How To Get Over First-Date Anxiety

Even if it ends up being awesome, it's totally normal to feel nervous before a first date. But it can take a lot of positive self-talk and bravery to get out the door and actually get to the date in the first place. I know that when I was dating I would always be equal parts excited about the possibility of meeting someone I would click with and super nervous. What if he was a creep? Or didn’t look like his pictures? Or, if we’d met already and it wasn’t an online date, what if he wasn’t as cool as I remembered and I would be stuck making small talk all through dinner?

I’ve found, however, that one thing that really helps when you’re nervous about doing something new (and every date is a new experience, no matter how many you go on) is having a plan. Like, for example, before you do an interview for a new job, you prep and plan, right? Same goes for dates. The prep part is pretty self explanatory — just do whatever pre-date thing you usually do, like showering and brushing teeth and make-up, if you’re into that. But the planning part? Well, that can be a bit more complicated.

Since it’s been a few years since I had to deal with a first date, I figured my experience was probably not relevant anymore so I turned to my friend, writer Siân Joan Kavanaugh. She laid out her awesome step-by-step advice on how to plan out a date so that you feel prepared going in and aren’t freaking out quite so hard. Here it is — you’re welcome.

1. Show Up Early With A Book

Getting there early means that when your date shows up, you’ll be calm and collected instead of rushing in and starting off by apologizing for your late arrival. Siân also told me that a book is a great default conversation starter, which means you don’t have to fumble around for something to say right from the get-go.

2. Don’t Start The Date By Facing Each Other Across A Table

While classic dates are obviously a meal or a coffee or a drink, Siân recommends starting a date by meeting in a public space like a park and walking side by side for 15 minutes or so. This takes the pressure of making eye contact off of those crucial first minutes and Siân says “there’s something so calming about physically putting one foot in front of the other” that will help you calm your first-date jitters.

3. Ask Creative Questions

But you don’t have to be boring about it. I mean, sure, yeah, you should probably do the usual “Where are you from? What do you do?” questions at some point (or, in mine and Siân’s case, “How long have you been in Vietnam? What brought you here?”) but include some weird ones too. Siân recommends asking them what their favorite sense is or even their favorite smells. Those are the kind of “strange” questions that can lead to learning things about each other that you’ll never get from the basic, boring ones. It’ll also make you stand out from any other dates they’ve had recently; other people who clearly just weren’t as creative as you are.

4. Don’t Drink Too Much

No one likes a sloppy first date. Having a drink or two (if you’re of age, obvs) to help you both relax a little is fine but don’t go overboard. You know your limits — stick to them and you won’t regret it.

5. Always Practice The Rolling Date

“Rolling date” is a term I hadn’t heard before, but Siân swears by it. Basically it means have a couple of locations in mind. If it’s going well, you an head to a new spot together. But if it’s not going well, then there’s a natural break in the date that gives you the opportunity to bow out of the rest of the evening gracefully.

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