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What You Owe a First Date

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Curled into a sitting ball on the hotel hallway carpet, the florescent light glints off of the number 141 on the hotel door above my head as I dial Will. True to his personality pre-trip, he’s been wonderfully supportive since I hit the road, sending short emails and witty texts, neither overly engaged nor acting uninterested. After an especially tiring date, I really just wanted to talk to a familiar male, one upon whom I’ve already made a great first impression.

Will and I chatted about our recent dating stories. He shyly mentioned a girl he was into but who wasn’t into him, and we chatted about what it’s like to be a mid-twenties guy who appreciates and values slightly older girls — it seems to be rare to find an early-thirties lady likely to make eyes (or send messages to) a younger guy. After we talked through his tales, we moved onto my current dating issue: needing to learn to politely end a first date.

Upon general inquiry, Will asked why I had such a hard time winding a date down, especially if I’m not feeling the person as a person, let alone as a date. I said I felt bad bringing someone out only to not be into them, and that everyone deserves a chance to show me what they’re made of. Which is when Will said, “But it’s just a first date. You owe them nothing but being honest and kind. There is nothing else at stake.”

And I remembered at that moment why I love first dates: there really is very little to lose. You go out, you meet someone. Maybe you have a good time, maybe you don’t. The investment is low for a return that may include love (or at least reasonably good sex). Bringing out your best self doesn’t mean you get a return on your investment, though. Once you’re in a relationship, you owe someone else a lot…and you have much more at stake.

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