Romantic Recon 101

Want a sneak peak at what your date’s really like? Just check for these clues hiding in his or her car, kitchen, and (if you get this far) bedroom, too.

By Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro

uring the get-to-know-you phase, a date is really a table for four: two (hopefully) well-dressed people and their invisible spin doctors who are actually doing all the talking. Best sides are on display, as bad habits (lateness, temper, laundry-phobia) and unsavory traits (anal retentiveness, lousy taste in movies and art, cheap carpeting) are hidden. It’s only later that we show our true colors. But can you get an early look behind the veneer? Snooping in someone’s panty drawer or glove box is just plain sketchy, but during an apartment visit or car ride, you can learn a lot from things in plain sight. We’ll provide keen insights into the unspoken clues to personality, sexuality, and ego that give you an invaluable sneak peak going forward.

Drive-by sleuthing
You are what you drive may be a bit of an overstatement — who’s to say you shouldn’t date a lovely lass in a Viper or Escort? — but still, it is your first clue. Does that bookish yet intriguing
Photos of ancestors suggest your date possesses a strong sense of family.
librarian drive a sensible sedan or a muddy 4x4 with ski racks? Is your Dapper Dan arriving in a banged-up jalopy suggesting he squandered the insurance check on designer threads? Check for these clues to your date’s character:
  1. Exterior. Dings are evidence of a valiant parallel parker, but beware those with one working headlight or mismatched tires. If your date can’t keep his or her car road-worthy, maybe this person’s health and wellness are suspect, too.
  2. Interior. That new car smell is seductive, but any car that’s more immaculate than a rental signifies a meticulous owner that might seek the same perfection from a mate. Conversely, look out if fast-food detritus is obscuring the floor mats… with such carelessness, this love may only be temporary at best.
  3. Pre-sets & pimpin’ the ride. From vanity plates (e.g. AQUITAL, LIV4SX) to oversized rear spoilers, cars that are personalized might seem a little tacky to some, but it also suggests this person gives everything in life a personal touch, so you should expect a good deal of attention on dates. As for music, scan the CDs and radio pre-sets to see whose tendencies are new country, lite favorites, or Christian rock. A serious sound system indicates tech-savvy and someone who likes to entertain.
The three-dollar tour
After a few preliminary dates, you may get a peek at your sweetie’s personal space. Pay attention during the guided apartment tour, even if your security clearance won’t yet get you further than the living room. A minimalist space of bare walls points either to the mysteriously reserved or recently burglarized. Think of an iceberg with its hidden 90%: To find out more, you’ll have to maintain course to discover this date’s depths. As a bonus, minimalists value order and simplicity over unnecessary drama. On the opposite side are obsessive hobbyists, whose homes are saturated with visual stimuli, shrines to their adventures (e.g., yellow horse ribbons, signed celebrity pix, and triathlon jerseys under plate glass)—and you can guess where the focus of the conversation will be… themselves.

Also, magazine covers are an easy tell for such things as hobbies (e.g., Guns & Ammo, Coin World), conservative or liberal political leanings (American Spectator or The Nation), and
Take in what kind of artwork your date has on display.
hometown loyalties (San Francisco Magazine for the homesick belle whose company relocated to the Dallas office). Everyone has guilty pleasures, and while showy journals (The New York Review of Books, Architectural Digest) are usually fanned out on the coffee table, double-check the bathroom or kitchen table for trashy/fun rags that signal someone’s quirky side, whether it be Hollywood gossip or lad magazines.

Take in what kind of artwork your date has on display. Sexy black & white photographs and tasteful nudes proclaim a provocative single comfortable with racy topics and R-rated adventures. Beyond that, gauge originality and price: Works from local artisans = Bohemian tastes; museum-quality masterworks = killer inheritance from Uncle Richie and/or serious trust-fund potential; mass-market Monet Water Lilies or overplayed Robert Doisneau The Kiss by the Hotel de Ville prints = pre-packaged personality, without too many surprises. Personal photos, in particular, deserve a second look. Aged, sepia-toned pictures of ancestors, for instance, foretell a strong sense of family. Should you get a glimpse of the bedroom, know that anyone’s image within a one-foot radius of your date’s alarm clock warrants an inquisitive, “… And who might this be?” Siblings and best-est friends are the usual suspects, but if a recent ex is still hanging around the nightstand, watch out for signs of a rebound.

Interior motives
If you have cracked the inner sanctum (the bedroom), try to discern the color of your sweetie’s sheets. For years, Madison Avenue and Detroit automakers have linked color preferences to personality, and so should singles. According to The Lüscher Color Test, international bestseller on the psychology of color, “Red is impulse, the will to win… vitality… and sexual potency…. The mentally and emotionally immature, on the other hand, may prefer violet.” People who tend to be higher-strung and in need of relaxation require calming colors like blues and greens; on the other hand, mellow people can handle inspiring colors, like yellows and more exciting hues.

Also note the décor; it can also provide some clues. Is there a sense of shabby chic, or more a hint of new = better? Some people subscribe to a disposable culture and need everything to be au courant. Will you, too, be dumped when this person’s tastes render you outdated? Or, like that antique chaise lounge, will you be polished up a bit and held onto for the long term?

Phineas Mollod traded his J.D. for the editorial life and is often found riding the congested E train with his wife and daughter in New York. Jason Tesauro pushes pen and ink by day and leads the lifestyle seminar series by night, ne'er far from his sweetheart and a Brady Bunch houseful 'o tots in Virginia. Together they are the authors of The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice and The Modern Lover: A Playbook for Suitors, Spouses, and Ringless Carousers.
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