Meeting For The First Time?

Whether you've set a coffee date or are meeting at a bar, when it's time to take the relationship offline, don't be nervous! Here's how to take things one step at a time.

By Jennifer Kantor

e loooove e-flirting. The delicious anticipation, the witty wordplay, the time it takes away from work. Still, there comes a time when all couples must connect in the flesh. Here is some first-rate first-date advice.

Make it snappy
Pen pals were great in grade school — not so much now, however. While it’s tempting to relegate the witty repartee to the screen, the point of online dating is to find someone to date off-line. If there’s a spark, find out if there’s fire by meeting in person — sooner than later. Otherwise, you’re risking the whole thing fizzling out.

Proceed with caution
Safety first, kids. Always rendezvous in a public space, take separate cars
The first meeting is about establishing a rapport and seeing if there’s chemistry.
and hold off revealing personal information. For extra security, tell a friend who, when and where you’re meeting — and promise to check in post-date (not that you weren’t going to dish anyway).

Keep it short and sweet
Later on, marathon dates are fine, but close encounters of the first time should be fast and flexible. “It’s like an audition,” notes one experienced dating diva. In a way, she’s right: The first meeting is about establishing a rapport and seeing if there’s chemistry. For the most part, it’s either there or it isn’t — and nothing’s worse than sitting through a four-course dinner with a dud (except also following it up with a movie). And hey, if it clicks, prior plans have a magical way of falling through at the last minute.

Step out in style
Your wow-’em window is seriously small, and — superficial or not — clownish makeup and grubby sneakers rarely win admirers. Dress like yourself (fakers are always found out eventually), just kick it up a notch.
Relax. It’s just a date.
When in doubt, ask a friend for a second opinion. Here’s some final advice: Girls, don’t advertise if you’re not selling; guys, we really do check out your shoes.

Drink up
Some dating pros highly recommend a stiff one — cocktail, that is. At the risk of promoting debauchery, we’d have to agree. (Starbucks hardly sets the scene for seduction.) A dimly lit lounge, plush sofa, $10 Cosmo — now that’s amore. Even if an Irish pub is more your thing, a nice buzz nips nervousness and brings out one’s inner flirt. Good stuff.

Be prepared
Avoid awkward silences (and worse, nervous babble) by playing detective. Pore over profiles and email messages for commonalities and topics to query. Come with a charming anecdote or a good joke. Read up on current events. When all else fails, you can’t go wrong asking what or who his or her favorite band, movie, author, etc., is. At least you’ll know if he or she has any taste.

Have some fun
Relax. It’s just one date. A blip in your very long life. If it doesn’t work out, well, that’s the way it goes. Loosen up, let your hair down and let go of your lofty expectations — you’re much more attractive that way.

Jennifer Kantor is a freelance writer who frequently contributes to Happen magazine.
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