Your Dating Bill Of Rights

Here comes July 4th. Let’s all hold these truths to be self-evident, and enjoy dates more!

By Nina Malkin

e, the people — in particular, those socially active seekers of romance, companionship and pleasure — deserve certain inalienable rights when it comes to charting the waters of the dating scene. And so, in honor of Independence Day (you’re looking for love, not surrendering your sense of self), here they are!

You have the right to ask.
If you meet a person of interest, you are free to ask him/her out. Sounds simple — but until you fully
Getting to know a new person can be a nerve-racking process.
embrace this concept, you may hinder yourself socially. Asking someone out is not gender exclusive (i.e., women can and should do it). And no one is out of your league (the worst he/she can say is no, thanks). So unless the person you’ve got designs on is in a relationship or part of a celibate religious order, ask away!

You have the right to feeling jittery.
Getting to know a new person can be a nerve-racking process. Pre-date anxiety is so common, in fact, that it’s a safe bet the person you’re sweating about seeing is doing the same about you. It’s all right to not only feel it, but admit it. Indeed, saying, “I’m a little nervous about tonight” can work as an icebreaker.

You have the right to expect punctuality.
It’s a date, not a “stop by whenever…” open house. Expect to be met or picked up on time (so be ready or at the rendezvous spot on time), or called in advance if delays are unavoidable. Consider enacting a 15-minute rule. If a date is a quarter of an hour late, don’t wait!

You have the right to free speech.
Yes, you want this person to like you, but that doesn’t mean you should alter your ideas or opinions to voice what you think your date wants to hear. Speak your mind! That said, make sure you encourage your date to speak freely, too. No one wants to hang out with a conversation hog.

You have the right to have some fun.
Approach dating like a job interview, and a good time will not be had by all. While the impulse to ascertain someone’s long-term commitment potential is natural, it’s a bit self-defeating in the early stages of dating. Go on activity dates that will help you get a vibe about the other person (as opposed to doing entirely talk-centric stuff that can make both of you feel scrutinized and squirmy). Think brief, planned encounters initially instead of random marathons. Keep conversations light by staying on topics like shared interests (rather than delving into each other’s psyches and romantic histories right away).

You have the right to your date’s undivided attention.
A date is, by and large, a one-on-one planned activity. It’s not about two people and a gadget. Or two people and all of one person’s friends at the bar. If the individual you’re out with constantly checks email or takes cell phone calls — or is so distracted by others in the room that
Physical attraction is what makes dating different from other relationships.
you feel ignored — end the date early and move on.

You have the right to bare arms — or long sleeves.
Wear jeans and a T-shirt — or something fancier if it makes you feel more on top of your game. The point is, dress comfortably for dates by donning an outfit you look good and feel good in. You’ll appear confident — and be more naturally desirable. Of course, do aim to be occasion-appropriate when choosing your outfit(that slinky evening gown might not do for his backyard barbecue; shorts and a tank top won’t work for a candlelit dinner).

You have the right to a kiss.
Physical attraction is what makes dating different from other relationships. If you’re both feeling it, go for it! And that applies whether it’s date #1 or #10. There’s no set timetable. And if you’re feeling it but aren’t sure whether the other person is, you can always say, “I really want to kiss you right now” and see what kind of reaction you get. Just keep in mind that kissing can be a gateway display of affection — as things progress, be prepared!

You have the right to follow up afterwards.
This is not only a right, it’s a courteous custom that nice people ascribe to in their dating lives. And somebody’s got to be responsible for the post-date call/email. If you had an enjoyable time and would like to see this person again, don’t play games about how many days you’re “supposed” to wait; go ahead and get in touch.

You have the right to cancel when it’s necessary.
If you’re having a crappy day, feel a cold coming on or get slammed with a project at work, it’s perfectly reasonable to contact your date the day of your plans, explain your situation and ask for a rain check. However, canceling because something or someone better came along, while not a criminal offense, may be a karmic one.

You have the right to bow out (and break up).
Occasionally, you may find yourself on a date from hell. Trust your gut on this and cash in that “get-out-of-date-free” card. If the date is going badly (and especially if the person you’re with makes you feel at all uncomfortable or unsafe), you’re by no means obligated to see it through. The same applies to relationships that turn out to be something you don’t want later on. Don’t “hang in there” because you don’t wish to propagate hurt feelings. Be courteous, be quick — and get out! A simple “Thank you; I need to be going in a minute” on a first date or “It’s been nice getting to know you, but I don’t see our relationship progressing” after a couple of get-togethers should work well.

Nina Malkin is the author of An Unlikely Cat Lady: Feral Adventures in the Backyard Jungle.
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