Ace Your Very First Date!

Want to make a great impression that’ll guarantee they’ll be gung-ho for date #2, #3, and beyond? Below, five things men and women look for.

By Cate Mitchell

o many potential love connections begin—and end—with a first date. Sometimes it’s obvious why two people don’t click. But a slew of baffled singles are still left scratching their heads wondering “Was it something I said?” when a first date turns out to also be the last. Since that initial encounter does make such a strong impression, we asked dating experts and real men and women what spells success.

What men want women to do on a first date:

Tell him where you want to go
If your date asks, “Would you rather go to this new wine bar I heard about or just catch a beer at the local pub?” quit trying to second-guess what he wants to do and just state your
There are few things guys fear more than a woman who complains her meal’s too hot, too cold, or just plain not quite right.
preference. “Guys want to do the right thing,” says Jillian Straus, who interviewed more than one hundred singles across the country for her book Unhooked Generation: The Truth About Why We're Still Single. “If you have a preference for where you want to go or what kind of food you want to eat, and he asks, tell him. It takes the pressure off him and lets him make you happy.”

Don’t stress if the meal’s not quite right
Sure, Harry found Sally’s quirky eating habits endearing, but there are few things guys fear more than a woman who orders her dressing on the side, her steak rare-to-just-slight-medium-rare, but not a tad past that—or who complains her meal’s too hot, too cold, or just plain not quite right. “A guy hopes that whatever the date brings, she can have a good time and go with the flow,” says Steve Nakamoto, author of Men Are Like Fish: What Every Woman Needs to Know About Catching a Man. After all, if you’re this much of a perfectionist about your meal, how high-maintenance will you be? And what kind of imperfections will you begin noticing about him if he sticks around? ’Nuf said.

Make a genuine offer to pay
If asked, most guys would say they’re happy to pick up the check on a first date. But that doesn’t mean you should sit back while he pulls out his wallet. Why? “He doesn't want to feel like he is being taken for granted,” says Straus. “He is willing and most likely plans to pay, but he wants you to appreciate it, not expect it.”

Be courteous
You don’t need to read Emily Post’s etiquette advice before he picks you up, but a little courtesy goes a long way to making a guy feel appreciated. And, while refraining from checking your BlackBerry or cell phone is a given, there are smaller things women often neglect that can make a big difference. Say “Thank you for the lovely dinner” at the end of the meal. Tell him you like his shirt. Let him know you appreciate his making the reservations. Those little niceties count in a big way.

Kiss him already
“Finally!” he thinks as he leads you to your door, “a great date with a fun, interesting and
Want to see this woman again? Let her know at the end of the first date with a “Are you free for dinner Thursday?”
attractive woman.” What next? Simple: It’s no secret that guys put a lot of stock in sexual chemistry. So if you had a good time, don’t be shy and ruin his hopes with the dreaded cheek-turn. That’s right, kiss him if you’re feeling it. A peck on the cheek is sweet, but if you’re smitten with him and willing to smooch on date #1, a kiss on the lips will make his night. “Not necessarily a make-out thing,” says one 43-year-old dater from New York, NY. “But one that is just slightly more than a peck on the cheek is a total thrill and gives me the go-ahead to call her for another date.”

What women want men to do on a first date:

Give a little advance notice
Sure, it’d be nice to think “So, wanna get dinner tomorrow night?” would be taken as a sign that you’re really into the girl, but it actually has the opposite effect. By asking to see her so soon, you’re subtly implying that her schedule’s a big blank slate and that she has got nothing planned for a Friday or Saturday night. “I’m just as busy as he is, so it’s great when he calls at the beginning of the week to make plans,” says Emily Rukin, 30, of New York, NY.

Have a game plan
Women love a man with a plan, so be sure you’ve got at least one great idea of what you’d like to do on the big date. Just say, “Was there something in
Women love a man with a plan, so be sure you’ve got at least one great idea of what you’d like to do on the big day.
particular you want to do? I have a couple ideas...” We’re not saying she won’t nix your suggestion and propose an alternative, but she’ll like knowing you haven’t just kicked back and left all the planning up to her. “Women hate when men ask ‘What do you want to do?’” says Straus. “He needs to do his homework, too.”

Confirm the night before
You called her Monday and agreed to go out that Friday. Don’t wait until 4 p.m. the day of your date to check in. Instead, call her the day before to figure out where you are going to meet and at what time. She’s probably gotten a manicure and perhaps even bought a new skirt. The last thing she needs is to wonder the day of the date if it’s still a go.

Be a gentleman
Pulling out her chair or opening doors in front of her may feel a bit too forced these days, but many women love being treated like a lady. So give it a go, and remember to compliment her when you see her at your meeting place—“You look wonderful; great to see you” is fine. Let her order first, or ask if you can order your favorite appetizer for both of you to share. Thank her at date’s end for a lovely evening, and reference something specific, like, “What a great night. And now that I’ve heard your opinion, I definitely do have to get that other Malcolm Gladwell book.”

Ask for a second date at the end of the first one
Want to see this woman again? Let her know at the end of the first date. “I like when he asks me out again at the end of our date,” says 32-year-old Melissa Wright of Sterling, VA. “Not just a general ‘Let's do this again’ but a specific ‘Are you free for dinner on Thursday?’ It shows he's interested, and it takes a lot of the anxiety out of wondering if and when he's going to call.” And what’s better than ending a great date with the prospect of another one to look forward to?

Cate Mitchell is a freelance writer in New York City.
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