This weekend I'll be going on my second date with the lovely, normal young lady that I told you about in last week's column. That got me to thinking about first-, second- and third-date etiquette, and so on. I thought I'd give you my thoughts on the timing of when you can cross certain boundaries, and when to reveal the more peculiar parts of your personality.
First dates are awful. Everyone is on his or her best behavior, and you don't really learn much about your date - except whether or not he or she knows first-date etiquette.
First dates are more of a two-way audition. You can probe the other person about his or her job, but you can't really ask whether or not the other person makes enough money to support one of your illegal habits. It's a good idea just to stick to the basics: mutual friends and interests, and other things you're sure that you have in common. Try to steer the conversation away from your wild political views, conspiracy theories and the reasoning behind the names of your many cats.
The second date is tricky. You still don't want to reveal too much, but you do have to start figuring out whether or not the object of your affection could be a long-term partner. If you are looking for a person who shares your religious and political views, then maybe hint at the fact that you'd like to get more involved in church activities or you recently saw something cool on Fox News or MSNBC. Try to avoid vitriolic generalizations, like, "Our president is a communist Nazi who eats puppies," or "Organized religion is for suckers, they just want your money." Then you're just being an ass.
The third date, if you make it that far, is the time to start pulling back the curtain a little more. I wouldn't suggest showing up to the date wearing your most stylish tinfoil hat, but you can broach sensitive topics like religion or politics, and tell your date things that they will eventually find out anyway, like if you still live at home or owe the Mafia money. It's still too early to reveal make-or-break character flaws. If you are a chronic bed-wetter or you have to tell everyone in your neighborhood that you've just moved in, you should keep those little nuggets tucked away safely.
Call me old-fashioned, but I don't believe in sex on the first date -- a belief that stems more from lack of opportunity than ethical fortitude. However, I do believe that you only really get to know a person after you have had sex with them. It's not the act itself that is that revealing. It's because the pressure to seal the deal is off. Something changes in a fella's brain after sex, and he can finally calm down.
Until then, he'll stay in character.
But anyone who treats sex as a commodity is simply being manipulative. The whole idea of "giving the milk away for free" only holds true if the person holding out is one-dimensional, having nothing else to contribute to the relationship.
There's a pervasive myth in dating that "if only she got to know the real me," she'd fall in love. But that may just be you fooling yourself. The real you is damaged and neurotic -- like all the rest of us. It's important to create boundaries and exercise a little restraint when dating. Don't sabotage the process by being yourself.