The first date survival guide

Valentine’s Day is coming up — it’s the one time of year when it’s possible to get away with going up to a crush in calculus (or in my case, world history) and asking him or her out on a date. It all seems fine and dandy when your date-to-be says “yes,” but panic takes hold once you are sitting in your dorm room, preparing for that first rendez-vous. This first date survival guide will get you home (or into someone else’s home) in one piece.

What to wear?

Now for girls, this one is easy. New trends make it casual and cool to wear dresses over spandex or dresses over jeans. Basically, keep your outfit fresh and comfortable. If you’re not the type of girl who wears miniskirts, don’t try it on a first date or you’ll spend the night tugging and fussing to make sure all of your lower half is covered. If you’re going somewhere casual — to coffee, for example, or (sigh) Schatz — make sure your clothing is neat and flattering. I know it’s minus 50º outside; it’s okay to resort to a cute pea coat over an XXL Tartan hoodie.

For guys, don’t be afraid to look nice. You won’t seem desperate, we promise. Give the constellation T-shirt the night off and opt for something that buttons down. I’m going to recommend Ralph Lauren or Lacoste, but that’s just because I’m from Connecticut. A dark-wash pair of jeans is definitely “in style,” but khakis will do fine as well. For shoes, sneakers are acceptable unless they are full of holes. Timbs or some nice leather are favorable; they will tie the ensemble together.


Brushed teeth are a must. A MUST! “I once kissed a guy who had the most terrible breath,” said Hannah Pileggi, a first-year in CIT. “It was a major turn-off. I’ve avoided him ever since.” Bring breath mints, particularly if you’re eating a meal. For girls, makeup should be subtle. Guys can usually see right through the whole heavy eyeliner and bronzer routine, so keep it natural. For some guys, hair gel can work. Those trying to emulate the Brad Pitt/Vanilla Ice hair should probably stay away from the goop on a first date, when you are likely to go overboard due to nerves.

Places to go

Generally, first dates should be coffee, second dates lunch, third-plus dates dinner — but those are just suggestions. You can also try other cute activities (particularly for Valentine’s Day), such as ice-skating at Schenley Park or taking a break from the cold at the indoor garden at Phipps Conservatory. If you’re up for a romantic dinner, try Girasole on Walnut Street. For the more frugal, you can always use DineXtra and grab a Killer Cookie at the Underground — they’re half-off on Valentine’s Day. As for paying for your date, girls definitely appreciate a guy who forks over the cash. Chivalry is always good, but don’t think it’s going to get you any more than good conversation.

Conversation dos and don’ts

Let’s take into consideration that not every first date scenario is going to be the same. Conversation topics really depend upon how well you know the person. On a first date, though, you’re usually starting from scratch. So, you’ve gazed at this guy or girl across lecture for several months, and you’ve finally worked up the courage to ask him or her out. Relax — the hardest part is already over. Make sure you keep the conversation light; don’t talk too much about yourself, but don’t interview your date either. You’re just scratching the surface. Save the heavy-duty questions for the next date. Above all, you want to give your date a sense of your personality, so act like you’re talking to a friend with whom you’re comfortable — not a potential one-night stand. Don’t-go-theres: past relationships, politics, religion, your personal theories on life, the weather (we all know it’s cold), and “When I was wasted” or “How I got tested for STDs last weekend...” stories.

The escape plan

So this person you were eyeing in statistics turns out to be a real, uh, outlier. How do you escape? “To get out of a bad date, I would act really tired,” said Jordan Rosenfeld, a first-year in H&SS. “Or I would say I’m getting really sick.”

Relying on a friend may also be a good option. “If the date’s going south, I text a friend to call me and pretend she needs me, urgently,” Pileggi said. “Works every time.”

To kiss or not to kiss — that is the question

Hopefully, instead of an escape, by the end of the date you’ll be looking for a way in. The decision to go in for the kiss is a personal one. But if you don’t get any action the first night, it doesn’t always mean that your date isn’t interested. It’s really just a personal preference. However, if multiple “dates” pass by and nothing happens, you can count on this person as a new, really good... friend.

This is a lot to take in, but just remember: First dates are ultimately supposed to be about having fun. Cut out this article, tape it to your leg, and take a chance this Valentine’s Day!