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Rules of Engagement for a First Date

February 9, 2007

By Jonathan Pinkerton, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

Feb. 9–First dates can be truly memorable — often it’s because you didn’t meet the perfect match. Here are some tips and considerations that may lead to that coveted second date.

What makes a good first date?

Do not exceed two hours: “People tend to burn out easy on a first date,” says Mara Rogers, a life coach from San Francisco. “(Two hours) helps keep the momentum, and there’s an opening to decide whether to see if you want another date.”

Body language is key: Rogers recommends keeping an eye on the body language of the other person and at the same time keeping yours relaxed.

“Rarely do people let their smiles reach their eyes,” she says about those who hold back emotions. “Think of something to make you smile.”

A relaxed atmosphere with a lot of smiles will ease the pressure or awkwardness.

Do something on the date: Stacy Kaiser, a licensed psychotherapist and lifestyle coach who is featured on VH1′s “Celebrity Fit Club,” suggests going on a date where an activity is involved.

She says that if there is trouble with conversation, an activity can be a good distraction and may even provide a conversation-starter.

“When you have thrills, it brings two people closer,” Kaiser said.

Be honest, of course: “Don’t be someone you’re not,” Kaiser says. “People get nervous, exaggerate and think, ‘I’m going to go act like my friend who gets a lot of dates.’ “

Plus, who wants to date a liar? Starting a relationship on a mound of deception is never a good way to go.

First-date faux pas

Don’t get too ahead of yourself: “I have a friend who asks, ‘Do you want a big or small wedding?’ ” Kaiser said. “She never gets a second date.”

Learn from her flub.

Go in with low expectations: Rogers thinks that a common blunder people make is that they walk in with prejudgments and assumptions.

“It’s like you’re wheeling in your own baggage,” she says.

The basics: Being really late, asking intimate and personal questions, making a sexual advance too soon and even talking a lot can send a first date to the grave, according to Kaiser.

“You want to really try and gauge where the other person is at,” she says. “Don’t talk too much. Listen and be interested in what the other person says.”

If you’re on a dinner date, Kaiser suggests being considerate of the prices. If you’re not paying for the food, then don’t order the duck if your date is having an appetizer. Try to either match or order something cheaper than what the other person is getting.

Get out of the past and focus on the present: Rogers thinks one of the biggest mistakes people make is that they talk about their failed relationships.

“It’s not about the past, it’s about the present,” she says.

Where to go?

Coffee is good: A coffee shop is the most popular place to go on a first date, according to a survey conducted by Match.com.

“Coffee or tea provides a really good prop,” Rogers said. “If they fidget they have something to hold on to.”

Other good places for first dates listed in the survey include going for a walk in the park, a local diner, a sporting event and even a bar.

Movies are bad: “Movies are bad because you can’t get to know each other,” Kaiser said. “It’s comfortable and you can get close but you can’t connect in a movie theater.”

Other bad first dates include family functions, dance clubs, the beach and mini-golf, according to the survey.

Saying goodbye

Do you kiss good night or shake on it? If you want a kiss and you feel a spark, don’t be shy and ask if it’s OK to kiss, according to “How To Behave: Dating and Sex” by Caroline Tiger (Quirk Books, $14.95, 223 pages).

But if you are shy, then ask with your body. Make a lot of eye contact and start to lean in. Your date should get the hint and if not, you’re better off with asking, despite its potential awkwardness.

Whatever you do, do not lunge at your date.

If you’re faced with someone aggressive and you’re not feeling the good-night kiss, cough or sneeze and say that you may be getting a cold. That should give you some time to pull back and make your escape.

Keep in mind …

The connection between you two is what the date is all about, and if there isn’t one, don’t keep the date going.

“It’s actually worse to stay on a bad date because it leads the other person on and they think they have a possibility,” Kaiser says.

“The bottom line about a first date has a lot to do with chemistry,” she says. “If you have chemistry and interest with somebody, you’ll overlook a lot of flaws.”

Rogers believes that to be successful with a potential partner, you’ll have to develop a friendship.

“Ask yourself, ‘would this person be a great friend to me?’”

Before you do anything …

Fire up the computer and do some research: You should expect to Google and be Googled before going on the date, according to “How To Behave.” As silly as it sounds, it may shine light on a criminal record he or she is withholding. But also keep in mind that many people share the same name, so you may not really be meeting up for a mocha with the same guy who held up a Burger King.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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