Waiting For A Blind Date?

It’s one of life’s more awkward moments. Here, advice on how to get through it with your ego intact.

By Bob Strauss

ith the possible exception of choosing the wrong door and wandering onstage during a full-dress Metropolitan Opera production of Tosca, waiting in a restaurant or bar to meet a blind date is the most exposed, nerve-wracking, humiliating experience a person can have. It’s not just that you have no idea what to expect from your Internet pen-pal or your cousin’s idea of a great set-up. It’s that you’re convinced that everyone in the immediate vicinity—customers, wait staff, random people walking their dogs on the street—know exactly why you’re standing there so meekly and are having a good laugh at your expense.

Well, as someone who’s gone on more blind dates than you’ve had hot appetizers, let me tell you: It doesn’t
Meeting at a sleepy burger joint is far less stressful than at a bustling five-star bistro.
have to be this way. Just consult the following tips, and whiling away the time ‘til your would-be swain arrives should be (nearly) as painless as a semi-annual trip to the dentist.

Choose your venue wisely. A few weeks ago, I made the mistake of agreeing to meet my date at a hip, bustling restaurant in midtown Manhattan. Since it was too crowded inside for her to find me, I lingered outside on the sidewalk, the only free patch of which was directly in front of the restaurant’s menu—meaning I had to step aside every few minutes so curious passers-by could check the place out. Granted, not many women will agree to make your acquaintance in an abandoned parking garage, but as Zero Hour approaches, a sleepy, out-of-the-way burger joint is far less stressful than a five-star bistro specializing in Asian Fusion.

Get as complete a description as possible. Here’s the ideal blind-date scenario: A few hours beforehand, the guy calls and tells you exactly what he looks like and what he’ll be wearing, and you do the same. (This is helpful even if you’ve exchanged pictures.) Briefed in advance, you’ll be able to pick him out of a crowd from a block away, and he’ll whisk you into the restaurant as confidently and casually as if you’ve been dating for five years. (I once almost pulled this off, except my date, rather than consenting to be whisked, extended her hand and announced loudly, “Hi, Bob, I’m Suzy, from!”)

Act casual. Nothing screams “blind date!” like a guy who checks his watch every thirty seconds and scrutinizes approaching women as if he’s anticipating a reunion with his long-lost sister. I know it’s easier said than done, but cultivating a relaxed-yet-alert demeanor (think James Dean killing time on a street corner) will not only make the people around you less nervous,
You really have no choice but to approach the woman discreetly and inquire in a low voice, “Lisa?”
it’ll help convince your date that you’re not a stark raving Zagnut. Don’t look too intently at every person who walks by; tell yourself you’re relaxed, confident, and looking forward to meeting your date. Your body language will stay loose and approachable. And some experts may disapprove, but a good stiff drink a half-hour beforehand can do wonders.

If you’re unsure, ask. Here’s the worst-case blind-date scenario: Your gal tells you she’ll be wearing a fuchsia evening dress with matching pumps and handbag, and—bang—the Fuchsia Appreciation Society is having its biweekly get-together at the place you’ve picked out. Rather than smiling, winking, and rolling your eyes—which will only make them think you’re having a seizure—you really have no choice but to approach the women discreetly in turn and inquire in a low voice, “Lisa?” (Of course, it’s mathematically possible that a woman who resembles your blind date will have the same name, too. If this happens, you’re in an Adam Sandler movie and should leave the restaurant as quickly as possible.) But in general, my point is that a restrained approach and quiet recitation of your date’s name is preferable to assuming she’s arrived and embracing her prior to confirming that she is indeed your dinner mate.

Bring a distraction. It’s not polite, but people have been known to be a good ten or 15 minutes late for a date. If you’re the impatient type or the kind who doesn’t do well staring into space for that long, bring along your BlackBerry and e-mail friends, or busy yourself with recalibrating your cell phone’s ring tones. You don’t want to have your nose in a book and miss your date altogether, but a brief distraction can be a good thing.

See it through. Sometimes, the pressure of waiting for a blind date is such that you’d rather go home, take the phone off the hook, and turn on the Lifetime channel. Don’t do it! Just imagine how dejected and lonely your date will feel after hanging around in a crowded bar for almost an hour, and how horrible it would be if that ever happened to you. Check your watch, squint at passers-by, step huffily out of the way so people can see the menu—but whatever you do, don’t ever, ever run.

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.
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