Many online dating experts out there suggest you just do a quick look-see for your first meeting. You know, to either qualify them or disqualify them as quickly as possible before you move on to the next or give them a real chance at spending a WHOLE dinner with you. You will read that the look-see should last as short as 15 minutes or as long as…gasp…45 minutes! Please tell me how you are supposed to know anything about anyone in that short of a time? Seriously, it doesn’t compute with my brain.
I have always been a proponent of giving someone you meet for a first date, meet-n-greet or whatever you like to call it, at LEAST an hour or two! I encourage clients to always have a phone date before meeting in person and then you really can have an official and more typical first date. If you put a good vetting system in place, then you already know all of that preliminary stuff from the phone call. (Tinder daters excluded.)
My average first date is about 3 hours, (even if the attraction and chemistry aren’t quite like I had hoped), and you know why? Because WE ARE PEOPLE!!! If you never see each other again, guess what? You can learn something about another human being, yourself and your world just by really being invested in getting to know another person. Except for a possible kiss at the end of the night, a first date should look much the same as when you meet a new friend for dinner the first time, and would you dare whittle that down to 30 minutes? I think not!
Despite my own personal statistics for length of first dates, a couple of weeks ago I found myself on the receiving end of one of these drive-by look-sees! And it felt awful. I met J at a coffee place at 3p and had set aside two hours before a 5:30p first date with P for a walk and sushi. We had a good phone call the night before, he was one of these very complimentary guys and even said at one point “I wish women could see the way we look at you so you all could appreciate your own beauty more.” Swoon!
J went on to ask me good questions, a skill many people tend to forget on a date, but before I could ever completely answer one, he was either telling me how beautiful my hair was or asking me another question. We had some decent chemistry, some flirting, it was going okay but I felt rushed and I wasn’t sure why. Then 30 minutes into it, he stood up and asked if I was ready to go. Dumbfounded, I think I said “Oh, yeah, okay.” He walked me to my car, asked if he could take me out later that week, hugged me and left.
I sat in my car and thought “What just happened?” Granted, had there had not been attraction and conversation, I could have reasoned why it was just a half hour, but that wasn’t the case at all. When J asked me later that night when he could see me again, I purposely asked him how long I needed to block out because that had been the shortest date I’d ever been on and if I just needed a half hour, that could be easy to do versus the whole evening like I would usually set aside. He told me this was one of his first dates in 11 years and that he had read online that it should be short the first time…so he made sure to stick to it. If he had been a client, I would have ever-so-gently scolded him and said “Haven’t I taught you better than that?”
But single middle-of-lifers out there in cyberspace, let me teach you better than that! We are all people and we deserve to see others and be seen. We should be striving for connection with other spirits and souls and hearts, whether they are our next great love or someone we only spend a few hours with in this life. If you talk to anyone who has been dating a while, they will tell you that they may not have found the one they are looking for yet, but they have made some great friends along the way. These are the people you want to emulate…the ones who made a choice to see humanity even if they didn’t get an oxytocin rush from the chemistry on that first date.
My encouragement to you would be to be committed to enjoying the experience of it all. So what if you don’t want to kiss them, they still have a story to share with the world and so do you! On a first date I am always looking for the three C’s…Conversation, Connection and Chemistry. I can almost always find those first two and guess what…that’s just shifting it from a dating experience to a relating experience, the same as it would be if you were out with a new friend. Be open to that and see what you learn…you never know what reward could come out of it.
Strive to leave people better than you found them…see them…value them…remember they are just out there trying to find love the same way you are…so you already have THAT in common. Be gentle with others, the world can seem rough to navigate, but you can always be that person who is kind and make it a better day.
*This was originally written for and published on Huffington Post