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Emily Post’s Dating Etiquette


Lizzie Post, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute, offers a modern take on proper dating etiquette in the era of cell phones, gender equality and online dating.

By Theo Pauline Nestor

hink Emily Post’s advice is just for grandma’s tea parties? Think again. Lizzie Post, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute and author of How Do You Work This Life Thing?, represents a new generation of manners and etiquette for the age of text messaging, online dating and gender equality.
You don’t want any awkward moments when the bill comes.
Lizzie Post, the hip, young great-great-granddaughter of the Emily Post, gave us the straight scoop on some of dating’s toughest questions. If you’re like me and worry about more than just which fork to use, read on for the latest in dating etiquette.

Using the “Really Good Ask” technique
On the subject of asking a person out, Lizzie Post recommends avoiding the general, wishy-washy “Want to go out sometime?” approach. “If you’re asking someone out,” Post says, “ask for a specific event on a certain day so the person you’re asking can say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ You are requesting shared company for the evening; therefore, ‘Hey Bill, do you want to meet up for dinner on Friday night?’ would be what we call a ‘Really Good Ask.’ You don’t have to sound like a handwritten invitation; you just need to be clear about what you’re asking for and when.” Post emphasizes that the principle of the “Really Good Ask” applies to equally to either gender, regardless of whether you’re straight or gay.

How to politely decline dates
Post offers a host of phrases for declining an invitation in an honest yet polite manner, such as: “I’m really flattered but I’d rather not,” “I don’t think it’s a good idea,” or “I’m truly flattered, but I’m not interested in starting a romantic relationship.” Post explains that if you don’t explicitly indicate a lack of romantic interest, you may well keep getting asked out by the same oblivious person. “I believe in being honest,” Post says. “I don’t believe in saying, ‘I’m seeing someone’ or ‘I’m busy’ to get out of a date.”

The age-old question: “Who pays?”
While many of us are still confused about the question of who should pick up the tab, Post delights in solving this problem by adhering to one simple guideline: “Whoever did the asking is on the hook to pay the check unless otherwise specified.” “If you do want to go Dutch treat, now is the time to say so — during ‘The Ask,’” says Post. “You
If you want a serious relationship, say that.
don’t want any awkward moments when the bill comes. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like someone to pay for you or you don’t see this as a date, mention that during The Ask as well.”

But what if the moment gets past you in the excitement of The Ask and you forget to bring up the subject? “You could give a call or send an email before the date to clarify,” Post advises. But what if you’re already out together and concerned that the question of paying the bill is still unresolved? “You can say, ‘Could we stop at an ATM?’” offers Post. “If your date objects, simply say, ‘I didn’t want to assume.’”

Text me! Email me! Call me!
Post emphasizes getting “a feel for your date’s preferred mode of communication” so that you’re communicating in a manner that works well for both parties. “You might make your own preferences and expectations known with a comment like, ‘I’ll give you a call on Saturday’ or ‘I’ll shoot you a text,’” suggests Post.

Post cautions against texting too frequently: “As long your date hasn’t indicated he or she can’t talk and would prefer to text, you should call first.” Otherwise, “after three or four text exchanges with someone, ask if you can call instead to talk so that you’re not driving the other person crazy with a ton of back-and-forth exchanges.” And what about getting texts and cell phone calls during a date? Post says unequivocally, “Don’t do it! Turn your phone off.”

Ending a date the right way
If a first date goes well, should you plan another date immediately — or should interested parties wait a day or two to decide? “As long as both parties seem willing, it’s OK to set up that next date right then and there,” says Post.

How should you end a date when you’re sure you are not interested in seeing someone again? According to Post, “You should simply say, ‘Thanks for a nice evening.’” Post suggests stating “positive truths,” like “I liked that restaurant” or “that movie was interesting,” but avoid making misleading statements, such as, “I had a great time!”

What would Emily Post have to say about online dating?
“Whether it’s traditional or online dating, all the same rules apply,” says Post. “The most important thing is to be honest about who you are and what you’re looking for right now. And communicate that to the other person. If you want a serious relationship, say that. If you’re just looking for fun, then say that. Whatever it is you want, just be honest and open.”


Theo Pauline Nestor is the author of How to Sleep Alone in King-Size Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over and a regular contributor to Happen magazine.
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