Going on the date
By agreeing to meet a man you don't know on a date, you are taking a leap of faith that you won't be meeting a rapist or an axe-murderer. So, you need to be absolutely sure that you're in control at all times. If anything seems odd or unreasonable, forget it; no date is worth putting your personal safety at risk for. Plus, keep in mind that men don't have these concerns, so won't always think about them. It's down to you to look after yourself. Some points to bear in mind:
1. Always tell someone where you are going and with whom. Some dating agencies provide this service as part of their membership.
2. Always make the first meeting in a public venue, midway between where you both live or work, easy to find, and where you won't have to walk a long way on your own in the dark. Pubs are not great, because they're not easy places for a woman to sit on her own; better a hotel, wine bar, coffee shop, cafe or similar.
3. On the first occasion, meet for a short time - maybe a drink or a coffee - so neither of you have too much invested in the outcome. Don't go for a three course meal on your first date. Don't let the date drift on because you're too polite to say something. You don't want to be missing the last train or walking home in the dark.
4. Arrive on time. Forget any notions of being fashionably late; you will just end up drinking/eating unfashionably on your own.
5. Make an effort on your appearance and arrive and leave sober. Research by professionals' dating agency RSVP shows that, in dressing for a date, men prefer women to:
- be dressed appropriately for the venue
- be smart, rather than tarty
- be clean and well-groomed
- be lightly and subtly made-up
6. Greet your date in warm and friendly (though not over-friendly) way, regardless of your initial impression. Our body language can give so much away; steel yourself against that.
7. Have a fund of things to talk about. These shouldn't be too deep; although dating is an accelerated process, there's no need to discuss whether you want children at the first meeting. Try to establish a light-hearted, fun atmosphere, with plenty of laughter.
8. Find some common ground - interests, work, holidays, music, film - so you can focus on building some shared experience.
9. Don't drone on about previous relationships. No-one wants to hear a blow-by-blow of your messy divorce.
10. Pay half. Leave your ideas about male chivalry at home; this is a meeting of equals.
11. To close, agree what you'll do next. Don't lie. If you like him and want to see him again, tell him what you will do to set up the next meeting - or agree it there and then. If someone agrees to call, that can be you or him; he won't think you're too keen if you call him! If you don't want to see him again: 'I've had a lovely time and thanks very much for meeting me. But I don't feel I want to take it further at this stage'. Some agencies organise events (see RSVP's singles events) and this offers a great (and somehow less final) exit if you don't want to see him again: 'I'll look forward to seeing you at an event very soon'.