You’re as ready as can be –

You’ve hardly had anything to eat or drink (can’t take chances with fluids) over the past two weeks and  as result of your stringent, extremely disciplined diet (and possible dehydration or loss of crucial body fluid) you’re 4kgs down and finally fitting into that beautiful, red number you bought for the company’s Christmas party last year. It was meant to seduce your Greek Adonis of a team leader but when you caught him making out with Andrew in the ladies bathroom you realised that no red dress was ever going to turn that head – not even if it was Valentino. Anyway, the dress is perfect and you look perfect in it. Starved and possibly malnourished but perfect all the same.

You’re meeting him at the restaurant being the independent, dynamic woman you are. It also spares you the awkward, close-proximity chit chat in the car which, let’s face it, is hardly a sexy introduction.

You’re typically rather confident even though you may be described as the introverted type but suddenly panic strikes. What on earth are you going to talk to him about? It’s been six months since your five year relationship with Mr Should-Never-Have-Wasted-My-Time ended and since you’re convinced his IQ is below 40, you hardly think those years assisted in developing your conversation skills. To the contrary, in fact you’re probably dumber now. But then Marcia introduced you to her very preppy-looking (this time you’re going for intelligence) cousin at her birthday lunch last week and he asked you on a date. You hardly know him, you know a little about him but hardly enough to prepare for possible conversation topics adequately. You promised yourself you were going to refresh your World War One (and Two if you had time) history knowledge but The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills took precedent.

Now what?

Good news! Don’t over-prepare. If you’re going to pre-pick certain discussions, you’re going to sound like a badly rehearsed school production. There is no way you can predict or anticipate his opinion or response. Listen and engage with the sincere intention to get to know him better.

LISTEN – if the whole time he’s talking you’re either thinking of what to say or ask next instead of actually listening and focusing on what is being shared with you, you’ll ask stupid questions or make dumb comments and the five years you spent with a social moron will show.

Conversation is like a dance but he doesn’t have to lead. Due to the male word limit being around the 7,000 a day mark as opposed to the female target more than double that, men are typically somewhat quieter and more relaxed within conversations. This is no excuse to blabber on senselessly about your grandma and her divine chocolate chip cookie recipe but it does give you the right (and often obligation) to sometimes direct and guide the dialogue. You can and will perhaps have to introduce certain topics by chatting about them instead of waiting for him to do so. We’ll discuss these topics in a little more details.

I’m going to compare these to movies so we’re all clear. Have you ever come across a man who likes a great tear-jerking drama? Nope, right?  Do you know why? Because MEN HATE DRAMA. They’re uncomfortable with and unable to deal with tragedy, heartbreak or disaster. They like action, any type of action – but this is not that type of article and you’re not that type of girl. Well, at least not on the first dateJ. You may want him to be your bodyguard, rescuer, knight in shining armour and in time if he’s the right one he’ll turn out to be a wonderful support but NOT on the first (or second or third) date. The slightest hint of how your ex used to mistreat you or how tough a childhood you had or how those AA meetings are really affecting you will make you seem unstable, desperate and needy. This will put too much pressure on a man who wants to know that he’s on a date with a funny, interesting and attractive woman. In time you may get to know each other and share sad stories but in the meantime, think romantic comedy.

Keep the evening light and positive. Talk about stimulating and exciting things like travel – places you’ve seen and want to, hobbies or activities you’re involved with, books you’ve read, funny incidents that occurred at the office or at Sunday lunch (not the You Had To Be There ones though).  Deep and meaningful is for much later on when it’s an actual relationship.

Show a keen interest in his stories and responses. This is not a monologue or poetry and prose reading with you as the leading star. Appreciate what he has to say and respond to his stories in either inquiring about more details (without interrogating or badgering him) or by sharing something similar. Like flowing dance moves – initiate a topic or respond to one, listen, respond to the response and continue in this way. Should the topic become exhausted, the conversation should present another one in a natural way. Don’t treat this as an interview by ticking of as many questions as possible featured on your list of Top 20 Qualities of your perfect man.

When it comes to questions no man likes to feel that he is on the witness stand. Try to avoid WHY questions when directed at him or any of his actions as these may convey that you are questioning or doubting him or that his answer is unsatisfactory. For example;

“Why do you prefer California to New York?”  is less gentle than “Tell me, what do you love about California?” which is a kinder and which conveys genuine interest.

Also try to avoid questions such as:

  • Tell me more about yourself
  • What would you say are your best attributes
  • Describe your happiest times

These resemble those of a personality assessment questionnaire and we all know how much we hate those and how easy they are to manipulate.

Have an opinion. We’ve come a long way since the barefoot-and-pregnant-in-the-kitchen era and men have finally cottoned onto the phenomenal intellectual capabilities of women. Men are interested in our views and the different insights we can provide. Communicate your sentiments in a non-opinionated, open-minded fashion and respect and appreciate his

Don’t try to compete or flex your muscles (literally and figuratively speaking) with a man you’re on a date with. We all appreciate that the corporate and career world can be a tough place and any woman wishing to make a success of things need to be able to stand her ground. Dating is a different game and a different set of rules apply. Let him be a man, a protector, provider and proclaimer (or at least for the evening). You may be smarter than him or even bench press more than he does but in the romantic sphere a man wants to see your softer, nurturing, kind and accepting side. Sure, he wants to know that he’s with a woman that is proud and capable but not better than him in aspects that are supposed to be his forte. I am by no means suggesting you should portray yourself to be submissive Stepford Wife but you don’t need to get into an arm wrestling competition at the table either. Feminists need not apply.

Show but don’t tell. As much as you’re absolutely thrilled about having a brand new audience and you’d love to go over each and every memorable detail of your life with him including the lead role you had in Snow White in Grade 2, and the fight you had with your best friend over Grumpy, the topic you chose for your first debate competition and all the teachers you had in high school rather give little titbits of information away without oversharing. Let him slowly (slowly as in over a period of time) find out all the fascinating things about you. You don’t immediately have to tell him that you won first prize in a national art competition, you can just casually have the certificate in an open drawer when he comes for dinner one night. Men love mystery (and action of course).

The general consensus regarding forbidden topics seems to be that religion and politics are the two no-no’s. I’m somewhat more flexible on this as long as these discussions don’t turn too personal or emotive. These topics may even make for some interesting conversation. The absolute epitome of date-conversation-disaster-topics is EXES. It doesn’t matter if it was a long or short relationship or if it was one week or five years ago. He is not interested. Period. Should he inquire about your previous relationship you can give him a brief overview but without being negative or insulting. If you’re going to elaborate on what a douchebag your ex was, he’s going to seriously question why you stayed with him. What we say about others reflect on us too. Steer away from interrogating him about his exes. It’s not relevant at this point. If you have concerns or doubt about his actual relationship or marital status, he is not the man for you.

Laugh. A natural, heartfelt laugh is attractive and a great way to keep the evening fun and festive. A man appreciates a woman who is easily entertained and who laughs at his jokes (even if they’re lame) and who finds his stories entertaining. Bursting out in absolute hysterics after every two sentences won’t do much to endear you to him but a sincere laugh can go a long way.

The way you treat and speak about others is hugely indicative of your own character. He is not one of the girls and a great gossip about how fat Sally looks in her leopard print mini dress is unlikely to go down the same way it would at Wednesday Ladies Cheese and Wine Evening. Refrain from negative chatter about others as you may come across as a bitter and twisted spinster. Treat the waiters and staff at the restaurant with kindness and respect. You’re a lady of class after all.

Flirt by complimenting and occasionally touching him. If he tells you of something he’s accomplished (which let’s face it he’s bound to do) express how impressive that is and gently touch him for even further affirmation. Maintain eye contact throughout (which doesn’t mean staring at him with longing puppy dog eyes) and maintain an open posture towards him. Lean in occasionally to show him his stories are getting really interesting.

Dating and flirtatious conversation are part of the game and we all try to “sell” ourselves as best we can by portraying the most attractive version of ourselves. As much as there is leniency and we all practice poetic license, remain true to yourself and your core values, beliefs and opinions. There’s no point in misleading someone to such an extent that they wake up with someone completely different a year later. Then you may as well walk down the aisle with a banner around your neck that reads:” You’re in for a surprise, buddy!”

Now go and enjoy your first few dates – I think you’re ready!


About The Author

Suzette Leal

Anything you want to know about dating - I'm your girl! My background is in Psychology with three Honours degrees varying from General -,Child- to Industrial. I am fascinated with human behaviour, interaction, communication and relationships. Being a keen observer of and eager participant in all these facets of social conduct, I have been very focused on the romantic aspect of our existence. I research and write about all the creative ways we go about (and disastrous mistakes we make) in searching, finding and exploring love with all the thrills and turbulences that go with this quest and adventure. I have co-owned a business (Meet Joburg) that organises events for professional singles since 2011. My involvement in this business, my academic background and my passion for writing has given me the opportunity to serve as a Dating Expert on many media platforms including Women24, Morning Live on SABC, Kaya FM, RSG, SAFM etc. I have a light-hearted, humorous approach to dating and relationships but I believe the advice, guidance or experience I share is valuable and sincere or at the very least entertaining!

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