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Master The Museum Date…


…And other cultural outings that give you the chance to really impress your sweetie. Follow the advice ahead.

By Bob Strauss

et’s get real: When it comes to planning a third or fourth date, the latest Ben Stiller flick or early-evening set by the local Slayer tribute band simply won’t do. What you want is something highbrow — the opera, the ballet, an afternoon at the museum — if only to show your prospective soul mate that there’s more to your life than dollar beers and potato chips (or, conversely, to prove to your own satisfaction that he or she has untapped reserves of taste and intellect). How does one go about this? Well, as a longtime serial dater who likes to take advantage of all New York has to offer, here are a few of my guidelines for a successful cultural date:

Choose your venue wisely
There’s culture, and then there’s culture. While she probably won’t object to a local
This isn’t a quiz show; it’s a date.
production of, say, The Importance of Being Earnest, your date may be a bit stressed out by a $500 balcony seat at the Kennedy Center Honors (you know, the one that’s usually broadcast live on PBS). Save the huge, expensive nights out for your first or second anniversary—if nothing else, ladies, your date will thank you for not having to rent a tuxedo.

Try not to show off
Dating is all about getting to know the other person—so unless you want that gal you met online to discover you’re an underemployed temp with a useless doctorate in art history, don’t spout off about how Manet was misunderstood by his fellow impressionists or Van Gogh “wasn’t really that talented.” By the same token, if the guy you’re with expresses his admiration for a specific painting, don’t burst his cultural bubble by saying something like, “Yeah, I guess that one is OK if you buy into that whole abstract figurativism thing. Now, I think what you’ll really like is…” This isn’t a competition or quiz show; it’s a date.

Don’t bite off more than you can (culturally) chew
Years ago, a gal I met invited me to the opera on our second date. She did her homework
Remember, your tastes in the arts don’t have to be identical.
well: The production (Donizetti’s L’Elisire d’Amore) was relatively short, light-hearted, and even had a romantic theme. That was a much better choice than, say, Wagner’s 15-hour Ring cycle, which even a diehard opera veteran has only a 50-50 chance of surviving. By the same token, if you’re going to visit a major art museum, it’s better to focus on one or two exhibits than to exhaust yourselves trying to encompass 5,000 years of Western culture.

Remember: Everyone is entitled to his or her own tastes
When you invite your date to hear Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, the important thing is that he or she is willing to explore the experience—not that this person comes out of the performance raving about early 20th century classical music and insists that you two run to the nearest CD shop to stock up on Debussy and Grieg. Sure, it would be nice if your date shared your cultural interests, but unless your sweetie says something like “I have never, in my entire life, endured anything as deadeningly dull as that,” don’t be too quick to throw out this person’s phone number. Perhaps next week you’ll be initiated into the joys of what your honey considers culture... and you’ll be the one left scratching your head.


Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on About.com, the online information network owned by the New York Times.
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