No matter how long you’ve been speaking to someone online, which is actually the most common way people meet their spouses these day , the first IRL date is terrifying. You might have the same taste in gifs, but will their banter translate offline? What if you get there and realise actually, you’re only thing in common is your most-used emoji? It’s that type of nerve-wracking that leads to downing half a bottle of wine on your way out the house.
But, never fear, we’re here to settle your nerves slightly, with these 10 questions you should ask before taking your relationship out of social media and into ACTUAL real life. The more prepared we are for anything, the less we have to fear right? Well, we’re hoping so…
1. How long have you been talking, also known as, are they actually a complete stranger?
Whether you met your date IRL (congratulations, you’re not a millennial), or on a dating app, it’s important to have established if you at least have one or two things in common before wasting a Friday night of self-care on a crap date…
‘The last first date I went on,’ says Marie*, 26, ‘I didn't really know anything about him at all but I just randomly assumed that I should at least give it a go because Richard Curtis movies ruin lives. As it transpired, his idea of “a nice place in Soho” was the All Bar One in Leicester Square.
‘We literally had nothing in common at all,’ she continued, ‘It turned out he was a Tory who had literally given out leaflets for Tories before the last election, which was very much at odds with my own political beliefs. At which point I obviously made my excuses and it turned out he lived in Morden and I lived in Tooting so we had to get on the tube together for about 5,000 stops.
‘The chat dwindled to him memorably asking me “if I liked dancing”, it was dreadful but he still asked for a second date’…
2. Do you have a back-up list of go-to topics in case the silence becomes deafening?
In the event that you actually do have a few things in common, but the dreaded blank-brain occurs and you are so distracted thinking of what to say that you have nothing to say, we suggest having a few common interests noted in your head (or phone, if you’re really, really nervous).
‘I’m not really one to freeze up, but on my first-date with my boyfriend, I kept getting so distracted by how attractive he was that I couldn’t stop awkwardly laughing at everything he said,’ says Hayley, 32*, ‘his face was hilarious, he was so confused why I was laughing at him talking about how he broke his arm once...
‘When he went the bar, I went back through our messages to remember how to have a normal conversation,’ she continued, ‘I was able to salvage the night by talking about his dog, thank God all men on Tinder love a good dog picture.’
3. Are they worth a full-face of foundation?
Sometimes you’re talking to someone out of genuine interest, but let’s be honest, half the time your just bored at work. How to tell if they’re worth meeting IRL? The ultimate test, think about all of the prep that goes into a first date. Whether it’s thinking of a fabulous outfit, doing a full contour, actually shaving your legs in Winter, is it worth it? If you can’t be bothered to wash your hair before it, they’re probably not worth it…
4. A very important pre-date question, have you eaten that day?
On the day of the date, first-date nerves can ruin our entire routine of eating every two hours. If you’re super nervous, you’ll likely be too busy guzzling wine while you’re getting ready to think about food. However, there’s a fine art to being just tipsy enough to fake confidence and stumbling up to the bar wondering how you’ll stay on your stool if you have another white wine.
‘After splitting up with my long-term teenage boyfriend, I went on my first ever first date last year and I was so stressed I’d drank half a bottle of wine before leaving the house’ says Grace.* ‘I was fine at first, but after my first glass of Rose at the pub I realised I needed food to sober up fast or I was going to make a show of myself.
‘For some reason, I didn’t want to do the normal thing and just tell my date this, so I told him I was going to the toilet and literally ran to KFC next door and got some chips,’ she continued, ‘The bouncer wouldn’t let me back in with them so I had to stand at the door stuffing my face and then run back to the table with a greasy chip packet stuffed in my bag. It did the job and my date never found out so to be honest, it was a great date-hack.’
5. Do you have a friend on ‘family emergency’ duty?
Yes, when a date is so bad you want to leave early, you should really just say you’re done and leave. Alas, we’re women and we’ve been conditioned to be overly-polite to everyone, so ultimately if you need a get-out card ready to pull so you can leave a date comfortably, it’s the patriarchy’s fault, not yours (ironic if your using the card to get out of a date with a man).
‘Every date I go on I make a point to have a friend ring me after 20 minutes, whether we’ve been speaking online for ages or not,’ says Hayley, ‘if I don’t answer, they know it’s going well, but if I do they know to do the whole ‘ahh family emergency come home now’ bit. We have it rehearsed down to a T and whether my date clocks on or not, I’m not bothered as long as I can leave quickly without any awkwardness.’
6. Do you have your Sasha Fierce persona ready in case they’re an entitled nightmare?
‘My last first date, he was 45 minutes late – I was 20 but still – and within minutes I could tell he thought he was Christian Grey,’ says Grace, ‘he moved me to a different table, patronizingly patted the same side of the coach that he was on for me to sit down and complimented my dress by grabbing it and feeling my legs.
‘We weren’t ordering food, but he said he was hungry and ordered a steak, and then told me I’d have to “play on my phone” while he ate it,’ she continued, ‘weirdest power move I’ve ever seen.
‘I’m honestly quite in my element when it comes to these types of men, it’s draining but entertaining…so instead of leaving I turned my Sasha Fierce on and called him out on all of his bullshit. Those type of men don’t really change just because you call them out though, so I never saw him again. He made it clear he would message me if he wanted to see me again, not the other way around, so I like to think I won since I’ve subsequently ignored every message he’s sent…’
7. How good are you at handing ‘the ex-conversation’?
If there’s one rule of first dates, it’s don’t discuss your exes. Of course, every now and then you’ll find yourself on a date with someone who has absolutely zero social awareness. In those cases, being good at a swift topic change is a necessity.
‘I don’t have a lot of luck with Tinder dates,’ says Hayley, ‘and one time the guy would not stop talking about his ex-girlfriend. He found a way to bring every conversation back to her, even when I brought up my dog – who we’d talked about before – he started talking about the dog his ex had when she was little. Clearly, he wasn’t over her, so I swiftly unmatched as soon as I left.’
8. Have you got a list of excuses to leave if no-one's on ‘family emergency’ duty?
Suddenly developed a terrible head-cold? Realised you have a dog at home that needs feeding? Forgot you haven’t recorded Bake-Off? There are plenty of excuses to use to run out of a bad date, some better than others. However, we suggest having at least five in your head if you’re so flustered by your dates behaviour that you can’t think straight… queue Charlotte’s* story…
‘On my first date with one guy, we went to the pub,’ says Charlotte*, 29, ‘after having a drink he said he needed the toilet and that I wasn’t to miss him too much while he was gone. I was surprised to see that he sent me a Snapchat while he was in the toilet. Thinking it must have been old and the notifications weren’t showing up in real time I opened it, and needless to say I saw a close-up action shot of what he was doing in the toilet.
‘Horrified I didn’t know if it was a joke or if he was testing fetish boundaries,’ she continued, ‘I made a quick escape saying I was feeling feverish and learnt my lesson to always have a better backup excuse.’
9. Are you giving them the benefit of the doubt?
Online dating can be so superficial, so shallow and easy to ignore, that we can often forget we’re talking to another real human being with actual feelings. If you’re avoiding a first date because you’re premeditating their flaws or can’t really be bothered, you may be missing out on a diamond in the rough.
‘I had been talking to this one guy online for months,’ says Gemma, 26*, ‘It was more for attention than anything, I never really intended to see him because I wasn’t that physically attracted to him. When I was having a particularly lonely weekend, I agreed to go to dinner and instantly regretted it when I saw him waiting outside the restaurant.
‘He just wasn’t my type at all,’ she continued, ‘but I went ahead with it and after a painful starter, decided to stop being judgemental and actually try and enjoy myself. We had the best date ever after that, my dessert I found him the funniest man in the world and fully fancied him.’
10. Are you ready for a relationship?
The last question is probably one you should ask yourself first. First dates don’t necessarily lead to relationships immediately, but if you’re going out with someone whose looking for something serious, it’s important to establish exactly what you want. Are you dating because you want a relationship or because you’re bored? As Amy found out, her Tinder dates hid a lot about what she was actually looking for…
‘I used to go on multiple Tinder dates every week,’ says Amy, 30*, ‘I hated staying in alone and I got bored very easy, so I would see different people to pass the time. I thought I wanted a boyfriend, but in reality, I was just bored of my job and all of my friends had married off and become less sociable. When I started seeing someone more regularly, I realised I actually hate being in a relationship, being single is so much more freeing. I don’t need to go on dates, I just need more sociable mates.