THE POLITICS OF A FIRST DATE

First dates are awkward. There’s no way to get around that fact. It doesn’t matter whether you have more chemistry than Brangelina; the course of true love never did run smooth. There are hundreds of what-ifs and burning questions to be answered. Will he/she like me now they’re seeing me for the first time sober? Will they be ‘the one’? Dear god, I hope not, I’m only 20. Of course, I’ll discuss my taste in music, film and literature. I’ll discuss the obscure DJs I listen to, the independent film I just saw at the Picture House, and how I couldn’t put down that classic English novel. But do I tell them my favourite song right now is Taylor Swift; that my favourite film is Aladdin (and yes, I know the words to every song); and that, in fact, I haven’t read that book but I did see the film adaptation starring Keira Knightley.

According to numerous online articles, the key is ‘to relax’, ‘just be yourself’, ‘don’t over think it’. What does that mean? How can I relax when somebody is judging me on everything I do? And how do I know they’re judging me? Because I’m judging them for every little thing they do. Be myself? Doubtful. I am 100% aware I can be a complete dick; I’m overly sarcastic and nowhere near as funny as I think I am. Why on earth would I show somebody I potentially want to have sex with that side of me? And don’t over think it? Whoever said that has never dated anybody. Ever.

The first important step on your path to everlasting love is choosing a venue. ‘Everybody goes to Firehouse’ you say, ‘let’s go somewhere different.’ You ponder some possible options. Something kooky. Something different. Something to tell the grandkids.

You think and think but nothing groundbreaking comes to mind. But it’s fine: you can Google it. Google has always been a friend to you.

‘First Date Ideas to Wow Your Date’ suggests: A farm trip? Erm no. If you wanted to look at animals you’d go to Timepiece Wednesday. A fortune teller, perhaps? Future relationship predictions could be awkward. Maybe skip that one. How about a flower show? At this point you’re wondering whether this article is a joke. A flower show. A flower show? I mean, come on.

So you have an inspired idea. ‘Let’s go to the Firehouse,’ you say. ‘Why didn’t  I have that original thought in the first place?’

You arrive early. You don’t want your date standing there on her own. In your haste to arrive early and grab one of those rare things that is a spare table at the Old Firehouse, you have turned up 45 minutes early. Who cares? You’re there.

Your date arrives and you give them one of those awkward hugs. A voice in your head is screaming at this tiny moment of physical contact. Not out of lust, but sheer unadulterated awkwardness.

The date has commenced. You begin by talking about your mutual friends. Your favourite spots in Exeter. It has quickly been established on which side of the divide you spend your Tuesdays; Cheesy or Thieves? Now, why does your date keep stringing disparate words together and pretending they’re talking about real things? They mentioned Shadow Child, but when did the conversation stray into Lord of the Rings? And then suddenly you’re sure they are discussing a DJ called Tampax. What? Who? Huh?

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You move on. You’ve read about what not to talk about. Cosmo has outlawed telling drunken anecdotes. Shit. You’re a student. What else do you talk about? You don’t know and you sit there in silence hoping the other person breaks it. They do. Thank god.

And everybody finds ‘deal-breaker’, that one difference in opinion which means this relationship can never grow into anything serious. For some it’s the desire to have kids. For others it’s being a dog lover. For anybody with a brain from our generation it’s a love for Harry Potter. But what if halfway through your date you find out they prefer Twilight to Harry Potter? I’m sorry, but that date is over. The person you are with is a disgusting human being. If this occurs, I feel it’s safe to say you can leave as promptly as possible and leave them to take care of the bill.

Now you feel ill. You forgot about that essay deadline. It’s likely this won’t go anywhere. Conversation is perhaps forced at first but it soon begins to flow and is enjoyable. If only the situation were to remain so amiable.

One of the big questions that looms is what happens when it comes to the bill. You pay, of course. But do you? You at least offer. But they offer to go Dutch. You tell them not to worry – it’s on you. They insist. You insist. Oh god. What does this mean? Do they actually want to go halves? Are they just being polite? If a man goes halves, he’s no longer a gentleman. If he insists on paying he’s sexist. There are so many questions and now you’re just standing there half risen to pay like a complete fool, no closer to resolving the issue. You end up paying and pray to god that your date won’t take a feminist stance on the contentious issue that is the bill.

So, the date part of your date has ended. Finished. Finito. Phew. But wait, there’s more. You’re terribly nice so you offer to walk your date home. But that moment just before you reach their door is brimming with expectancy. Do you kiss? You decide yes, you’re going to go in for the kill. But how to attack? A peck? Some tongue? In that moment you realise you haven’t kissed anybody sober in – well, you can’t bring to memory the last time you kissed somebody sober. You’re going to be abysmal. You definitely haven’t got enough Dutch courage for this situation and you’re very aware that only an hour ago you were eating a pizza oozing with garlic. In those seconds you are certain this is set to be the most awkward moment of your life. It’s not, so just kiss your damn date and be done with it. You did it. It was ok. In fact, it was better than ok. What happens next is up to the gods, because you have survived and the possibility of sex is on the table.

And what is the funniest thing about this terrible situation which we term ‘the first date’? We love it. It’s exciting. Being thrust upon somebody you barely know and forced to converse gives you a rush of life. Those butterflies in your stomach that previously made you queasy now lend a spring to your step. Even if you’re not too taken with the person you shared time with, you can’t deny that you feel surprisingly good. ‘Why?’ one may ask themselves. Because the first date is an unpredictable bull with whom you were thrown into the ring. You tackled that bull head on, wrestled with it, dodged it and coaxed it to attack. Yes, you may have acquired a few scratches along the way, and possibly decided that the prize, in the end, wasn’t for you. But if you wrangle with that bull and you win, ride that sexy beast for as long as you can.