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“What I Wish My Date Knew”


Men and women reveal the secret turn-offs they’d never, ever reveal to their date—but secretly want them to know. See if you’ve made any of these common mistakes.

By Elizabeth Roehrig

t’s happened to the best of us: You’re having a blast on a date. The person sitting across from you is smiling, laughing, and by the end, seems to be all too willing to see you again. Then, the object of your affections goes MIA. What happened?

Chances are, you won’t know. That’s because people are, well, polite. Dates can look like they’re enjoying your company, but in the back of their minds could be thinking Whoa, what’s up with her hair-twirling? Or If this guy mentions his yacht one more time, I’m bailing. If you’ve ever wondered whether you’ve committed a faux pas that caused your date to mentally write you off without letting on, read these men’s and women’s confessions below and see if they strike a chord — hey, at least you know now, right? — and revise your behavior accordingly.

“She checked her makeup non-stop”
“When I first met the woman my friends had set me up with, I thought to myself, ‘This could actually be good.’ Until she ran to the bathroom and spent twenty minutes fixing
This cardinal dating rule bears repeating: Don’t talk about your ex too much!
her makeup before we even ordered dinner. Then, during dinner, she went to the bathroom at least twice, and when she wasn’t in the bathroom, she was fiddling with her hair or slyly checking herself out in her compact. After dinner we saw a movie, and I was left waiting another ten minutes outside the ladies’ room. I realized that she was too busy worrying about her looks to relax and have a good time. I never mentioned it to her because what’s the use? I knew I could never date someone who required so much upkeep.”
—Jason, 37, San Francisco, writer

Dating lesson learned: Don’t obsess about your appearance
“Acting this high-maintenance can make you come across as really insecure or really vain,” explains David Wygant, a dating consultant and founder of Dailyflirt.com. Besides that, it’s hard to live in the moment when you’re constantly checking out your reflection, sucking in your gut, and wondering over and over, “Do I look OK?” These gestures tell your date that you’re not comfortable with yourself, which is an equal-opportunity turn-off for both men and women.

“He blabbed constantly about his ex”
“We met for dinner. As we looked through the menu, exchanging small talk, I had high hopes for this one. And then it happened: The ghost of the ex breezed into the conversation. I can overlook a casual mention of a past relationship, but this went way beyond a single name drop. He peppered our conversation with details of her dislikes, her annoying habits—you name it. By the end of the date I felt as if I knew her better than him—and I wasn’t interested in learning any more about either of them.”
—Carla, 27, Chicago, event planner

Dating lesson learned: Bashing your ex makes you look bad
This cardinal rule of dating bears repeating, so — all together now — don’t talk about your ex too much! “Your date will think that a) you’re not over your ex or b) you’re just out looking for a replacement,” warns Wygant. First off, make sure you truly are over your ex before you get out there again. “It’s key to take time after a break-up to figure out why the relationship didn’t work and move on,” Wygant explains. Once you’ve exorcized the ghost of the ex, following the cardinal rule won’t be so hard. And once you are out with new prospects, take care to mention your ex experience only in a positive light. Rather than saying “My ex was a lying, cheating jerk” say, “We were looking for different things” or, even more thoughtful, describe the lesson you learned from the experience, like “What I learned is that you can’t change people, only yourself.” That way you’ll impress your date rather than be a downer.

“He was all over me!”
“I went on a couple of dates with a guy who I was really into at first. The first time we went out, it was with a group of friends, and we got along great. But on our next date, he suddenly morphed into mister touchy-feely. And these went beyond flirty, friendly touches—he was stroking my hair, massaging my shoulders, constantly invading my personal space. His behavior really creeped me out. When he called to ask me out again, I told him I was busy.”
—Amanda, 31, Brooklyn, NY, stay-at-home mom

Dating lesson learned: Early on, keep your hands to yourself
Sure, a flirtatious tap on the knee or arm can be a good thing. But too much touching during those early dates can make anyone, man or woman, feel smothered. “When you try to drape yourself all over a person like this early on, you risk coming across as very needy and clingy,” says Wygant. “You can’t force that intimacy—it has to develop naturally over time.” So focus on getting to know him or her and hold off on getting closer until you feel the time is really right.

“He was obsessed with the size of his wallet”
“When I met Jake, we seemed to really hit it off. But time and time again, his talk
Your date will think that you believe money can buy everything.
always turned to money. He’d brag, ‘I dropped so much money in Vegas this weekend,’ or oh-so-subtly tell me, ‘I know this great restaurant that’s really expensive.’ Why can’t you just say, ‘I know this delicious restaurant we should try,’ and leave it at that? Looking back, I could have told him to drop the ‘money talks’ because maybe it was an act to impress me. Unfortunately, it backfired.”
—Natalie, 25, Potomac, Maryland, administrative assistant

Dating lesson learned: Money can’t buy you love
There’s a reason why “Can’t buy me love” is the title of a hit song and a movie. Broadcasting the size of your paycheck or your penchant for expensive labels just makes you seem shallow and materialistic. “Your date will think that you believe money can buy everything, even them,” says Wygant. And that’s a deal-breaker for most people—that is, unless you’ve found someone on the hunt for a sugar daddy or momma.

“He paid more attention to his computer than to me”
“Jeff and I had gone out a few times when we made plans to hang out in his neighborhood and then make dinner at his place. While we were preparing the meal, he’d occasionally pop over to his computer to chat with friends on instant messenger. After the fourth or fifth time I was left alone in front of a hot stove, I reached my boiling point and finally spoke up about his rude behavior. His response? ‘It’s not any different than if another person were in the room with us!’ After that incident, I realized I’d never come first with him and started ignoring his phone calls (and IMs).”
—Jennifer, 28, Bangor, Maine, photo editor

Dating lesson learned: Keep distractions to a minimum
Allowing the various ring tones, chimes, and beeps of your cell phone, PDA, or computer to interrupt your date speaks louder than words, saying, “You’re not that important to me.” Wygant explains: “If you can’t concentrate on another person — a live person — for a few hours at a time, your date will figure that you have social ADD and he or she will never capture your full attention.” Don’t worry, your friends will survive without you until your date’s over.

“He had bad phone etiquette”
“After a few witty email exchanges with a dating prospect, we exchanged phone numbers. I was shocked when, a day or two later, he called my phone at 7:30 in the morning! I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, and politely let him know that since I was just waking up at that time, mornings really weren’t the best time for me to talk. When I received two more early morning calls from the human alarm clock, I told him that I didn’t think it was going to work out between us, but I didn’t say why, figuring he’d have some explanation that still wouldn’t change the fact that I thought it was rude.”
—Name withheld, 38, Jersey City, New Jersey, executive assistant

Dating lesson learned: Be considerate of someone’s time
We don’t care if those excessively early or late hours are convenient for you to make a quick call—it will definitely set off alarm bells for the recipient. “Calling at odd hours makes you seem needy and inconsiderate of someone else’s time,” says Wygant. And that is not the way you want to present yourself, even if you haven’t been on a date in three years. Wygant advises calling between standard dating hours — noon and nine p.m. — unless your date tells you otherwise. Or, better yet, send your date an email saying “Hey, wanted to see if you have time to talk on the phone some time, what hours are good for you?”


Elizabeth Roehrig has written for Redbook and other publications.
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