As I mentioned in a previous piece, I think going to dinner on a first date is a bad idea. I’d like to retract that statement and replace it with another one: I think crafting elaborate plans of any kind on a first date is a bad idea. Which is why I have a bone to pick with HowAboutWe.
I realize I’m throwing myself into the shark tank here—I just boldly declared why I prefer meeting people in real life (and where I meet them) versus online two weeks ago—but my issue, this time, isn’t with the fact that HowAboutWe is an Internet dating site. It’s that over-the-top first dates are a recipe for disaster.
When you go out with someone for the first time, odds are that you’re nervous. And curious. You want to see if there’s chemistry. At least I do. That’s why I decline offers to meet for dinner when I'm just getting to know someone and instead offer low-key, low-pressure alternatives, like meeting for coffee or cocktails. Call it female intuition or just knowing what I want, but I can usually tell within 15 minutes of talking with someone, romantically or platonically, if I’m going to jive with them, at least personality-wise. It doesn’t take an expensive bottle of merlot or a white tablecloth for me to figure that out. Plus, if things turn sour—and I’ve definitely been in situations where I’ve wanted to feign illness halfway through a multi-course meal in order to cut a bad date short—it’s easy to walk away without wounding feelings (or racking up a huge tab).
Of course, I also expect the guys to do the asking—which, I realize is nerve-wracking enough in itself—and HowAboutWe, from what I can gather, makes that part easier, by allowing users to create suggestions for unique and creative dates.
Like sift through farmers’ and flea markets. Hike around reservoirs. Eat mac-and-cheese and chocolates until your respective stomachs burst. Go kite surfing or rock climbing. Paint. Play tennis. Do laundry. (Huh?)
The issue is then coming up with the craftiest date, with the winner likely being the person who’s got the most grammatically-correct headline and country club membership. Do you want to go out with the experience, or the person? Can he make you laugh, or is he too busy trying to show off his athletic prowess? Is going the farmers’ market something you normally reserve for “me” time (cough, yes)? And so on.
That’s not to say that all first dates need to or should be simplistic and dry; and certainly, if a quick cocktail turns into steak frites and closing down the bar, so be it. Sharing experiences is how we bond with other people. But assuming that the first date is when you’ll meet for the first time (and if you’re online dating, it probably is), the point is to establish a connection, not hide behind a flurry of activity that can potentially mask it. Save the elaborate dates until after you’ve made it clear that you’ve clicked, and that (ahem, guys) you won’t feel resentful for dropping a wad of cash on a person whose number you’ll delete before you get home. HowAboutWe also offers a meta site for couples who need help spicing things up via package deals a la Groupon or Gilt Groupe, but I'm going to safely assume those people are beyond the point of exchanging middle names and five-year goals.
Readers, what do you think? Do you like your first dates fancy and well-thought out, or do you prefer something more casual? Have you used HowAboutWe? If so, what was your experience like? Share your feedback in the comments below.
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