The Modern Guy’s Guide To Manners

Should you order for your date? Take her to the schmanciest place in town? The new rules of dating may surprise you.

By Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro

very remotely civilized guy knows that under-the-table texting — or worse, interrupting the evening’s chitchat with your embarrassingly juvenile ring tone — is less than endearing. But what about the more subtle rules of dating conduct? Should you show up fashionably late? Is it in bad form to take a woman to your favorite budget eatery? Here, seven ways to show her you’re a perfect gent.

Don’t be fashionably late
Meeting your date at the bar, cafe or restaurant? Forget the 10-minute late rule: Showing up a few minutes early is always best. During the five-minute prelude, shuffle to the bathroom
Grimacing at high prices is always off-putting.
so you can dab a sweaty brow, fix a stubborn cowlick, and ditch any last-second nerves. Even better, try to score a prime table, then create atmosphere by ordering sparkling water and pre-loading the jukebox with cool tunes. This beats the alternative of arriving in an unkempt flurry with a pocketful of excuses.

Let her order anything
While a choice spot enhances the mood, you needn’t go into debt to successfully woo. Want to turn her off? Grimace at the high prices on the menu and silently calculate whether you can afford dessert. Also off-putting: Suggesting you just get appetizers, or — gasp! — share an entrée. If your cash flow is anemic this week, it’s better to splurge at an inexpensive joint than flounder at a high-end place. Truth is, most women love a guy who can introduce them to the best cheap pasta place or Thai eatery in town. And many women are fine with going Dutch—if they’re asked upfront. But if you suddenly require your date to fork over her plastic toward some elaborate dinner, you’ll surely be dining alone next time.

Stake your claim
You stroll to the restroom, and in those few minutes, some interloper starts making time at the bar with your date. How you handle this confrontation shows your modern manners quotient—or lack thereof. Refrain from jabbing fingers into some ruffian’s chest, but do succinctly step in and stake your claim. After sidling up to your date, put your arm around her, and smile: “Shall we sit down to dinner?” If he gets fresh, escort her away from the louse (“Why don’t we go somewhere else?”), since any nagging interruption will make her uncomfortable and needlessly taint a good time.

Be chivalrous—to a point
If you’re faced with a stonewalling maître d’ or grossly negligent ticket agent, do take charge. A simple “let me handle this” goes a long way in earning points with your date. Similarly, if you’re on a group outing, her girlfriends are under your umbrella coverage and you may be called upon to protect a few gals from snide bartenders or creeps on the
Assume she can pick her own restaurant meal.
dance floor. Yet, while the gent is typically thought of as the “gracious host” guiding the evening’s entertainment, don’t overplay your role. No modern woman wants to feel you’re playing daddy and treating her like a helpless little girl.

Beware, “The Lady Will Have…”
To be sure, if you’re at a foreign restaurant and only you speak the mother tongue, it’s fine to suggest that you take the reins. Talk to your date first, though, and get her OK (“Do you like spicy food? Are you allergic to anything? I have something special in mind, so would it be OK if you were in my hands for the next two hours?”). But many a night has been ruined by an indecorous chap ordering for a woman against her will. So unless she asks you to do the honors, assume she can pick her own restaurant meal.

Curb your inner caveman
The key to having impeccable table manners is knowing what’s appropriate where. Formal manners aren’t necessary when enjoying burger and fries off paper plates at a sidewalk café; they are when you’re eating trout almandine on china at a linen-tablecloth joint. When out for spicy wings, it’s perfectly permissible to lick the three-alarm hot sauce off your fingers, but not if her parents or bosses are also at the table.

No matter where you dine, take your time: Scarfing down food dishonors both the chef and your date. Also verboten: Gobbling up all the shared appetizers before she’s even had one spring roll. Top if off by devouring the whole basket of bread, along with five heart-clogging pats of butter, and you’re decidedly unsexy. Other etiquette sins native to the single man who has gobbled take-out in front of the TV for too long: clanging of silverware, violent stabbing of forks into food, scraping teeth over utensils, slurping of soup, and sickly smacking of lips. Likewise, loosening your belt and top button after playing the glutton brands you a cretin.

Keep it PG-rated—for now
Some guys plan to sweep her off her feet with a big Hollywood kiss at the first date’s finale and are disappointed when she turns to offer her cheek instead. At the first hello, you should greet her with an exuberant but chaste kiss. Then, as the night progresses and you two hit it off, gradually step up the contact by touching her forearm, putting your arm around her back, etc. If you pay attention to her cues, you won’t proceed too fast. Follow this course, and instead of your clumsy mouth seemingly coming from nowhere at date’s end, your PG-13 goodnight embrace will be welcomed with warm lips.

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.

Want to hear the other side of the story, Read The Modern Girl's Guide To Manners.

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