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Getting love off to the best start

Updated: 2011-05-26 07:59
By Dinah Chong Watkins ( China Daily)

Getting love off to the best start

Put your first-date nerves aside and follow these simple rules to ensure it goes smoothly

Are first impressions indelible? The first time I met the man who eventually became my husband was in the Clark Hatch gym at the Great Wall Sheraton Hotel. It was the 1980s and since there were no movies or shopping, pedaling on a stationary bicycle to Madonna's Like a Virgin was the height of entertainment at the time. Lucky for him I was wearing the same short-shorts popular with NBA players and Jane Fonda aerobic devotees, but unlucky for me no makeup.

My limp, sweat-soaked hair did not in any way add to my very limited natural allure. The next time I saw him was on the way to work. I was waiting for a taxi when he stopped and offered me a lift in his car. He must have thought me rude as I spent the entire time looking away from him, my face to the window. Who knew this was the morning I planned to pluck my eyebrows and put on my makeup on the ride over?

Dating is and always has been a minefield of fumbled opportunities, misleading assumptions, good intentions gone wrong and oblivious acts of revulsion. In the range of anxiety-inducing moments, initial meetings, like public speaking, rate near the top. So, with spring in bloom and the hopeful vestiges of love in the air, here are a few primers on making the best impression for that first date:

First dates can be fabulous or fatal; the difference is in the preparation. To be successful, treat it not unlike a job interview. Dress for the occasion. It's not "casual Fridays", so leave that hoodie and sweatpants in the closet - and I'm talking to the women. You can bring them back out after the ring is on your finger. For men, short of looking and smelling like a hobo, women are generally far more generous in judging you on the basis of your khaki pants or board shorts, but leave the man purse at home. You can bring it back out after the ring is on your finger.

Unlike Jerry McGuire, many would-be lovers instead experience the "you lost me at hello". Conversation is a dying art these days, where topical exchanges are suddenly interrupted with cell phone calls and intermittent bursts of texting. Give your thumbs the night off. Also, first dates shouldn't be viewed as an interrogation with a cheese course thrown in. Between the appetizer and dessert, potential partners are often grilled on hobbies to net worth. But the right questions can give you a glimpse of the real person sitting across from you. Pointed questions about inter-family dynamics and memories of their youth will open a window into their character beyond any recollection of their latest trip to Phuket.

You say "tomay-toe", I say "tomah-toe". You say corny, I say romantic. While women know the power of a short skirt and high heels, men wholly underestimate how many brownie points a bouquet of flowers will get them. You'll be glad you used your lunch money on an armful of roses when her eyes flutter up to yours.

Then there are the missteps that will guarantee the date is a one-time deal. Go ahead and share your past relationships, noticeably why your ex was so great or terrible; drink until you start slurring, or indulge in a one-sided conversation starring "I, me and my" that gives her that glazed look in their eyes. One sure-fire way to go home alone is to "go Dutch". Number of men who get a second date after splitting the check: 0.

Like buying a lottery ticket, first dates are an emotional investment to what hopefully will prove to be a lifelong partner. That's the cause for the giddiness, the anxiety and the anticipation. This could be the day you win the golden ticket. Although it may end up as a near miss or a frog without the prince, stay optimistic and keep at it because makeup or no makeup, true love is blind - thank goodness.

The author is a Canadian freelance writer based in Beijing. To comment, e-mail The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of METRO.

(China Daily 05/26/2011)