In the Tinder age, when the majority of flirting takes place between two strangers as they sit on the toilet somewhere miles apart blinking at their mobile phones, the humble first date is more important than ever.
It is, in a purer sense than generations past, your first impression. Chances are you didn't meet at a party, a friend didn't introduce you and no one approached anyone for their number at a bar. You're going in cold, with nothing but a disembodied text exchange and your five most flattering photos backing you up.
And so we decided to revisit this ancient ritual to reiterate the basics and add any other no-nos specific to the modern age, after consulting a broad range of female friends and colleagues as well as our own sometimes bitter experience. Here, then, are the mistakes to avoid when you finally progress from your iPhone to 'IRL'.
Going for dinner
You may think suggesting a restaurant is a suave move – after all, they do it in the movies. But in reality, you're probably just overcomplicating matters. As one woman put it to Esquire: "it's too formal, it's hard to look sexy with food in your teeth, and most importantly, if you don't like the guy there is NO ESCAPE". It's entrapment, basically. So just stick to a drink, and eat out if there's a next time.
Arranging to meet on the street
Planning to meet outside a Tube station or on a street corner somewhere is no-no because, in the words of one woman, "it makes you feel like a hooker". Decide on a venue you both like the sound of, get there early and wait outside so you can enter together, rather than wait inside at a table. Bonus tip: try not to be staring at your phone when she arrives. On a good date no one should get their phone out at all, except during toilet breaks.
Getting annoyed if they're late
It's a woman's prerogative to arrive 10-15 minutes after the agreed time without you becoming passive-aggressive or making a big deal about it when they show up. We've heard stories of guys sending text messages after 5 minutes asking where their date is, setting an unnecessarily stressful tone for the evening ahead. See lateness as a good opportunity to show what a laidback guy you are, and, like all your other intolerances and bad qualities, suppress your hatred of tardiness until much later on in the relationship.
Going to a novelty / noisy venue
"I fucking hate stuff like being taken to Zoo Lates," was one eye-opening piece of feedback, "a date venue is not a substitute for a personality". Same goes for OTT cocktail bars, 'adventure activities' or anywhere so busy you're going to spend the first half hour fighting your way to the bar or waiting for a seat. Find somewhere quiet where you can enjoy a drink and hear each other talk. If that sounds dull, it isn't. Date one should be about enjoying getting to know each other, so forget the wacky stuff.
Being a bad conversationalist
You'd hope this is basic stuff but according to the women we spoke to in their early 30s and beyond, it is surprising how many fully grown men still don't understand that talking about themselves all night, bragging, being dogmatic with their opinions and – above all – not listening are all huge turn offs (sample quote: "I went on a date with a conservative and he spent all night telling me giving to charity was pointless and the NHS was Communism. I just left."). So, at the risk of being patronising: try and think of a first date as an opportunity to learn about your partner, rather than just a chance to show off who you are. You should be asking more questions than giving answers.
Again, you probably know this already but it's worth reiterating – first dates are like job interviews: you can't be overdressed. As one woman put it: "If it's a first date I'll always make an effort, then if they turn up in a lame t-shirt or something I'll feel stupid because I'm overdressed by comparison". Chances are she's put a lot of thought into what she is wearing so do the same, and if that's something you struggle with, well, there is plenty of expert advice on this very website to keep you right.