With Valentine’s Day come and gone, some of us may look back on a candlelit dinner with their spouse, while others may have spent the day of would-be romance browsing through profiles of singles on an online dating site. (Full disclosure: the author is single and a member of JDate.)
Yet, in this new era of courtship, where e-mail, texting, and women’s independence are the norm, and so much of our communication/business is conducted via the Internet, it is often difficult to figure out how to best approach a potential relationship. Fortunately, some of the “old” rules of etiquette still apply. For starters, nothing trumps a phone call; and men -- you will still need to pull out your wallet on the first date.
When approaching a first date through a dating site, it is often best to e-mail several times and then ask for a phone number to take it offline. Responding with your digits so your suitor knows who is calling is always in good taste.
While the activities enjoyed on a date are legion, common courtesy and good etiquette should be consistent through all of them (unless you don’t want to see that person again). If you have planned a date and are running slightly late, a text message will suffice, but all other instances— a reschedule, a second thought, or an arrival delay of longer than ten minutes – merit a call.
Good conversation is of paramount importance, and there are rules to remember. During the date, avoid name-dropping, or bragging about income, position, or family, and avoid speaking ill of any woman from your past, or mentioning any previous relationships -- this devalues the time spent with a new person and makes you seem like money and power are all that concern you.
Checking your phone or watch sends the signal that you aren’t interested, and makes your date feel unimportant. Confirming plans via text message is acceptable, but if there have been several days between making plans and the day of the date, a phone call can go a long way. However, texting should not be avoided altogether -- too many phone calls can signal that one is clingy.
When daters find themselves seated across a dining table, proper dining etiquette demands, among ever so many other things, that they use the correct fork and knife, chew with their mouths closed, keep a respectable distance between face and plate, and not discuss why they and their ex (or exes) broke up. Basic courtesy also extends to shying away from ordering things like angel hair pasta or chili— foods that are difficult to eat and have the potential to stain. When ordering, a man should not dictate the entire meal to the waiter, as it shows profound insensitivity to his companion(s).
Even more inconsiderate is the act of overtly checking your watch during the date, as well as leaving your phone on the table or—and this should not have to be stated—taking a call or texting during the date. There is no faster or crueler way to broadcast that your date is of little importance than interrupting your tête–à–tête to speak with someone else. If you are expecting an important call, inform your date immediately and make apologies if or when the call comes. Taking the time to do so, and stepping away from the table when you are talking, shows courtesy to others.
Post-date, it is always nice to send a follow-up e-mail, text, or phone call to thank your companion for a nice time – assuming you had one. Following these steps helps you to be a mindful and compassionate person -- qualities needed not only as “date bait,” but in any stable long-term relationship. As in an ongoing job hunt, when looking for a potential mate, following the rules of etiquette will greatly increase your chances for ongoing happiness with Mr. or Ms. Right.