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online dating essentials -
preparing for your date

It's happened - you're going to meet up with someone - and inevitably there'll be butterflies, especially if it's your first internet date.

But remember that the experience ought to be fun, or at the very least, interesting. This isn't a job interview, and even if your date isn't quite what you expected (or better than imagined and turns your knees to jelly!) try to relax and enjoy the moment.

Our simple tips below should help you feel a little more prepared.

how should I look?

The answer is: like yourself, and if you're unsure what to wear, smart but casual is a neutral look that few can find real offence with.

If you're out to impress, though, it's obviously worth making just a little more effort than usual. Guys should remember that women tend to pick up on details, so things like crumpled shirts and un-trimmed fingernails aren't likely to go unnoticed.

And ladies - although it's possible that you'll wow him with killer heels and a little black dress, there's an equal chance you'll put him off entirely. The best bet is not to overdo it and dress as if for an informal meeting rather than big night out.

This said, there's a fine line between making the right impression and giving the wrong one entirely. If, for example, you're the kind of guy who lives in beat-up denim and well-loved tees, there's little point putting on a formal shirt for the occasion if you're unlikely to ever be seen in one again.

short and sweet

It's worth making clear from the start that you probably only have time for a short meeting - you can always change your mind if you decide you'd like to stay longer!

This way, if things really aren't going well, you've got a valid excuse for making the meeting brief.

But don't hurt someone's feelings by spending just a few minutes in their company unless you're really uncomfortable with the situation.

If they've taken the trouble to meet up, make sure the date lasts a reasonable amount of time. After all, you'd expect and want the same.

breaking the ice

It may be a cliché, but it's always worth considering a couple of ice-breaking topics to get the conversation started.

Vacations - recent or planned - are a good neutral area that almost everyone will have something to say about. Or find out which movie your date last saw, or wants to see.

Try to steer clear of the usual introductory subjects. If your date has met up with a few people before they've probably had many conversations about where they live, what they do, etc. It's worth trying to make things a little different.

things NOT to talk about

'You' is a good start. Or at least not you, you, you. Although your date should certainly be interested in knowing what makes you tick, nobody likes hearing someone talk only about themselves. So try to ensure the conversation is equally balanced and that you listen as well as speak. Be prepared to give answers to questions, but make sure you ask them, too.

That said, if your date seems to be talking too much or too little, try to judge why. It may be that they're completely self-centred or have very little to say; but nerves can also make someone gabble - or simply clam up completely.

the ex factor

Avoid discussing ex-partners! It's an invitation to start ranting, or reminisicing, or simply displaying baggage, none of which is going to show you at your most appealing.

If asked, you'll need to reply, but try to give a short, concise response.

Your date may also want to know about any previous meetings you've arranged via the site. This can be a tricky one, especially if you've had several, as some find this slightly off-putting.

If so, try to put a positive spin on it. Something like "I've met some really nice people" is a fairly non-commital but (hopefully!) completely truthful answer.


Safe dating

There's no reason why meeting with someone you've encountered online should be any different to, say, chatting to someone you meet in a bar. However, in any situation where you're dealing with strangers it's essential to make safety a priority.

Make sure you have a contact number for the person involved, and that you've spoken to them first. Tell a friend who you're meeting, where you're meeting and leave the date's number with them. Ask your friend to call you at a certain time just to check that you're OK (and perhaps have a gossip about how things went or are going!)

Always meet in a public place such as a bar or cafe. Never agree to get into a car with your date or accompany them to isolated locations such as a park, even if you feel comfortable doing so. Wait until you get to know someone really well before doing this - it's just common sense.

The one thing that online profiles or chatting can't easily allow for is intuition. If you feel uneasy in someone's presence, trust your instincts.

Finally, if for any reason you start to feel uncomfortable with the situation and are unable to just walk away, casually let the person know that you've taken step 1, above, and have left their contact details with friends.

After the date

Once the date is over you'll probably draw one of three conclusions - that the person you met really wasn't your type at all; that they really were, and you'd love to see them again; or that you simply don't know what to think.

Here's how to deal with that post-date situation.

A definite no

In some ways this is the easiest - for you, at least.

If you really don't want to meet again, you simply move on - although there's still the question of the other person to consider.

People's feelings are involved in any dating scenario, and it's only polite and thoughtful to drop someone a quick message after meeting, whatever the outcome.

If you're worried about appearing to encourage a situation you don't want, it is possible to thank someone and still make your feelings clear.

Something along the lines of "Thanks for a pleasant meeting... here's wishing you every success with your future dates" gives the right kind of message but removes some of the sting.

A definite yes

Often a much harder situation to deal with!

You may have no real idea whether the feeling was mutual, or even presume it was and expect instant feedback - which just might not arrive as quickly as you'd like.

Bear in mind that however someone feels about a date, they may not get in touch straight away (men are particularly good at this!) or want to seem overly keen.

If it happens, and the news is good - great. If not, put it down to experience and move on. Don't dwell on 'what might have been'. Your date may have seemed exactly what you were looking for, but you simply can't know this on the basis of a single meeting. So again - don't let fantasy get in the way of reality!

Not very sure

In a situation like this you'll need to play it by ear.

Send your date a thank you message, but try to keep it fairly neutral. If they seem keen to meet again, the deciding factor is probably how much you enjoyed your first meeting.

If you got on well, there's little to lose in seeing someone again, particularly if you manage to convey the fact that despite having fun, future dates should be seen as a casual get-together - for the moment at least.

(How do you do this? Simply by sticking to your usual schedule. Make it obvious that although you're happy to meet, you're not going to be drastically altering plans to do so and will need to work around any other commitments).


A surprising number of internet daters reject 'not-sures' out of hand. Unless you find it difficult to cope with an already hectic social life, new friendships are a nice thing to cultivate. And remember that first meetings are always a little awkward; you'll get a much clearer picture if you risk a second date.

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