The first date following a breakup, or the first date with somebody full stop, is a nerve wracking and sometimes embarrassing experience.

While they can be fun and exciting, and a great way to pass an evening, I constantly hear tales which suggest that there is less of the latter and more of the former. Without jumping the gun and thinking about whether you could walk down the aisle with a potential date, how do you judge if somebody is suitable date material?

When I went on my first date four months after a painful breakup, I was nervous and felt slightly dehydrated, and kept fiddling with my hair, and my heart skipped beats. Until ten minutes before the date I felt fine, and then it suddenly occurred to me that I had not been on a proper date for over two years. I also realised that I hadn’t actively dated or played the field for about six years! Fate (or alcohol) have always conspired that when I have gone on dates in the past six years, they’ve ended up being boyfriends.

About ten minutes into the date, he told me about his hopes of moving back to his very far away home country. Twenty minutes in I heard about how he was tired of the dating game and was looking to settle down. Thirty minutes in, he asked me how I would feel about living in the said country. One hour in and he had mentioned marriage, babies, and all things commitment related. I hadn’t even got to my main course!

I must admit that I found it all rather funny. Some of the things that he said could only be described as ‘smooth’ and I told him as much. My comments made little or no difference. He then questioned me on my exes and general life, and used my answers to convince himself, and me, that we were destined for each other.

The evening continued in this fashion, and I must say that while some of his comments unnerved me and made me feel a little ill at ease, it was quite a humorous evening, and I tried not to take things too seriously. When we got to the bar, and started to dance, this resolved the chatting issue, as the music was far too loud. We both danced, but now that he was unable to talk, he decided to try and talk with his body and tried to press up against me at every opportunity. I determinedly danced on my own sometimes as well as with others to show that I needed a little space.

It all went downhill when he made a move on me as we were walking out of the bar on the hunt for a taxi. He stopped in the street and sort of smiled to himself, and then grabbed my hand really tightly and pulled me toward him. I actually said, “Oh gosh, you’re gonna make a move aren’t you?” He then kissed me twice on the lips, and just as I thought it was going to be brief, he pushed his tongue in and did what I can only describe as an attempt to clean my tonsils and the rest of my throat, never mind the wetness all over my poor face!

My expression was set to stun when he finally pulled away and we walked up the street. For once in my life I could barely speak! He even tried to grip my hand and I shook it off as politely as I could, and it still didn’t pierce his happy mood! I managed to escape his clutches and jump on a night bus minutes later, but not before he tried to pull me into a dark, dank doorway near Leicester Square. I very firmly pushed him away and gave him a brief kiss on the cheek, and then jumped on the bus. Necking in the dark streets in the cold was a pastime I attacked with gusto in my teens, but it’s not an activity I wish to partake in now.

While I think that I’m quite a good judge of character, I find it really difficult to tell how viable a date with someone will be when I first get talking to them. While there are certain people who behave oddly when you first meet them, most people have a social personality, and sometimes it takes several dates before you see beneath to the real personality. Also what seems attractive with great conversation when you’ve had a few drinks, can be very unattractive with limited conversation in the cold light of day or in a one-on-one date situation.

A male friend of mine went on a date with a “nubile, stunning blonde that looked good enough to shag”. While she was considerably younger than his usual lady, they had managed to have a decent enough conversation when he met her in the bar, although I don’t think the ‘conversation’ was top of the agenda. They went on their date the following night, and the only word he was using to describe her then was “thick”. Even the looks had faded in his mind by the end of the date, and he said that there were such long periods of silence in the evening, he wondered if he was on a sponsored silence! He held up the conversation for most of the evening, and the first time she became talkative was when she decided she wanted to bed him.

Another friend went on a first date with a guy that she met at a party. She hadn’t been on a date for a few months and thought it might be because she was too choosy, so when she got talking to what seemed a quiet, sweet, clever guy that didn’t fit her normal profile, she agreed to meet him for a drink. On the date, he gave her a filthy look for having a vodka and tonic while he sipped on lemonade, and the conversation had more holes in it than a pair of fishnet stockings. While he was only three years older than her, he made her feel as if she were a child and he was so much older, and proceeded to slag off all of the women he’d either dated or been in relationships with. Mr Negativity scored serious minus points on the dating scorecard that night. Needless to say, that date was the last.

Generally what first attracts a person is looks. Unless you’ve been observing someone in action, it’s difficult to tell if someone has a great personality, good sense of humour and is ‘perfect’ relationship material. Looks will more than likely determine whether you will speak to the person in the first place and engage in a conversation. Once a conversation starts, this is where personality can kick into gear, and it will either reinforce what impact the looks made on you, or cause you to alter your view/opinion of the person, whether it’s good or bad.

To add further confusion to the mix, a few drinks can equal beer goggles/night vision glasses, and both signal a deterioration in judgement, after all, if the law says that more than two drinks is over the limit and incapacitates us to drive, surely it’s safe to say that you’re unlikely to make wonderful judgements while under the influence?

I’m not mad enough to say that you can’t meet the person you end up marrying while out on the piss. What I and many people have learned is that there’s no set way of judging whether a person will be a great date. It helps if they are attractive, but looks don’t hold up a conversation on a one-on-one organised date, and they certainly don’t create a relationship. The best thing to remember is that there is no harm in going on a date. Much is made of whether an invitation to dinner, drinks or a film should be accepted. When I think back on some of the conversations I’ve had or heard regarding the possible acceptance of a date, you’d swear that a date signaled the embarking of a relationship, and in extreme cases it’s almost treated like a marriage proposal. It’s just a date!

I could very easily have decided after my disastrous first date to steer clear of dating guys I’ve met at parties, barely know etc, but I’ve since been on several disastrous dates and I put it all down to experience, and my friends think it’s hilarious. I don’t take it seriously and I recognise the experience as fun. Admittedly I may feel very differently if I end up doing it hundreds of times, but optimism means that I bury that thought.

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