My place is full of distractions (TV, Internet, phone, mirrors that force me to confront my dashing good looks and wonder why that cruel bastard Jesus didn’t grant everyone the same facial perfection as me), so I like to write at the Starbucks in my neighborhood. Only problem is, in the last few months I’ve noticed an alarming number of people on first dates. They don’t say so explicitly, but I can tell. They’re not quite train wrecks, but they’re awkward enough that you can’t look away. Simply put, having a first date at a coffee shop is a terrible idea. And as someone who is a veteran of the first date observation process, I’m going to tell you why:
It’s Daytime: You’ve never heard anyone go on a date and say, “It was perfect. He/she swept me off my feet, we totally connected….then we parted ways around 4:45 and I had an early dinner.” If it’s a weekend, that’s a little bit better, but what are you talking about on a week day afternoon? “I gotta tell you about this episode of Maury. Apparently, he was NOT the father.”
It’s Too Crowded: Most coffee shops don’t give you a lot of room to move around. You should be able to connect with someone without fear of getting elbowed by the fourteen grandmas having a book club meeting.
You might even wonder how I know so many couples near me are on first dates. I’ll tell you why: awkward body language. The guy is always kind of crouched over, leaning forward expectantly. The woman almost always has both her legs and arms crossed, defensively planning her exit strategy. When it comes to dating, body language is critical, and it’s hard to get comfortable in a densely populated area. It’s the same reason no guy ever asks a girl, “Hey, wanna go out? I know this great crowded subway car we could ride during rush hour. It got some bangin’ Yelp reviews.”
There’s No Atmosphere: The crowd here is an eclectic mix. Mothers with their kids. Guy working on his screenplay. Bum writing his manifesto about the government. Another bum, working on his screenplay about the bum writing his manifesto about the government. It’s a weird mix of folks, and you can never predict the energy in the room they’re going to create. Plus, what if the bum starts muttering about his screenplay, and it sounds really interesting? The whole time you’ll stop focusing on your date and become consumed with getting your hands on that script.
No Alcohol, Either: Depending on your tolerance level, having 1-3 drinks will help you both relax. Obviously, don’t go overboard, but if you can’t stop after 3 drinks, why are you on a date? Get your life together.
If you don’t drink, that gives you an even better opportunity to do something unique. Go to a museum, or a sporting event, or anything that’s a better story than “We had a couple muffins and mumbled about the weather. Also, he/she was in waaaaay better shape in the picture.”
Everyone Can Hear Everything You’re Saying: There’s no buffer zone. It’s like you’re a museum exhibit. You can almost expect a tour guide to walk by with a fourth grade class. “OK kids, clearly this isn’t going well. She’s planning a fake trip to the bathroom so she can slip out the back door. Wait…did he just pick his nose? OK, I think that was as scratch, but the fact that he’d even risk it means he knows it’s going nowhere. Allright, let’s see what this bum’s screenplay is all about.”
Let me give you an example of the kind of hideous dialogue I hear on these kinds of dates. About a month ago I observed a man and a woman next to me. The guy was (way too loudly) droning on about himself without pause. Over the course of an hour long date, he discussed:
* His 116 year old grandmother
* His Mom, who he hates
* The reasons why he hates his mom
* His workout regimen (“People at work tell me I need to calm down, I work out so much.” Really, Arnold?)
* Mustard matchup: honey dijon vs. brown
* His cousin, who was an “artificial insemination kid” and who “has a depressing rant on Facebook every day.”
* I zoned out for awhile but eventually heard the phrase “…. the largest collection of wildcats in the world.” This one really turned her on.
First of all, what the fuck? What is an “artificial insemination kid?” That’s not even an expression. Secondly, this guy would have failed no matter where his date took place, but at least no comedians would have blogged about his awful conversational choices.