The First Date – a Psychological Approach

The first date mission

Let us assume you have successfully endured all the stalking, chatting and finger-numbing poking, and you will finally meet her, the carnal incarnation of your reveries – at least that is what her profile picture promises.

Now before you go out there onto the feral battleground of (real-life) dating, you should prepare yourself like a real “soldier of love”. Forget the camouflage, the right ammunition and the best strategy for now.

First of all, you have to set your goals right, since no strategy makes sense, if you do not know what you are fighting for. If you like her, you do not want to role in the roses on the first night. Neither do you want her to feed you with her hands and make vows for eternity – for eternity is a very, very, very long time.

For that purpose you can give your parents some of your graduation pictures and send them around the block or log into shaadi.com. No, your mission is to survive the first date and to take it from there.

Where to go

The first decision you have to make is where the battle is to be fought. Most advantageous for you would be if she chooses the location, because it is all about making her comfortable. In this instance humans are still troglodytes: we feel secure in cages we are familiar with.

In addition, she might make psychological connections between you and the place you choose. And this is to be avoided, except you are 100 percent sure what she likes, or you can offer something like a “petit-déjeuner” in one of the charming coffeehouses in Paris.

In case she wants a “real” man who can make decisions, go for something where you can get to know each other without any distractions. A total no-go for the first date is the cinema.

Not only that you do not get to know your counterpart, but you never want to risk sitting in one room with George Clooney, while he saves the world with his good looks and charms, and you are getting sweaty hands, because you do not even know whether to touch her hands or not.

What to wear

Some people propose you should wear something that represents you or that you are comfortable in. Wrong! Firstly, nobody wants to see you in your jogging pants because they make it easy for you to scratch your most sensitive areas.

Secondly, forget the entire idea of being yourself. You can be yourself, but only the good, the very good side of this self. Nobody is prepared to meet the “complete” you on the first date. Do not forget, the aim is to survive, not to prepare her of what she might be put up with in the near future.

Even if “experts” suggest you should wear something that stands out, don’t do it. She is already dating you and you do not want to be remembered as a canary with a pink tie around the neck.

Go for something that will show her that this is a special occasion for you. But do not exaggerate; it is not your wedding. Jeans, shirt and a jacket is usually a sure shot.

Other preparations

In the event of you having stage fright, take a sip of the liquefied medicine they call alcohol. But please do not empty the entire bottle and conquer the stage with a persiflage-performance of yourself.

Some people recommend, say, to manually release yourself of your sexual tension, to focus on the date without having your glance drowning in her décolleté. Frankly, if you have to do this massage-prophylaxis each time you see a woman, the only thing you get to lie on is Freud’s couch.

Besides no woman dislikes you for appreciating her physical benefits with a peek, as long as you do keep the peek a peek and not a stare.

Who to be

Again, some pundits might say you should just be yourself, and if she really likes your personality, everything will work out just fine. Please, never be the “true” you on the first date, unless you are some kind of crossbreeding from Nietzsche’s superhuman, a divine avatar and Brad Pitt.

It is simply a social practice that everyone tries to show predominantly his best side, especially when wooing the opposite sex. After establishing a base on good impressions, everything else follows, such as maybe the truth about your daily massage-prophylaxis. Your Facebook picture is not the one where you are wearing your ex-girlfriend’s knickers on your head either, is it?

A little etymological excursion at this point: the word personality derives from the antique theater, where actors wore masks called persona (Latin). Psychologists say that an individual’s personality alters and adapts from occasion to occasion. Therefore, wear the matching mask.

How to speak

Linguists claim that language and conversations are usually undergoing a struggle for power. You want neither to appear as an uninteresting, powerless individual, nor as the Hitler of dating, since this would intimidate your inamorata and thus repel her.

Consequently, it is advisable to control the conversation by asking many questions and at the same time let her do the talking, which enables her to display putative power.

This strategy has even more benefits: firstly, you cannot utter too many imbecile comments, and secondly, people love to talk about themselves. We attempt to deny it, but our favorite topic is oneself.

Even if the cliché of women talking a lot might be true quite often, just remember what Woody Allan said: “Sex is better than talk. Talk is what you suffer trough so you can get to sex.”

What to say

So if you are controlling the conversation, ask moderately personal question and nothing too personal, like an update on her virginity-status.

As long as you want to have a second date, do not be judgmental about what she says, even though you are abhorred by her penchant for, say, Carrie Bradshaw. Usually it takes a couple of months before we undergo the futile odyssey of trying to change someone.

In this manner you will give her the impression of being interested, without making her feel uncomfortable, because you are getting too fast too close. For that she could jump in any Indian metro during the rush hour.

Further, if you are not talking too much, and you are not revealing all the skeletons in your closet, you enhance your chances for a second date, as you will be the mysterious guy.

Obviously you should be polite and make compliments, but beware that your compliments are well implemented. Instead of using gauche pick-up lines, like  “Are those space pants? Because your ass is out of this world,” use the right compliment and link it the situation, either by referring to what is said, seen, smelled, etc.

Lastly, it is always good to start a sentence by addressing her with her first name, for it creates a feeling of interest and personal interaction, without one appearing to be too intrusive.

The emergency exit

In the case of the emergency that her profile picture was also a mask and you are facing the ugly truth of physiognomic disproportion, there are a few ways to abscond in a gentleman’s way.

Since the excuse that your grandmother’s uncle’s friend’s cousin’s husband’s monkey expired does not always work, and the window in the bathroom might be too small for your chapati-trained behind, you have to find a different excuse.

Perhaps cover your eyes, and tell her that you cannot bear so much beauty comprised in one person, because it would permanently remind you of how ugly yourself are. Or maybe dance towards the exit and intone Ushers song, You remind me: “Cos, you remind me of a girl that I once knew… this is why I just can’t get with you.”

Physical contact

According to the anthropologist Edward T. Hall, there are five personal space zones: the close intimate space (0-15cm); the intimate space (15-45cm); the personal space (45cm-1.2m); the social space (1.2m-3.6m) and the public space (3.6m-7.6m).

Move along the border of the personal and the social space, and if you are really getting along, get closer to the intimate space. Yet, never move into the close intimate space, unless everything else fails, and you have to fall back on other methods of persuasion.

It is important to make physical contact whenever the opportunity permits it. For example: hug her when you meet her or offer to hold her, while she is balancing with her high-heels through the obstacles of this fashion adversarial metropolis.

Read her face and body

The psychologist and philosopher Paul Watzlawick famously said “one can not not communicate!” Even if her words do not reveal much, her body does. Yet, this is still no reason to search for answers in the abyss of her cleavage.

 Usually, you will see that she is interested as soon as her pupils enlarge and her blink rate accelerates. In addition, if the head tilts, it might also be a sign for interest.

While movements of the head and the body towards you are mostly an indication for interest as well (sometimes also for aggression), leaning back could mean she is uninterested, or if you lucky merely relaxed.

There are several signals for her having sexual interest in you: the gaze over the shoulder, which allegedly represents her breast; the tossing back of her hair, which is supposed to reveal her “beautiful” face; the patting and smoothing of her hair, which is a preening gesture; and finally the good old lip moistening.

Read her hands

Although most people are able to control their words and facial expression, it is often difficult for them to control their hands. A symbol of rejection could be, if she is pushing, piecing and flicking real or imaginative objects away, or if she is fluffing off clothes.

Besides the obvious gesture of nervousness or defense through crossed arms, there are also hidden crossed arms, like holding a glass with both hands, adjusting one’s sleeves or checking the clasp of a handbag. Yet, fiddling with a glass could also expose her secret wish to caress you.

Further signs of discomfort or boredom could be tapping, twisting a ring, moving and replacing it, scratching the head, staring at a spot on the floor or the wall, and removing glasses and putting them back on.

On the other hand, a positive signal would be, if she holds her palms up, which stands for acceptance, whereas holding them down stands for negation. Revealing the inside of her palms and wrists might be a hint that she wants to be caressed, for this is a very erogenous part of the body.  Another positive silent expression is her standing with her hand in the belt, which is pointing out her crotch.

Read her legs and her feet

Finally, pay attention to her feet and her legs. While tightly crossed legs tugged securely under the chair are a signal for insecurity, crossed ankles indicate that she feels nervous or uncomfortable, but tries to suppress the feeling.

Feet that are pointing towards the exit might reveal an urge to flee, which can only happen, if you do not follow the previous advices.

An affirmative gesture could be the intertwining of her legs, because that is supposed to display the high muscle tonus of her legs. Next, dangling with the foot in the air is often read as phallic mimicry (you do the maths).

In case she is not sitting but standing with her legs apart, it might be a signal for sexual arousal. For further education please consult Kim Basinger in Basic Instinct.

The in between

Don’t worry, it sounds harder than it actually is. At the end of the day dating, as much as life, is a living philosophy.

It is a philosophy that Buddha learns from a simple boatman, the Bhagavad-Gita mentions it and Aristotle makes it to one of the main aspects of his ethical philosophy: the golden mean.

You have to wear something that says “you are special” but not “I want to marry you”, you have to be powerful but not intimidating, interesting, but still mysterious, and so on. Maybe the “golden mean” is a logical impossibility, but that is why they call us idealists of love.

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