I’ve been a fan of ELLE magazine’s advice columnist and counselor to the forlorn, E. Jean Carroll, since I began reading the glossy in my teenage years. Her straightforward, no-holds-barred style is refreshingly appealing, not to mention hilarious (dear).
The online dating service HowAboutWe recently sat down with Ms. Carroll to gain her insight on what makes—and breaks—a first date. Aside from her saucy suggestion that women steer clear of wearing pants (for many reasons that I can’t list here—you can read why for yourselves if you’d like), E. Jean was adamant that dinner, at all costs, be avoided in the beginning stages of a relationship. In fact, she called it “death.”
“Death, death, death. Dinner is DEATH. DO NOT go to dinner on a first date. Shall I say it again? I’ll say it again.”
The secret of dating, she said, is not about the person. It’s about the experience—which is why Carroll went on to suggest things like walking, scavenger hunts (for absinthe, no less) and other unique activities in place of swilling wine at a bar.
Personally, I hate going to dinner on a first date. Not because it’s unoriginal or because I’d rather be out strolling the Comm Ave Mall in search of cocktails hidden by magic fairies, but because there are so many intangibles riding on a dinner date. There’s a reservation to make (and sometimes, a new dress to buy) and cabs to hail. A bottle of wine to order. Conversation to make. Chivalry to exert. Should we meet for pre-dinner cocktails? And what happens at the end of the date, after a few hundred dollars are spent, if sparks aren’t flying? Is that a “wasted” date, or par for the course? Even the very nature of a dinner date—seated across from each other, enclosed by rows of other patrons who may also be on first dates of their own—can feel forced, if it’s too soon.
To avoid the remorseful, guilty emotions that arise if things don’t move on to a second (or third) date, I opt to keep first ones casual: I’ll meet for a drink (or coffee), visit a museum, check out a street fair—anything to take the pressure off and make the experience—the ‘E’ word, again—more enjoyable. Of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes an inaugural dinner date works. But generally speaking, I’ll pass.
What are your thoughts about going to dinner on the first date? Is it a lost tradition that needs reviving, or should it settle in yesterday’s dust?
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