I’ll never forget my first blind date. I showed up to the restaurant half an hour early and waited in my car hoping to sneak a look at the guy I’d been talking to for months online. Only he saw me first. I didn’t know until he came and knocked on my car window with a shy smile. “Well, this is awkward,” he said. He was right.
But despite the rocky start, we actually had a great time getting to know one another that evening, and I realized dating wasn’t as intimidating as I’d imagined. (And it could even be fun!) Once I got the hang of it, going on a first date was a major confidence booster. So to help you learn from my experience and expertise, I put together a few best practices for single ladies going on a first date.
Here are seven first date tips for women that will help you make a terrific first impression on your next night out:
1. Plan ahead and go in feeling confident and relaxed.
First dates can make some people feel anxious or awkward, so it’s best to do whatever you can ahead of time to make sure you feel at ease while you’re on the date. Maybe that means jamming out to your get-psyched playlist beforehand. Maybe it means looking up creative conversation starters or researching your date’s interests on their social media accounts.
Your first-date prep doesn’t have to be all that in-depth. It’s just anything that’ll save you time and stress. If you’re going to a restaurant, maybe look up the menu and pick out what you want so you’re not buried in the menu for the first portion of the date. If you’re going to a museum, maybe look up some fun facts to share with in case the conversation stalls. Whatever it takes to make you feel prepared and at ease. A little effort can go a long way.
2. Dress appropriately and be comfortable.
When going through your closet for first-date attire, my advice is to keep it simple. You don’t want to go all out on a first date. Wear something nice, but not too nice. Don’t show up to a coffee date looking like you’re going to the club. Instead, dress in a casual outfit you would wear any day of the week. I always pick out my favorite v-neck and flattering jeans, but that’s just me. If you rock high heels on a daily basis or don’t feel like yourself without eyeliner, then go for it. (Just make sure you’re not going hiking on your date.)
Be you. A good first-date outfit reflects who you are, where you are, and what you want. All in all, you should aim to be comfortable in whatever you have on during a first date because if you’re not comfortable that’s going to distract both you and your date.
3. Let someone know where you’re going.
This is particularly important for women who are online dating. Always text or call a friend or family member to tell them where you’re meeting your first date (you should never let someone you don’t know drive you), what that person’s name is, and when you expect to be home. That way, you know someone has your back and can keep an eye out for you at the end of the night.
As an added bonus, when you get home, you can follow up with your friend to gush or vent about how the date went, so you’re not going through these experiences alone.
4. Take a deep breath and (ya, I’m going to say it) be yourself.
When singles meet on a dating app, they usually exchange a few brief messages before arranging a meet-up ASAP. That first date is your introduction to a love interest, so it’s normal to be nervous or excited about it. Don’t let those feelings trip you up though. Being authentically and unapologetically yourself is always going to score you points with dates who are tired of phonies and want to date someone real. You don’t have to like everything your date likes. You don’t have to pretend to be the ideal woman. Just try to relax, keep and open mind, and act like you’re talking to a close friend.
5. Try to avoid serious or controversial conversation topics.
Some people say you should never ever talk about exes, religion, or politics on a first date. Personally, I don’t think it’s all that cut and dry, and I’m not alone. A survey of 5,500 Americans revealed that 80% of singles think any topic is fair game on a first date. It won’t kill the mood to mention an ex in passing or ask a question about your date’s political stances. After all, if the issue is important to you, you should make sure you’re on the same page.
What can ruin a date is talking for too long about a serious topic. You can make your date feel uncomfortable by getting into difficult discussions about family issues, religious beliefs, or something too personal to share with a total stranger. First date conversations should linger on positive topics and give a wide berth to sticky subjects like how much money someone makes or what’s wrong with the dating scene.
6. Look out for red flags.
Don’t go into a first date with a checklist—you never know when someone who’s totally not your type could surprise you—but you should have some idea about what you want in a romantic interest. For instance, if you have cats, it’s not a good sign if your date has a cat allergy or is a dog person. Or, if you’re a left-wing environmentalist, you may not get along with someone who shows up to a date in an SUV and “I heart the GOP” bumper sticker. It’s up to you to decide how important these issues are to you, and whether you’re willing to work around them.
Red flags are different than dealbreakers because red flags have to do with matters of personal safety. A red flag would be your date talking about having suicidal thoughts or drinking heavily while you sip water. It’s a warning sign, and you shouldn’t ignore it if your date demonstrates aggressive, addictive, or unstable behavior on a first date. You should run the opposite direction.
7. Have an exit strategy and a wind-down routine.
Ultimately, how you end a date will determine if there’s going to be a second date. When you seem like you’re trying to escape or leave too abruptly, that sends a pretty bleak don’t-ever-call-me signal to your date. If that’s your intention, then make your excuses and get out of there. Maybe treat yourself to ice cream or a shopping spree on your way home. (Hey, you earned it.)
However, if you want to see this guy again, the end of the night is the perfect moment to set up a second date or exchange contact information. Your goal is to set expectations for how you want to proceed. As in, “This was fun, let me know if you want to hang out again. I’m free this weekend.”” It’s simple, it’s clear, and it doesn’t leave the poor guy wondering what you want from him. You’ll probably be able to tell from his body language and how he responds if he’s feeling what you’re feeling. Don’t read too much into it if he doesn’t go for a kiss on the first date—not all guys feel comfortable making a move so soon.
Going on a first date can feel nerve-wracking, but by embracing the experience—awkwardness and all—you open yourself up to some incredibly fun and romantic moments. Even those initial missteps can seem endearing when you’re with the right person. So relax and focus on having a good time on your next first date.
Amber Brooks is a Contributing Editor at DatingAdvice.com. When she was growing up, her family teased her for being “boy crazy,” but she preferred to think of herself as a budding dating expert. As an English major in college, Amber honed her communication skills to write clearly, knowledgeably, and passionately about topics that interest her. Now with a background in writing, Amber brings her tireless wit and relatable experiences to DatingAdvice.com.