Last month my friend Paul met an interesting woman, asked her to dinner, and thought it went superbly — until she turned him down for a second date. He couldn’t understand it; hadn’t she been charmed by his “funny” stories about his ex? Uh-oh, I thought. Paul had unwittingly been Annoying First Date Guy, but didn’t yet know it. It happens at coffee houses, galleries and restaurants every day: a guy with good intentions blows that crucial first date and has no idea why. Want to get clued in? Here are 10 common pitfalls:
1. Going on a rant about a former significant other. No good can come from talking about an ex-girlfriend on a first date. Saying something positive about an ex is threatening, and saying something negative is just plain annoying. My friend Leslie agrees: “My favorite annoying first date is the guy who spent the entire time describing in detail how nasty his ex was,” she says. “By the end of the date, he had pointed out the restaurant where she threw a drink at him and the street corner where she screamed at him about his lack of affection.” The first date is about the two of you getting to know each other. Bringing the ex into the conversation makes it seem like three’s a crowd.
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2. Divulging too much personal information that’s not flattering. Take a hint from comedian Chris Rock, whose dating advice goes something like this: When you first meet someone, you’re not you. You’re the ambassador of you. In other words, this is not the time for full disclosure. I went on a first date with a guy who told me that he takes antidepressants, that he tends to be a slob, and that his family doesn’t get along. “I’d really like to see you again,” he said, “but I think I should be upfront about who I am from the beginning.” Even worse are guys who reveal unflattering personal information without even realizing that it isn’t helping their case. “My dog is my life,” a guy told my friend Sherene on their first date. “I’ve had the dog since I was a kid,” he continued... and then he added shamelessly: “I also live with my parents.” The information was bad, but the fact that he had no idea it was bad made it horrifying. Remember: it’s a first date, not a therapy session!
3. Making the date feel like a job interview. Let’s face it: A first date is a kind of job interview (for the position of significant other). But if a woman is going to put on a cute outfit and blow-dry her hair for you, try not to make her feel like she’s in the room with the head of human resources. She’d rather have a casual conversation than be subjected to obvious probes, like: “How long has it been since your last relationship?” Just as bad are men who try to suss out key information by dropping calculating questions into the conversation. My friend Sara found it particularly irritating when a guy tried to figure out her age by asking her opinion of the 1972 Olympics and then saying, “Oh, but you couldn’t possibly remember that” in a questioning tone. Really?
4. Having too much attitude. Laurie, a single woman in New York, was asked by a man during their first date what TV shows she watched. When her date learned that she didn’t like the show Seinfeld, he didn’t believe her. Then, he wouldn’t let it go for the entire meal. “He just couldn’t fathom my not liking that show,” Laurie explained. “It was as if I’d just said, ‘Yes, I live my life without consuming any liquids.’” Guys, if you want a second chance, don’t spend the first one trying to convince your date that she’s not normal because your passion for a syndicated sitcom is not reciprocated.
5. Visibly admiring other women. Most men know better than to stare at other women while on a first date. But it’s just as exasperating if your date asks you what you thought of the latest blockbuster hit, and your response is to go on a tear about how beautiful Angelina Jolie’s lips are. If you think the woman sitting across from you is ever going to be secure enough to kiss you after that, think again.
6. Complaining about the chosen venue for your date. Don’t ask your date to “pick any place you want to go” only to whine about it once you’re there together. That happened to Liz, who chose a place with a lunchtime tasting menu for her first date. Not only did the guy grumble, but “he proceeded to tell me that he had eaten a big breakfast and wondered who could eat a three-course lunch,” she recalls. “I told him ‘I could’ and pointed to myself — and then to every other diner in the restaurant.”
7. Arguing combatively with your date. It’s one thing to talk about current events if there’s a lull in the conversation, but it’s quite another to ask your date’s opinion on anything from the Middle East to the upcoming election cycle and then get into an argument with her, no matter what she says. That happened to 29-year-old Melissa when she and her date got into it about public versus private schools. “I was annoyed that he fought me on so many things — especially on our first date,” says Melissa.
8. Eating your date’s dessert. Unless you’re at a Chinese restaurant, there’s a reason you each have your own plate. Just because a woman might eat more slowly than you do doesn’t give you license to take a bite of her meal — especially without asking first. In Liz’s case, her date didn’t even wait until she’d taken a bite herself before diving in. “When my dessert arrived,” Liz says, “my date reached across the table and speared my gateau au chocolat with his fork. Talk about annoying!”
9. Not walking her to safety at the end of the date. Almost as off-putting as the overzealous man who goes in for a kiss too aggressively is one who leaves his date standing there on the street at the end of the night instead of walking her to the safety of her car or a taxi to give her a ride home. This irked my pal Julia: “True, we were going in two different directions — but, hello? Take care of the girl first!” she says, adding: “Stuff like that usually points to bigger problems.”
10. Saying “I’ll be in touch” after the date goes badly. Your date knows that the evening went badly, and you know she knows it, too... so why say that you’ll call when it’s obvious that you won’t? Here’s a better suggestion: “I’d like him to say, ‘Good to meet you, take care,’” says Monica, who feels that men can still be nice without lying (or making a woman sit by the phone for no reason).
And by the way, my friend Paul heeded some of this advice on a recent date. There were no rants about his ex-girlfriend, no “I’ll be in touch” at the end of a lackluster dinner. Of course, this was a complete turn-on to his date, who thought he was a great catch and has since set him up with a friend of hers. Paul now promises to save his “funny” stories for, oh, at least their second date.