modern dating rules
Written by: Linx staff member Michael Norman
I often get asked about what women should wear on first dates, and I really have just two words to say about that:
That’s it. Be Sexy. Despite blog posts and magazine articles to the contrary, there is no uniform for first dates. In fact, sexiness is different for every woman based on her age, her confidence, and her body type. But at any number – whether you’re counting years, reporting your dress size, or looking down at a scale – your first (and really, only goal) when dressing for a date should be achieving some degree of sexiness.
I know some of you are clenching your jaws (and possibly your pearls) when you read this. I can actually hear more than a few silent diatribes about objectification, being liked for who you are, the appeal of intelligence, self-respect, dignity, modesty, propriety, being true to yourself, and leaving something to the imagination. Those points can all be valid depending on the day, but note that I didn’t ask you to wear Lucite heels and a bandage dress borrowed from a Vegas cocktail waitress; I simply asked you to be sexy.
I know it can be harder for some of us than it is for others, so let’s examine some of the feedback clients often give me when they bristle at this suggestion. If you don’t think sexiness is appropriate for a first date, there’s a chance that one or more of these points might apply to you:
I don’t like being objectified. This isn’t about sex.
Hold up. This isn’t about sex? Are you kidding me? So you just want to make a new friend, is that it? Is that what we should tell your date? That you’re just looking for something platonic? Is that why he called you, asked you out, made dinner plans, and is going to pick up the check? Just to make a new friend? You’re right that a first date isn’t about sex, but it is about sexual attraction; that’s really the point of differentiation between a date and every other interaction in your life. If you don’t invite your date to be attracted to you, he won’t be. But hey, maybe you two can just be friends!
I don’t like dressing “that way.” I like to leave something to the imagination.
Again, I’m not telling you how to dress, but I am telling you how to feel. And so much of your mood – in all aspects of your life – can be dictated by clothing choices. Would you wear yoga pants to an important business meeting? Are you going to wear a skirt to SoulCycle? A bathing suit to a doctor’s appointment? (Actually, I did see a woman do that once. Please don’t.) If you want to be kissed, wooed, desired, wanted, you have to dress the part. Even the most conservative among you can spice things up a bit by undoing a button, letting your hair down, or adjusting a hem length. Invite the attention you want; if you don’t want a man to think about you sexually, I’m not sure why you’re going on dates in the first place.
I don’t like my body. You’re asking too much of me.
It can sometimes seem hard to accept, but we all have issues with our bodies. (Personally, I have about 56 inches of scars from 20 different surgeries, so I know of what I speak.) But if you don’t let yourself like your own body, how can you expect someone else to love it? Whether you realize it or not, you do love some parts of your physical self. If you have trouble starting at the top with a list of parts you like, go ahead and start at the bottom. List the things you dislike most and work in reverse. When you get to the top, you’ll know exactly where to focus with your clothing choices; draw attention to the parts of you that you like most (or dislike least), but always be sure to draw attention to yourself. If you don’t, you’re signaling to your date that some other woman in the room is more worthy of his gaze than you are.
I’m only interested in a guy who’s into more than just the superficial.
Yeah. We all are. Note the “more” in that statement. I get that you want him to be into your brain, but you also want him to be into your body. At least, I hope you do. It’s really enlightening to know that our clients who most often stress the importance of a physical connection are among the eldest. People who’ve had forty or fifty years of relationship experience know a lot more than the rest of us do. One of my favorite clients has often said, “There’s absolutely nothing more important than the way a man looks at me.” She’s right. So learn from your elders. (She, by the way, could teach all of us many, many things about the benefits of great tailoring and wearing slightly tight sweaters that have the perfect neckline. She’s also a successful retired attorney who can talk about almost any subject with a twinkle in her eye, a light laugh, and a smile.)
It’s 2014. The idea that guys are visual creatures seems really unevolved to me.
You’re right. It is unevolved. Because men are not particularly evolved when it comes to matter of the, uh, heart. How many generations do you think it takes to change the hardwiring of attraction? And what, exactly, would be the impetus? If anything, the practices of society – and the human body itself – adapt to feed our visually stimulated sexual appetites. You do, realize, right, that makeup is just a way to mimic the physiological signs of arousal? That every time you put on lipstick or blush or eyeliner you’re telling the men around you that you’re… interested? And your body… if you don’t want to attract the male gaze, your body is the biggest traitor of them all. More than one school of evolutionary thought proposes that enlarged female breasts (practically unheard of elsewhere in the animal kingdom) developed as a response to learning to walk upright; apparently human males need some form of cleavage to be not too far from eye level, and we don’t really care if it’s on the back or the front.
So let yourself be sexy. Admit that you’re looking for a connection that’s both physical and cerebral. Embrace the opportunity to advertise your interests. (Please, please don’t wear something that your friends called “cute.”) Learn to love the parts of your body that you already like, and to like the parts of your physique that you think you’ll never love. It’s ok to show some skin, to wear bright colors, to make choices that make it hard for a man to not look at you. It’s ok to want to be the center of attention on your date. In fact, it’s human nature. 😉
Putting the CON in Confidence… Part II
Amy often points out that the skills of dating are themselves like a muscle, and unless regularly exercised, they tend to atrophy. This is true of people both in and out of relationships, and though it is a huge mistake to think that your “dating life” is over just because you’ve found a boyfriend or girlfriend (happy long term couples actively “date” each other throughout their marriage) this can be a particularly hard problem for those of us who are single; if the dating muscles have atrophied and a new date is on the horizon, how can we pretend to have any dating strengths?
Given that we charge our male clients with the responsibility of planning, arranging, and paying for a date, it makes sense to offer the more skittish guys some advice on how to make sure everything at the restaurant goes smoothly. Assuming you survived Part I of this series, and successfully navigated a phone call that has led to a first date, here are some things to keep in mind that can help provide the boost of confidence you might need to convert a first date into a second.
1. Scout the location.
As a guy, it’s really important to have some sense of mastery of your surroundings, especially if you’ve invited a woman to a place she’s never been. While we certainly recommend picking somewhere totally new to both of you if you’re a more practiced or adventuresome dater, go with someplace familiar if first dates are generally hard or stressful for you; we want you to be excited about this, not anxious.
So show up a little bit early, especially if you haven’t been there in awhile. Make sure you check in with the hostess, and maybe try to request a booth or corner table that has low lighting. Or ask to sit outside if the weather is right and you don’t think it will get too cool too quickly (women love dining al fresco, even if they’re rarely properly dressed for it). Make sure you know the answer to the inevitable “Do you know where they hide the ladies’ room?” query that you’ll get at some point during dinner. And even take some time to study the menu while you’re alone and form a couple of questions or opinions about the dishes; if decisions are hard for you, deciding what to eat will be even harder when you’re being distracted by a pretty face.
2. Admit ignorance.
If you aren’t particularly well-versed in any specific food or cuisine, the really great thing about a restaurant is that it’s full of experts who can help you out. Don’t know where the best table is for a first date? Ask the hostess. Not sure what to order? Ask the waiter. Not comfortable ordering a bottle of wine? Ask the sommelier. Some guys might see this as weakness, but admitting what you don’t know is actually a strength; it also gets you off the hook. If the wine is bad, you didn’t pick it. If the table is lousy, you didn’t ask to be seated there. If the dish is awful, blame the waiter. And send it back. All of us like someone who knows a lot about a few things, but no one likes the guy who thinks that he knows a lot about everything. It’s really ok to be ignorant; admitting ignorance in front of your date can allow both of you to learn something. Together. It also lets your date know that you aren’t the kind of guy who always has to have an opinion, which means she’ll likely care a lot more about the opinions that you do have. Confident guys are curious, because they admit they have a lot to learn. Most women will tell you that being a lifelong learner is very, very sexy.
3. Be gentlemanly.
This one should really go without saying, but be sure to open doors for your date, to not sit down until she’s seated, and if you really want to make an impression, stand up if she needs to leave the table in the middle of your date. You should also encourage her to feel comfortable ordering what she’d like (after all, you picked the restaurant) so be sure to signal that you’re feeling both generous and hungry. In other words, saying things like “We’re doing three courses, right” (You’re hungry) and “I’m sort of stuck… not really sure if I want the halibut or the duck” (Your pockets are deep… enough) provides reassurance for her that she should order as she pleases, and she should expect to enjoy the evening.
4. Be clear.
As your meal winds down, don’t be afraid to let her know you’ve had a great time. If you truly mean it, a woman loves hearing “I’ve had a great night” and “I’d like to do this again.” Too often, we hedge our bets and make conditional statements like “If you’re interested, I’d like to go out again” or “I’d like to do this again if you would.” Do not do that. Be direct. It conveys a lot of confidence when you use a declarative statement. After all, no matter how you word them, questions always involves a degree of uncertainty. Yes? No? Yes?
5. Be… the bodyguard.
Whether you had the best date of your life or the worst night you can remember, always offer to walk a woman to her car/hail a cab for her/escort her to a bus or BART stop/stay with her while she waits for an Uber. It might waste a few minutes of your life and you may have hated each other, but it’s still a sign that you’re a good person. And a thoughtful man. On the other hand – with a date you really liked – it could be that extra minute or two alone that builds enough sexual tension and spark to lead to a great first kiss. And if you think the time is right for a great first kiss to happen, be sure to kiss her with confidence.
The third and final part of this series will involve some general tips for building and maintaining confidence in a lot of different situations. If you’re a guy who’s lacking confidence and self esteem, that can change. You really can learn to be more confident. And your entire life will change positively as a result. So stay tuned for more…. 😉