Meeting Your Online Date in Person

by Brian Caniglia

Making the transition from hiding behind a computer screen to actually getting out there and meeting your online date in person can be a scary thing. But remember, the person on the other side of the table is just as anxious, excited and self-conscious as you. And there are things you can do to make this first “real” meeting more comfortable.

First, a quick comment about the “safety” issue. This article gives hints for how to protect yourself, but don’t take that to mean that you need to be overly cautious. Yes, the anonymity of the internet means it has it’s share of whackos. But as long as you follow your common sense, you have nothing to worry about. Remember, fear can be a prison.

Probably the first thing to remember is not to give away too much personal information too quickly. If you’re emailing/messaging someone and they ask for things like addresses and phone numbers right away, it might be a sign of them having less-than-good intentions. If you start emailing outside of the dating service, use a public email like Yahoo or Hotmail to keep your private email, uh, private.

Take your time before meeting in person. Communicate online for as long as you need to figure out whether he or she is being truthful, and whether he or she is really interesting enough for you to go through all the bother of scheduling a date.

It’s advised that you talk over the phone at some point as well. It’s amazing what you can tell from just the sound of someone’s voice. Being someone else over email is one thing, but being anyone else other than yourself when on the phone requires some serious acting skills.

So let’s say you’ve agreed to a real honest-to-goodness date. What to do?

Try and pick a date that allows for a balance between “doing stuff” and talking. You want to be able to communicate with the person and get a feeling for them, but having to constantly fill time with conversation can be mentally exhausting. This is why movies (too impersonal – you just sit there) and coffee shops (too little stimulation – and caffeine doesn’t count) aren’t that good for first dates.

Involving some kind of physical activity is best. Walking is the most obvious, though it certainly doesn’t have to be the danged beach. Why not the zoo, a boardwall, the mall, or a local fair or special event? Or, you could go bowling, play pool, go to the gym, and so on. Even if you pick something at which you’re new, this is fine. It gives you a chance to show a bit of vulnerability and openness.

No matter where you go or what you do, you’ll feel better if you get there and back under your own power. Drive yourself, or make sure to have taxi money. Even better, have someone else pick you up – this sets a time limit for the date, and gives you the reassurance that someone you know will be around.

And of course, common dating rules apply. For those of you who are new to the game, or have simply been “away” for awhile, here’s a few primers.

First impressions are important. Cliché, but true. This doesn’t mean looking your absolute best, because you don’t want to overdo it. Shave what needs to be shaved, clean under your fingernails, throw on the antiperspirant. Dress casual, but clean. Don’t dress too sexy, unless you’re willing to suggest that you are sexually aggressive.

And nothing kills a date quicker than being tardy. Yeah, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but subconsciously it leads one to think that you don’t care much about the date. Plan ahead and get there early.

Small talk can be really tricky, even for the experienced dater. A good trick is to use what you know about him or her as a basis for questions, like “so how is the new car?”, “did you finish that essay?”, or “when does your mother get of prison?” (just kidding). The big rule of conversation, though, is listen well. When all else fails, shut the heck up and hear what he or she is expressing. Nothing powers intimacy as much as the sense that the other person is understanding how you feel.

Sometimes the trickiest part of the date is finishing it off. It’s all a matter of timing. Yes, when you’re enjoying yourself you want to prolong the moment, but it’s really important to end the date on the best note possible. Don’t wait until the momentum sags too much, or you’ll leave a bad impression. Get out while the going’s good! Remember, if it went well there can always be a next time.

The big question is, do you want to go out again? If you’re not entirely sure, don’t commit to an answer. You might be too tired or nervous to be thinking clearly. But be as honest as possible – if the other person is right for you than he or she will understand. And remember, even if this one didn’t work, there are others! Don’t force it. There are over six billion people out there, and a whole lot of them are sitting in front of those screens right now.

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