Make A First Impression Last

The first impression may be the most important of all. Here, advice on how to make the ones you make memorable.

By Lynn Harris

he idea of “sexy” is subjective. One person’s “hot” is another person’s “not.” So when it comes to making a good — even juicy — first impression, there’s good news and bad news.

Bad news: You can’t predict what will turn someone else on. Good news: You can’t predict what will turn someone else on. So your time’s better spent dressing for success — your style — than second-guessing others.

Leave some skin to the imagination
Some peekaboo cleavage, some higher-thigh when you cross your legs—definitely. But if you’re busting out all over (men, you too; button up; wear a shirt under that vest), you might get looks, but no digits. It’s not immoral; it’s just intimidating.
You can’t predict what will turn someone else on.

Light touch
That “You’re so right!” touch-for-emphasis on the arm has a high tingle factor. But don’t let your fingers do any walking elsewhere. Once a sweet-enough looking guy asked me to swing dance… but his hand kept “slipping” a liiiiitle too close to my chest when he sent me out for a spin. Eeew! No more room on my dance card for him.

Laughing at his/her jokes is one of those great non-verbal intimacies you can perform in public.

Miss Manners has said, “The boring opening is much better than the clever one. Clever openings usually don’t sound clever—they sound like lines. Conversation is like bidding in bridge: You say one small thing — about the weather, for example — and you wait to see if the other person accepts it and replies.”

Still, chemistry can be complicated. A recent study at the University of Texas at Austin suggests that in dating interactions, men overestimate women’s sexual interest, while women underestimate men’s willingness to commit. (Evolutionary explanation: When it comes to the reproductive imperative, it’s better for males to risk rejection than risk not spawning; for females, it’s better to play safe and not be abandoned with cubs.)

Meanwhile, a study at Vienna’s Ludwig Boltzmann Institude of Urban Ethology suggests that women don’t necessarily send clear rejection signals. A drink in the face is one thing, but we’re also conditioned to be polite—or at least to stick around to verify our first impressions.

Best news of all: sometimes we’re wrong. My friend Jeanne hated Greg the first time they met, dismissing him as a cigar-smoking, suspiciously tan stockbroker. Of course, Greg is a cigar-smoking, suspiciously tan stockbroker, but after meeting him a second time, Jeanne warmed up to the personality underneath. And eventually married him.

Sometimes first impressions are only second best. Just be yourself. If you’re shy, be shy; you’ll attract people who like shy. Act loud, and you’ll act weird. Even if at first you don’t succeed, you will make the right impression on the right person.

Lynn Harris ( is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (, of the award-winning website A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times,,, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your dating questions for Ask Lynn via
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