How to… Survive a dinner date

dinner date

If you get a hot date with someone who looks like Jessica Simpson, you don’t want to blow it by acting like Homer Simpson. So here’s a simple guide to appearing as the suave gent you need to be

Etiquette – You’re not out with your mates, so you really need to behave accordingly. Pulling out the chair to seat her is very oldschool and is probably not expected, but a bonus all the same. Although no matter how tempting, when she’s about to sit down don’t whip the chair away at the last minute and then make ‘Joey’ noises as she crashes to the floor. Don’t swear and compliment her on how she looks. Holding doors and letting her go first is a basic, but don’t feel you have to standup from the table when she does and certainly don’t try to order her food for her – that’s just a bit creepy.

Wine – Ask the waiter or sommelier to recommend a bottle to go with your food. Don’t let them push you out of your price range, and don’t fall for second-cheapest syndrome. One-in-four people go for the second-cheapest bottle – not wanting to be seen going for the cheapest. However, the mark-up on the second-cheapest is usually around three or four times wholesale, while expensive wines are around 1.5 times. The waiter will show you the bottle to confirm it’s your choice. Sniff to make sure it’s not corked – it will smell musty if it is – and then take a sip, remembering you’re checking to make sure it’s not off, not that you like it.

Conversation – Everyone’s favourite topic is themselves, and when we say everyone what we actually mean is women. Men are quite happy to sit and talk for hours about the scarcity of footballers who can put in a good cross from the left; the best ‘female orientated’ scenes in mainstream cinema (Neve Campbell and Denise Richards in Wild Things, every time) or simply to recite lines from I’m Alan Partridge. Women love talking so let them. Listen, look interested, ask open-ended questions, nod when she makes a point and stifle yawns if necessary. Don’t aggressively ‘call bullshit’ on things you disagree with, but remember you should also never lie about being into the same things or you’ll find yourself getting invited to Oud recitals/George Michael gigs/ kitten fundraisers with her a week later.

Complaining – If there’s something wrong with the meal don’t be afraid to complain. Don’t spit it out and pretend to be gagging as you roll on the floor. Instead, be quiet, calm and polite and do it straight away thus giving them the chance to rectify the mistake. There’s no point complaining after you’ve eaten half of it or waiting until the bill arrives. If the waiter cannot help then ask to speak to the manager, but shouting, causing a disturbance or threatening to ‘open a big can of whoopass’ is ungainly and will just embarrass both you and your dining partner.

The Bill – If you’re the one who asked her out then you have to pay. If it was her who asked you out then you really should pay too. At least until the fourth date. We know this goes against feminist principles of equality, and those same feminists appear to be dragging their heels over righting this one in the modern age, but that’s how it is brother — grow a set and suck it up. If she asked you out and insists on paying then let her, but offer to take her out for expensive cocktails afterwards. Never go Dutch and split the bill — fine when you’re with friends but on a date this is just not the done thing, even we’re told, by the actual Dutch.

Tip someone – Tip well in the restaurant, even though they’ve already included service on the bill. Sometimes though, you’ll need to tip outside of a restaurant, so get it right. Asking them to cup their hands and shoveling in a load coins is poor form. Bank note inside the palm of the right hand, resting on the middle finger and then thank them with the ‘loaded handshake’. You’ll feel pretty Sinatra, but keep it classy. If you try and tip using this method with small bills it’s a bit insulting and you may as well just knee them in the groin while you’re at it.

Outside – Giving her a friendly punch on the arm and shouting ‘smell ya later’ as you steal the only taxi is no way to end the night. But neither should you make a circle with the thumb and forfinger of one hand and suggestively poke it while nodding to see if she agrees. Let her indicate as to what happens next. If she decides to call it a night be gracious, thank her for a nice evening and make sure she gets a cab. Don’t scream, ‘well that was a waste of fucking money!’

From Men’s Fitness, January 2009

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