Grey haired and scared part three – top tips on managing the first date
The best advice I ever had on dating was from a sixty year old man. ‘Men are rubbish when you first meet them. You need to give us a chance to stop talking bollocks and show who we really are.’
He was right. But all good advice tends to fall away when you walk through that door to your first date.
No matter how you have been connected – whether by friends, internet, chance encounter on a train or agency, the feeling is just the same as when you were sweet sixteen. Will he like me? Will he fancy me? Will I like him? What should I say? Will he be ‘the one’?
First dates feel like a trial and to an extent they are – a trial of attraction, connection, potential, interest, shared values, common ground. But we tend to walk in thinking we are on trial, and that is a fast track to nervousness and making the age old mistakes.
We have interviewed a panel of men over 50 and asked them what will make them run for the door and what will have them holding the door open for another date. This is what we have learned.
First impressions count
As human beings we have survived and prospered by being tribal. Tribalism creates a tendency to rapid judgement about other people. We judge someone within 40 seconds of meeting them. Attractiveness is one of the primary criteria, followed by likability of the sound they make and then how alike they are in character. So rule number one for a successful date is to make an effort. Grunging up in your gardening gear because you ran out of time or your scrubby lounging clothes because you wanted to be comfortable gives one very strong message – ‘I couldn’t be bothered.’ Men are like us. If you can’t be bothered to make an effort, then why should they try?
Likewise, overdoing the ‘dress-up’ can be equally off-putting. Too much make-up, too much bling, too much glam can make men uncomfortable and give the impression of being high maintenance, high cost and high risk. Elegant, understated, well-groomed and venue-appropriate is the safe zone. We talked to one man who arranged a first date at the local races. His date turned up in a gold dress and four inch heels and he spent half the evening pulling her shoes out of the mud. Not good!
Last word here – smile. It will calm you down and make him relax too. Happy people have more fun and smiling people are seen to be more fun. So keep smiling.
The man will be as nervous as you and will, like you, be wondering what you can talk about. Now, if you happen to meet a true raconteur he will be quite comfortable holding forth. The other 95% will be panicking that they cannot talk about sport.
So make it easy. Have a range of things you can talk about. Read the papers before you go out. Know what is happening in the world. Think about your history and stories you can relate. Also, have a list of questions about him. Research tells us that people who ask questions and listen to the other person are rated as more interesting than people who talk about themselves. Added to this, showing interest in him will make him feel good – and if you do that you are rated as more ‘appealing.’
Needy, desperate women terrify most men. After 50, they are looking for a women who has some confidence, self-esteem, no complications and no need for a crutch. So please do not talk about your next date within the first date and suggest a holiday. Avoid any hint of ‘I need a man and I need one right now.’ Likewise, telling a man on the first date about all the other bastards you have met and sobbed over is not a great launch-pad to compatibility. The echo-chamber of how difficult men can be is a very quick turn-off. They do not want to know about your disasters and how awful men are – they will be thinking how quickly they will be on your emotional scrap-heap.
The men we spoke to were all hyper-sensitive to being assessed for their material viability. One told us that he pretends to be poor just to ‘flush out the money seekers’. So another no-go area is asking about income, the size of his house, his assets, alimony and if his kids are still dependant. Likewise, if a man starts digging for your gold – clam up and get home as soon as you can.
A classic difficult moment is the bill-payment. Offer to split it 50/50 and accept the response.
We had some toe curling examples from our men of women setting out details of hot flushes, hysterectomies and bunions. We don’t need to explain – just don’t go there. If, however, he mentions an ailment then listen and empathise. Men have a different intent here. It’s not about seeking sympathy. They are testing to see if they are still attractive even if they have e.g. a hernia.
Please do not judge too quickly. Love at first sight is a lovely and exciting thing. But real companionship, respect and wanting to be together usually has to grow. Remember the words of my wonderful friend, Mike. He was married for 50 years to a woman he adored who had first thought him a ‘bit of a twit’. He wasn’t. He was shy and gauche and trying too hard. She gave him a chance and found the gem inside. So if your date is not an immediate turn-off and you do not have an urge to run for the door, give him another chance. If he gives just a little spark, next time he just might sparkle.