Displays Of Affection - Do Them Right

Ready to make your move? Herewith, our experts share the when, where and how of caresses and kisses.

By Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro

fter three or four dates, romance blooms with the promise of candlelit restaurants and midnight declarations that mark an end to the initial screening process. But on a first date, both parties are still getting a feel for one another (not to be confused with copping a feel) and every move seems calculated, analyzed, or both. You're seeking to shrink the personal space between two near-strangers, yet you can't just jump right in. Before necks are nuzzled, there must be a foundation of flirtation upon which to build. Words are great, but if you don't demonstrate desire with some well-placed PDA, how is your date supposed to sense your attraction and feel wanted beyond companionship? Let us explain.

Affectionate Arithmetic

Whichever Romance language you studied in high school (French, Italian, Spanish), renew your fluency in romantic body language. Before physical affections are volleyed, a
In Little League, they teach seven ways to safely reach first base.
keen suitor waits for signals that show interest and enthusiasm. Electrodes and heart-rate monitors aside, reading body language is your first and best indicator. Some actions—flipped hair, locked eyes, tilted head—suggest that it's all going swimmingly. Others—drummed fingers, hunched shoulders—hint that you're either droning on or altogether drowning. Here's how to decipher non-verbal hints and add them up:

Leaning in attentively + Shedding that heavy sweater = The ice is breaking…caress her hand.

Big toothy smile + Riotous laughing spells = Promising sparks…initiate an innocuous game of footsies.

Folded arms or furrowed brow = Brrrr...Attempt to defrost this reluctant playmate with warmer chat and a lingering touch on the arm.

Clock-watching sighs, restless fidgeting = Is it over yet? Proceed to your separate automobiles.

Flushed cheeks + A wink = Request the check and initiate seduction sequence.

Incidentally, a note for the ladies: Some men are still earning their Bachelor's Degree in dating. To coax along stalled affections when desire is in the air, tenderly grasp his hand during a moment of levity and break a shy guy out of his shell.

The Arsenal
In Little League, they teach seven ways to safely reach first base. Here in the majors, where stealing second might get you slapped, there are plenty other favorable measures of pitching woo than KPH (kisses per hour). In general, highlight the secondary erogenous zones, those areas of stimulation that could be aired on primetime without FCC backlash (wrists, necks, and toes are mostly safe).

Like the evening's specials, some affections are appetizing openers, some are meaty entrées, and others are meant to be served after the meal.

Drawing nearer: Café table covered with white paper instead of linens? Whip out the ink or ask the hostess for crayons. Playing naughty hangman passes time and scribbling sweet notes is like IMing in real life, and if your hand brushes hers, so much the better.

Touch point: Guide her through a door, or punctuate laughter with a soft touch on the forearm, elbow, or small of the back. Safely cross the barriers of personal space while enlivening a date with the charge of brief contact.

A show of hands: Far from the sexual hot zones, a little finger play across the table is the best place to start. One easy way to initiate touch is to compliment her jewelry and graciously
Footsies are the randy subplot that mimics what's happening above the tabletop.
hold her hand as you get a closer look at rings and bracelets. Besides, jewelry is often a conversation piece ("It's my great-grandmother's...").

A waltz isn't schmaltz: Take a twirl, whether a slow sway or a racy tango. We don't recommend toting a boom box, but two extraverts shouldn't be afraid to cut a rug when a swingin' number hits the barroom jukebox. Plus, many women presume that good dancers are adept lovers.

Happy feet: Footsies are the randy subplot that mimics what's happening above the tabletop: the chitchat may be PG-13, but two turned-on minds may have other ideas. Thus, if there's no combustion above ground, don't be the creep who runs his dirty wingtip up her skirt. Under cover of tablecloth, you may kick off a round of footsies, but wait for a positive reaction before venturing above the ankle.

Stroke of genius: Stroking a lady's hair is more personal than you think. Running your fingers through a silky mane is strictly an after-dinner bonus for great first dates.

Cake Walk: Gallantly offer your arm or hand, and enjoy a stroll after the chocolate mousse to cap off a pleasant evening. This versatile classic works for huddling in the winter cold or for dashing to make the traffic light in the summer.

Forward pass: While sharing a cab home, two new daters might touch knees, and then snuggle closer. Likewise (or even in your own auto), a chap might delicately place his hand on her knee-but, please, only if she has her legs tilted toward you and has perhaps played with your hair a bit. Don't get greedy; the leg is neither meant for grabbing, nor an unwanted thigh exploration. Gauge her reaction to see whether your hand can linger: a scootch away says, "No, thanks," and a hand on top of yours means, "Come closer and show me those lips."

Phineas Mollod traded his J.D. for the editorial life and is often found riding the congested E train with his wife and daughter in New York. Jason Tesauro pushes pen and ink by day and leads the lifestyle seminar series by night, ne'er far from his sweetheart and a Brady Bunch houseful 'o tots in Virginia. Together they are the authors of The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice and The Modern Lover: A Playbook for Suitors, Spouses, and Ringless Carousers.
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