Last month's article ("Avoiding First Date Faux Pas Part 1: What Never to Do on a First Date"), we discussed what never to do on a first date (with a few additional great suggestions from readers). This month's Dating Faux Pas Prevention continues with another subject of concern to many; what are the two of you going to talk about on that first date? Even though this is one of the most common dating questions that I receive, I am instead sharing something far more important... whatnotto talk about on the first date:
**Don't discuss wanting to get married or have children: Obviously, if you have previously been married and/or if you have children, this is going to be a topic of discussion. Further, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to get married, get remarried, have children or have more children. However, future marriage plans and reproductive goals are not appropriate first-date conversation topics. You do not want your date feeling as though they are going to be dragged to a jewelry store after knowing you for all of two hours. And a side note to the gentlemen: Guys, this may seem obvious but please do not propose on a first date -- it is neither cute, nor is it romantic. It is just plain creepy (and yes, it does happen).
**Don't discuss personal finances; either yours or theirs: Talking about the current state of the national or world economy is fine and certainly a timely subject. However, discussing personal financial situations should remain off limits. In fact, I believe that until an exclusive relationship is established, finances should remain private.
**Don't engage in overtly sexual discussion: Playful flirting is fun; it's part of the dating process and it makes us feel good. However, imagine my own disgust when several years ago, one of my simultaneous first-and-last dates started describing one of his particular sexual predilections -- in extremely explicit detail and about ten minutes into the date. This was not flirting... this was frightening. I am by no means a prude but seriously, the only thing that this winner was lacking was a diagram.
I said it last month and I will say it again... what message do you really want to send? Playful flirting suggests that you are attracted to one another. Graphic descriptions of sexual scenarios in which you would like to engage immediately after meeting someone suggests that you drive a windowless van without license plates.
**Don't get into specific details as to how your previous marriage or relationship ended: It is perfectly normal to reveal a few details of how your previous relationship situation ended. However, do not go into a great amount of detail on the first date, as you might easily give the impression that you are still going through the earlier stages of the recovery process. For example most of the people I dated would inquire as to the circumstances surrounding my late husband's death. I would tell them that he had battled Lou Gehrig's disease (because not many people are familiar with the term "ALS") and the usual response was, "I'm so sorry." I then replied, "Thank you," and that was it. I would not go into any further details until or unless a relationship ensued.
The previous-relationship discussion certainly can and should take place if a relationship develops; however, discussing your past too soon, especially with great passion (whether that passion manifests as anger, sadness, tears or longing) will give the impression that you are not yet ready to date. If you are still recovering from the end of your previous relationship, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that; however, if that is the case, you may wish to consider stepping back from dating for the time being.
**Don't discuss illnesses/ailments/family issues: You do not want to lead with what is considered to be extremely personal information. For example, if you or a loved one has overcome a serious illness or disorder, that is fantastic and definitely cause for celebration; however, it is not a suitable first-date topic -- remember, your date is someone brand new to your life. The same thing goes for any kind of issues within your family (estate battles, divorce battles, custody battles, difficulty with children, finances, family estrangements, an unfortunate childhood, etc.). Again, these are definitely discussions that you can and should have once a relationship establishes; however, leading with these kinds of disclosures on a first date screams "Way too much information way too soon".
**Don't discuss job or career difficulties: It is entirely acceptable to discuss your careers on a first date; this is conversation that gives you a great sneak peek into the person with whom you are sitting. Moreover, and regardless of the social situation or scenario, one of the first questions that we are usually asked is, "What do you do?" However, if you are experiencing difficulties at work (a bullying boss or co-worker, a round of layoffs, etc.), keep that information to yourself for the moment and instead talk about why you love your career. If you are not especially happy in your current career, talk instead about the career to which you aspire and why.
...and let us not forget the "Big Two"
**Don't discuss politics or religion: It may be cliché, but it is true nonetheless. These are indeed the "Big Two"; the subjects that you will initially want to either tread extremely carefully around or avoid altogether. You can usually get a good feel for where another person is politically and religiously (or spiritually) just by talking to them, however, unless both of you are clearly on the same side of the fence (i.e., you met at your house of worship or at a political party fundraiser), these are hot-button issues that should be approached with great caution.
I once again congratulate you on your willingness to venture back out into the World of Dating. Doing so means that despite the pain that you have suffered with the end of your previous marriage or relationship, you also acknowledge your life is meant to be lived to the fullest in every respect and if you choose it, that life can and should include companionship and love.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
In the comments section of my blog, a question one reader posed just stopped me in my tracks. Her comment: "When are we (and by 'we' I assume she mainly meant me) going to finally stop looking for a new man for this latter part of our lives when so many of us have already created such full, busy, fulfilling, wonderful lives? Do we really need to put up with the potential needs, demands and idiosyncrasies that any man we find online would put on us, for potentially minimal return on our investment?"
I appreciate comments, because many are thought-provoking. This one, though, made me sad, because of what I see as her resignation. If I understand exactly what she's saying, she wants "us" older women to give up the hunt and accept that we've already had our time as part of a loving, passionate relationship, be it a marriage or other form of companionship. So ladies, that game is over for us, let's just give up the Quixotic quest, settle down to old age and find fulfillment with family and friends, clients and associates if we're still working, grand-kids if we have any, dogs, cats, books, and favourite TV shows? Anyone for golf, bridge, canasta?
Perhaps this strategy has worked for this commenter. Perhaps it has even brought her happiness or at least contentment. But I personally am not resigned. I was a happily married woman and knew what it was to have a solid, beautiful relationship. I have also never resigned from anything in my life and don't intend to now. Yes, this "online dating" thing is not easy. You need to become adept at reading between the lines. You need to have a sharp ear for what's not said. You need to sift through some "little white lies" and some big ones too...like the 'midweek dater' who took me out to one of the best restaurants in the city (which by the way does not impress me; I am happy in a diner with the right guy). Over champagne in icy chilled glasses (well okay that was quite nice!) he asked me out again--for another Tuesday night---then offered every excuse possible about why he could not be available to date on weekends. Well, every excuse except that four letter word the starts with W and ends with E. Just put IF in the middle and you have his real reason! Who falls for these things?
The selection process is harder now than it was at an earlier age, because of the illusions and delusions you have to push through. If there is a next life, maybe I'll come back as a male. If I do come back as a guy and wind up on match.com at this same age I am now, 72, or even older, and write in my profile as so many men do, that I want to meet women "35 to 45" or some equally inappropriate age ranges, please just kill me. You have my written permission.
Give up looking for love, again? Never! I know what intimacy is, and I want it again, in this life, not the next.
When I read her comment, I also wondered if this woman would give this advice to men about not bothering to look for love one last time. One of the men I dated a couple of times was a Harvard-trained doctor, a brilliant conversationalist and a world traveller with energy and much love and affection to share. He is a young 88. Turned out he wanted someone in a similar situation: retired and able to travel regularly with him. Tempting as that was I am so far away from retirement I can't even see that distant shore. Plus, yes, his age was a consideration. My point is that this sweet man, even at age 88, was sure not ready to give up his one more chance at the brass ring. He wants a loving woman on his arm, in his bed and next to him in the first class or river cruise cabin. And why not, when he richly deserves it! Do we want to play it safe, and eventually die in a nursing home, drooling and in diapers, or play big, make love on the high seas, and maybe never have to go down that slippery slope...?
Yes, Virginia, there are many delusional people in this world! But as long as there is hope and goodness and online dating I will keep believing in this particular Santa Claus: the one that will one day deliver another great man to my door, and have him stay with me right through to the end, in my daily life, in my bed, and always, making me laugh.
It would help if he can cook, since I am hopeless in the kitchen. I nuked a potato in the microwave recently. I didn't know you should only leave it in for about six minutes so I put it in for an hour. I was still clueless, even as the smoke alarm went off and the entire apartment filled with smoke. When I opened the microwave door, all I saw sitting here was a tiny black marble. I nuked a potato! Okay, that is not my area of genius. A man who can laugh at my human failings and foibles will earn my trust and love, and I will do the same for him.
People have asked how "that date" went, the one I wrote about last week in my first Huffington Post blog. Are you ready for this? I did tell him that I "might" write about dating for the HP (because, frankly, I didn't want him to ask to see anything and know I already wrote about him). He said, "Great. I'll help you with the research, because you will need a man's POV. So can you set me up with Martha Stewart? Not that I'm interested in her. I would do it for you. I'll report back on our date, and you can write it up."
He was serious! As kindly as I could, I told him people were already setting Martha up with men like Liam Neeson and Tim Robbins. Did he (living on modest income, admitted he could not "perform") really think he had a chance with her? I did ask him that, but did NOT mention his shortcomings. I figured he would know what I meant. "Oh sure," he said without hesitation, completely confident he had what it takes. "Martha would really like me. I would be a refreshing change. A real person, not some entertainer."
'Some entertainer' eh? Ok, going back to delusional, as I said, it isn't always easy to deal with. But, since we all have a touch of it, let's be kind to each other. Of course I will never see this man again. Interestingly, I was debating how to break our next date, and decided to send him an email, and then call. He actually took it real well, saying he understood. "You live in Manhattan and I live in New Jersey. The commute is just too difficult." Let him live with that belief, that it's the commute, and let him find his own way to Martha Stewart. I have 24 more interesting matches in my inbox right now, and I am going to answer a few.
But I do have another amazing story to tell you next week...about a much younger man who wrote to me, and a story that a woman told me that will make any disappointment you might have most likely pale in comparison.
In the week and months ahead, unless someone shuts me down, there will be happy stories, funny stories, poignant stories and more, all true, and all meant to help light the way and make your journey down this road perhaps a little bit brighter, so stay tuned. And please do share your own thoughts and stories with me.