Eleven Tips for a Great First Date:
1. Be friendly: Hello, Captain Obvious. You want them to like you, so engage with them!
2. Keep it casual: Ask someone to grab some coffee with you at the Cage or a meal in the cafeteria. Feeling a little more creative? Make it a picnic and take your trays outside. Or, take a walk into Northfield or the Natural Lands. These dates are low-key and keep you both in familiar, neutral territory. Maybe the date ends back at someone’s room, but you might not want to start there!
3. Don’t put too much pressure on it: Let’s be real. First dates can be awkward. You want it to go well (or I assume you do if you’re reading “Eleven Tips for a Great First Date”) and, as you’re sitting there with them, ten billion thoughts are flashing through your head. Was that joke funny? Do they think I’m cute? Will we have a second date? Is this the person I’m going to marry?! Relax. Don’t expect love at first sight. Let yourself be comfortable in the awkwardness.
4. Use your manners: Just like you were (hopefully) taught as a kid. Say “please and thank you,” be polite, make eye contact, etc. That being said, recognize too, that at St. Olaf, we have all kinds of people with all sorts of backgrounds, and your standard for “manners” might not be the same as the person you asked out. Do your best to be polite, and don’t automatically assume rudeness if the other person’s manners don’t quite align with yours.
5. Keep the phones away: Unless, of course, you’re texting your best friend and asking them to call with a fake emergency to get you out of there! Aside from that, take an hour or two to really focus on the person you’re with. First dates are about getting to know people, so get to know them! Which leads us to…
6. Ask them questions: Act interested, folks! You have essentially two options here. Option A: Start with something you have in common. In a class together? Ask what they think of the professor or the homework. Easy. Option B: Ask them about something you know they like. Are they on a sports team or in choir? Do they have any pets? Brothers or sisters? Remember, they might throw the question back at you, so don’t ask a question you wouldn’t answer.
7. Don’t stress about who is going to pay: Repeat with me: We do not equate money with masculinity. If you don’t identify as male, and/or you’re not dating one, this might not apply, but men don’t have to pay on the first date! (All genders and sexualities tune back in.) That being said, it is almost always flattering when someone offers to pay. So both of you should offer! Or sometimes it’s just way less awkward to split the bill (hello, Cage), or go somewhere free (re: Natural Lands).
8. Stalk their social media, but don’t excessively reference it: We can be honest with each other. You’ve stalked your crush 12 million times on 9.5 different social media platforms. That’s fine. Do your research. We’ve all been there. If you mention their new profile picture or latest weekend update? Cute, you were paying attention. Asking them about their 2008 family trip to the Grand Canyon? Stalker. If it comes up naturally, great. Otherwise, no. Just no.
9. Be confident (or at least pretend): I’m not saying be cocky and drag up your 4th grade report card of all A’s to prove you’ve always been this amazing. I’m saying know your own worth. You are a successful college student who’s made it too far in life to let a little first date get you down.
10. Wear what makes you feel good: Are your tennis shoes the best purchase you’ve ever made? Go for it. Do you look sexy as hell in your skinny jeans? Go for it. Does nothing give you a confidence boost like your Gryffindor scarf? Go for it. Remember basic hygiene and that everything else is there to help you feel good and express yourself. (Unless you’re skipping right to a black tie gala, in which case, READ #2! And wear your best.)
11. Be honest, and be yourself: This one’s cliché, I know. But it’s cliché because it’s true. When I’m on a first date, I don’t ask questions to get the answers I want to hear. I ask questions to get to know the person I’m with. And I answer truthfully because I want to let them get to know me as well.
Having trouble navigating the St. Olaf dating scene? Need help finding a date? Got more dates than you can handle? Or have a response to this week’s column? E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe one of our love columnists will answer them in next week’s issue. All submitted questions will remain anonymous.