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Friday, November 16, 2007

Date with Dense-ity

This Life column from today's Irish Independent

What did we Irish ever do before the concepts of dates and dating fully took hold here? We know that people, like our parents for instance, must have "dated" at some point or else we wouldn't all be here (let's not dwell on that one too much), but you can be sure that it wasn't called a "date". They went to "a dance" or box social, and referred to their budding courtship as "stepping out" or "doing a line".

But then into this dateless backwater swept the Americans with their money and their benign cultural imperialism, and very soon, people were going on fancy "dates", seeing as we all now had the cash, resources and curious mid-Atlantic accents to ape our US benefactors' social customs and mannerisms.

One side effect of this dating culture explosion is the first date, and, with it, all its pressures and opportunities for mortifying embarrassment and drama. Friends of mine, bless their cotton socks, often come to me looking for ideas about where to go and what to do on a first date. With every one of those brainstorms, we always strive for monumental originality; otherwise you'll make no impact and the person you're trying to woo will forget who you are, possibly even while on the date with you. Or so our logic goes anyway.

Now, the Lord herself knows I'm no expert in this field, but I'm going to publicly and inversely respond to those appeals and gift to you three things you shouldn't do on first dates, little gems roughly hewn from the experiences I've had ever since my first steps into the world of romance (for want of a better word) back in my mid-90s teen disco heyday where "dates" were arranged by lining the boys up against one wall and girls along the other and some ambitious youth club organiser paired you off at random. Good times.

My first, and most important rule is, never go on a first date on a weekend night. Think about it: they're the busiest nights of the week where everyone you know is out. This means that chances of you two finding a quiet-ish place to talk on your own , without running into truckloads of increasingly bladdered friends are very slim indeed. You just end up competing for attention, and that kind of confidence-shaking humiliation is more suited to the third or fourth date at least.

Secondly, don't fall into the dinner trap. A simple meal can rival filming-time at Abu Ghraib for sheer horror if you're stuck with some header who drones on about his collection of pet ferrets or who texts his ex the whole way through the date. Not that that's happened to me (Declan shuffles uncomfortably). Same goes for cooking someone dinner. Associating some first date disaster with the place you call home would ruin your feng shui irrevocably.

Lastly, don't get too drunk. If you're anything like me, as the glasses pile up, the conversation will veer between rants about the Government and Britney, to babbling on with nerdy recruitment pitches for my favourite TV shows, to mocking someone who turns out to be a friend/relative/lover of theirs. Stay in control of your senses. That way, if there's a second date, there's also the added bonus that you'll remember the person's name, and what they look like (and yes, sadly both of those have happened to me).

Keep all those in mind and I think you'll get through it ok. But whether you abide by those tips or not, at the very least please remember this final little first date nugget courtesy of a wise lady friend of mine: "The face that over cocktails looks so charming can oft o'er breakfast be quite alarming". Indeed.

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