10 First-Date Pitfalls

Our experts teach you how to chat up anyone—especially that lovely creature sitting across the table from you.

By Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro

ack when you were plotting your online profile, the delete key and edit function bailed you out of blunders before posting to the cyber-nation. Even voicemail grants us the beloved # button to erase verbal mistakes and botched witticisms. But once in the real-time arena of dating in person, though, what's to keep you from shoving a shoe in your mouth and blowing the whole affair? Like your fairy godmother, consider us on your shoulder for that first date,
Shelve the Me, Me, Me stories—and talk less.
reminding you not to step into the usual bachelor potholes. Specifically, we'll help you watch out for these 10 common dating pitfalls that spoil chances of an Act II and render your mojo limp:

1. Scale back your time of possession.
In football, the team that holds the ball for long stretches on offense invariably wins the game. In dating, forget football Sunday. Instead of towering over the chitchat, shelve the Me, Me, Me and talk less. Unlike the star of a rowdy cable news roundtable, defer and listen to your guest. In the end, you'll learn more and foul up less.

2. Offload unsportsmanlike conduct.
Unless the theme of the date is to watch the big game around a bucket of hot wings, don't schedule a first meeting at the same time as a crucial sporting event. No lady appreciates one eye on her and the other on the bar TV scanning for the Cubs score.

3. Put Mr. Popularity on ice.
One of the terms of the social contract we call a date is that while we're both here, this is the most important thing happening. Pressing business and pet emergencies aside, silence your cell phone during a first date. Flaunting your supposed importance as a social butterfly is downright rude, overshadowed only by the ultimate cad who flirts with a stranger while his date powders her nose.

4. Lay off any leering looks.
No matter how well Pilates has sculpted her backside or how devilishly low-cut her neckline, be different...lock your gaze above the neck line for full iris-to-iris contact. She'll be impressed

5. Enter a no-bragging zone.
Your Wall Street credentials and private jet may have been relevant info online, but boasting about your
No one needs to hear you gripe about appetizer prices or shrimp count.
bank account in person is hardly attractive. If you are well-off, the confident tone, classic watch, and Italian shoes will wordlessly communicate that you are a blue-chip investment.

6. Steer clear of taboo topics.
Life lessons, PG-13 sex, or your philosophical stance on the late Jacques Derrida (Overblown fraud or grand deconstructionist? Discuss.) enliven conversation and aid in weeding out potential mates with incongruent values. However, a first date is not couples' counseling or a tell-all recap of your romantic résumé. This is not the forum for discussing recent exes or any past relationship failures that involve heartache, baggage, or near-miss pregnancies.

7. Self-medicate in private.
Lactose intolerance, high cholesterol, and even higher anxiety shouldn't be on display; ingest any prescription meds in the privacy of the restroom, not tableside. Should lasting amour follow, there will plenty of time to confess mild maladies. Note: Even if the date is going smashingly, a Viagra washed down with a glug of Ginseng Tea shows a bit too much cocksureness about the prospect of a nightcap.

8. Don't get too familiar.
No matter how well the date is faring (rampant hand-holding, under-the-table canoodling), projecting a conjoined future is a terrible no-no. Hints of shared summer-house rentals, baby naming, or family references ("Oh, Mother is a card. You'll meet her soon.") are super-creepy at this stage.

9. Don't over-indulge your pop-culture passions.
Must every semi-witty comment and dash of banter contain a pop-culture reference? Lightly sprinkle your cultural quotient, yes, but too many Simpsons jokes and too deep a knowledge of Star Wars: Episode I is head-shakingly dull.

10. Avoid the line-item audit.
Obsessing over the price of dinner, before, during, or afterward either paints you as a worrywart who isn't enjoying the date—or a cheapskate who isn't enjoying the date. The host generally pays, and no one needs to hear you gripe about appetizer prices or shrimp count.

Bonus tip:
We know we said 10 first-date pitfalls, but one more begs for inclusion—specifically: Despite advances in technology, treating your camera phone like the boardwalk kiosk photo-booth is premature, and more apt for a third date. Even worse, it gives the sense that you're "collecting" photos of all your victims/dates. Seductive conversation trumps snapshots any day...and any night.

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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