterward.
A good test of an idea is to ask yourself: “Should the worst-case scenario (broken ankle on a hike, whatever) actually play out AND we discover that we hate eachother – would I want to shoot my date or myself first?” If you can answer that question easily – seek help, you’re a sick individual. But you get what I’m saying. If the first date goes well, there are plenty of other opportunities for more remote and extended adventures together.
Again, some of my favourites: Any of the city beaches, Stanley Park (seawall or other trails), UBC Campus, or for some inside things, the VAG, the Vancouver Museum, the Aquarium, or the UBC Museum of Anthropology.
Ultimately, your job, as the asker of someone (and the favourable responder to the asker of someone) on a first date is to make your date feel comfortable enough that s/he can be her/himself around you, and ultimately have a good time while sussing eachother out. You should ALWAYS walk away from a first date having had a good time, whether or not you think you’d actually get along on a longer-term basis with your date. Keep that particular motive in mind, and you can’t really go wrong.
Finally, make sure you’ve cleaned your pad, changed the sheets, notified the roomies, stocked up on prophylactics, set out a couple wine glasses and put some fresh OJ in the fridge for morning. Because if you can execute a flawless and unforgettable first date, who knows where it might lead.*
*Note that we at the watercooler don’t condone an expectation of sex after a date – that’s just crass – but consenting adults have been known to go there, and like the boyscouts, it’s just best to be prepared.