In the Tinder age, we're all going on a lot more first dates. Well, if you're using it properly. But somewhere along the line, the options for what to actually do when you meet up became dangerously oversaturated, from crazy golf on rooftops to pop up food concepts selling Taiwanese buns.
With the pressure to impress usually falling on male shoulders, there is a temptation to plan something quaintly obscure or dazzlingly remarkable, as though just because what we eat, drink and do has changed the formula for a great first date has too.
From a girl who has had some terrible and remarkable first dates - including a picnic that had to be eaten in the car because traffic was so bad – here's an honest evaluation of your options and pitfalls they present. Happy dating.
1 | Going somewhere with a 'no reservation' policy
No matter how much you've obsessed about the cool location and scoured the amazing menu, waiting for an hour before you have to sit down at a bar or restaurant will always scream monumental fuck up. You need things to go your way on a first date as you get through the earnest and awkward getting-to-know-you chat about whether she can drive or what she thinks about Brexit. You need a table and chairs, in other words, table and chairs that are available the moment she shows up.
Date rating: 3/10
2 | Doing something sober
The awkwardness built into any first date is that you are complete strangers hoping you'll one day be buying things from IKEA together. There is only one cure to that awkwardness, and that is alcohol, the reliable lubricant that makes sure everything is funny - still a bit weird - but funny. One member of the Esquire team admitted that he had success with a breakfast date sans alcohol. Nobody trusts him now.
Date rating: 1/10
3 | Doing a 'fun activity' involving balls, bats or sticks
There is a scene in the rom-com Ten Things I Hate About You where two love interests engage in a tempestuous paintball battle. It is roughly what people envisage when they book crazy golf, ping pong or any other activity for a first date. In reality, you are sandwiched between couples trying to relive their youth or revive their sex life, you can't hear anything you are saying to each other and - worst of all - you're willingly exposing her to your woeful putting skills or taking delight in 'defeating' her, neither of which is attractive.
Date rating: 5/10
4 | Going to the cinema
Do you know what really isn't a lubricant for conversation? Enforced silence. That and having to look away from someone for approximately 2 hours. The cinema date is the calling card of the socially inept man, and the snacks are extortionate. Leave it to the 13-year-olds.
Date rating: 0/10
5 | Inviting her out with your friends
No girl wants to be your plus one to watch a Europa League thriller on date number one. The call to 'meet the friends' is a rite of passage that should come in good time, not before. I've wasted a lot of time envisaging a night where a circle of smiley men chuckle endlessly at me and audibly tell my date I'm 'a keeper', but in reality, nobody remembers your name, you're compared to his charming ex-girlfriend and you have nothing to contribute to the chat about all the weird people they knew at university. Invite a girl out with your friends for the first date and she will either think you're friend-zoning her or don't have the confidence to see her alone. And she might go home with your buddy instead.
Date rating: 2/10
6 | Booking an expensive restaurant
One vestige of times gone by that should be ignored is the formal and expensive dinner date. Girls don't want to have to worry about wearing a pair of heels and a tight dress when they've spent all afternoon nervously eating cashew nuts. Nobody wants to worry about what to order or feel scrutinised in a stuffy restaurant. Most importantly, neither party wants to be held captive for over an hour if you make your mind up in the first three minutes.
Date rating: 4/10
7 | Simply going for a drink
You cannot underestimate the wondrous part-nervous part-tipsy feeling of the first time you sit in a totally unremarkable bar with someone and realise you like them. A good date has everything to do with the person and almost nothing to do with the venue, you don't need Carpaccio or indoor roller-skating to impress or distract. The biggest indicator that someone is 'right' is being sat across a table from them with a bottle of Pinot Noir and suddenly realising you've been there for three hours.
Date rating: 10/10