What I Know Now: How to Prepare for a First Date

Things started out pretty normal. We met on an online dating website, talked and texted over the phone, and set a date. He was going to pick me up, but then at the last minute let me know that he actually needed a ride. As a single mom, gas money is often tight for me, and he lived 45 minutes away. But I made the drive and tried to stay open-minded.

Once the date got started things seemed to be going pretty well. We drove to Newport on the Levee, an outdoor/indoor plaza with a bunch of restaurants and entertainment options, like an arcade, bowling, a night club, and a movie theater just across the river from Cincinnati. The skyscraper lights were really pretty in the night sky, and I snapped a picture on my phone to mark the memory, just in case this date ever turned into something more.

At the arcade we laughed as I beat him at all the shooter games we played and at the moving basketball hoop game, too. At the bar across the street we sat and talked while strobe lights moved around us, TVs blared, and people shot pool. It was our first date, and I had enjoyed myself. Maybe there’d be a second date, I thought. But then on the way to drop him off at his house he asked me a question.

“Do you have twenty bucks I could borrow?”

He must have seen my shocked look.

“I’ll pay you back,” he promised.

It took me a second to tell him that I didn’t have it. He said he’d spent all his money on our date. But my thought was, if he didn’t have the money to take me out then he shouldn’t have asked me out and offered to pay. We didn’t have to go to Newport and spend a bunch of money. I know what it’s like to not have much money—I would have been happy with a cheap date and good conversation. The walk along the river would have been enough for me.

The fact that he didn’t plan ahead for our date didn’t make a good first impression. It also made me wonder if he might be irresponsible or bad with money or not willing to work to take care of himself or on drugs. I’ve been in relationships before where I felt like I had to pull all the weight. I’m not equipped to take care of my kids and a man. A relationship has to be two adults both working together. So I took it as a red flag and didn’t go on a second date.

But I don’t want to just criticize my date. The whole experience made me realize that I also need to make sure before I go on a date that I’m ready—mentally, physically, and emotionally. So I made a list of a few things that will help me do that.

  • Look in the mirror. When doing my hair, make-up, and picking out an outfit I want to make sure I’m just being me and not trying to copy someone else’s look. I want to feel confident in my own skin and that won’t happen if I’m trying to look like someone else.
  • Remind myself of what I’m looking for in a man. My standards help me avoid falling into a relationship that I don’t really want or haven’t really thought through. Whenever I lower my standards, I usually find myself in a bad relationship in which I am miserable and resent the other person.
  • Know who is paying and what the budget is. No need to always have a night on the town. A fun date doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • Remind myself of my boundaries. One of my boundaries is to not have sex on the first date. This helps me know that the person I date isn’t just after sex. I want to date someone who really wants to get to know me, not someone who is just looking for a hook up.
  • Adjust my expectations so that they are not too high and not too low. It’s hard not to get excited about the possibility of a perfectly romantic date. But it’s important to remind myself that guys are nervous on first dates and you are just getting to know one another—there’s bound to be some awkwardness and that’s okay. It’s also important not too talk yourself down so much that you end up not looking forward to the date at all!

With a list like this in mind as I’m standing in front of the mirror putting that last wave of mascara on my eyelashes, I can mentally prepare myself. What are some ways that you get ready for a first date?


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