Best First-date Moves For Men

Six single women discuss discuss first dates and what guys can do to impress them.

By Bob Strauss

s you’ve probably discovered by now, men and women have very different concepts of what makes for a successful first date. If you’re a guy, just making it to the end of dinner without spilling your drink means you’ve practically scored; women, however, tend to pay more attention to complicated stuff like courtesy, conversation, and charisma. To get some insight into the female perspective, we convened a roundtable of single, successful, 20-something women and asked them to tell us the truth.

Our panel:
Moira, 24, junior account executive
Jessie, 24, sales coordinator
Kelsey, 29, non-profit fundraiser
Helen, 25, medical assistant
Rachel, 26, accountant
Laura, 27, assistant account executive

OK, that guy you gave your phone number to —whether online or at a party — has just met you for your first official date. What’s the first thing you notice?

Moira: How mature or immature he is. One guy
If a guy talks too much out of nervousness, that’s a turnoff.
I met didn’t even know how to go out on a date—say, how to ask me out, what to say during the date. He wasn’t an initiator, and he seemed very young in that regard—he reminded me of my little brother.

Jessie: A little cockiness helps. If a guy talks too much out of nervousness or if his voice cracks, that’s a turnoff. C’mon, it’s just a date!

Kelsey: It’s important for a guy to treat people well. If he’s really disrespectful, that’s a turnoff. I once dated a guy who was impatient in restaurants and actually snapped his fingers to get service.

Helen: How confident he is. That really comes through.

What do you mean, “confident”?

Rachel: Confidence means someone who’s OK with what he is—his looks, his personality, his background. If you’re confident, you’re talkative, and girls like a guy who can be a smooth talker. A guy either has to be relaxed and confident, or he has to be good at faking it.

Does that have anything to do with what he does for a living?

Kelsey: No. Don’t ever namedrop where you work. Don’t just throw stuff out. Wait till she asks. That stuff doesn’t matter as much as guys think it does.

Laura: But if you live with your parents?

Kelsey: That’s a huge thing here in New York, how much you earn. The expectations are much higher, and that’s sad. I was never like this until I moved here.

Laura: But it’s not just resources, it’s ambition and potential, too. If a guy is a bartender, maybe it’s what he’s doing now, like “I’m bartending because I’m putting myself through law school.”

Moira: Not even a rich guy is impressive if he doesn’t have ambition.

Does it matter where he takes you? Or whether he pays for the date?

Kelsey: Paying for the meal is a must. On the first date, never let her pay. If you’re not willing to pay for a girl on a date, don’t ask her out in the first place. But it’s nice if the girl offers to pay for, say, parking, even though I think we don’t want you to really take us up on the offer!

Moira: Whether or not he pays shows how the relationship will go. I hate it when a guy’s like, “Why don’t we split this?” College boys are like that.

And the restaurant? Does it make a big difference to you?

Jessie: It depends on what type of date
A date is even more awkward when one person is drunk and one isn’t.
you’re having—if you’ve met in a casual atmosphere, a casual restaurant is fine.

Rachel: I had a guy take me to a five-star restaurant on our third date—I was like, you don’t take someone here this soon!

Kelsey: It’s also how he behaves in the restaurant. If you don’t open a door, you don’t know how to be a gentleman. Show concern. Ask her if she wants another drink, and don’t chug your own drink. A date is even more awkward when one person is drunk and one isn’t.

Rachel: Oh, and if you pick her up in your car, make sure your car is clean. If you don’t want to clean it, pick her up in a taxi.

What about his behavior during the date?

Kelsey: If a guy’s not going to go out of his way to focus on you for the night, that’s a deal-breaker. I expect to be the center of attention. It’s like going to a job interview, except both people are nervous.

Moira: Touching is always a good sign—it’s huge. Just a little touch on the wrist, that kind of thing. Not groping! And little compliments.

Kelsey: Whatever you do, don’t ever compare this date to your last date. That’s when you know a guy has baggage. On the other hand, it is important to hear about past relationships, because that tells you what kind of man he is.

OK, so the guy doesn’t meet your standards. What next?

Moira: Phase it out. Let it die. After two or three dates, you don’t owe him an explanation. After a year, maybe.

Kelsey: You have to make excuses.

Rachel: I’ll say, “I don’t want a boyfriend right now.” Which is true. I don’t want him as a boyfriend, but keeping it general — I hope — will be less hurtful than saying, “I don’t want to date you.”

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, the online information network owned by the New York Times.

For the male perspective on best first-date moves, read Best First-date Moves For Women.

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