by Amy Alkon
Q: I’m a woman in my early 20s. I do fine getting dates, but only first dates. And no, I’m not having sex with guys on the first date, but I still never hear from them again. I ran into one of these guys at a party and begged him to tell me what had gone wrong. He said, “You’re kind of intense.” I asked him to explain, and he said, “You do a lot of talking.” I do talk a lot, but I’m informed and opinionated. Do I really have to be some mute little woman to get second dates?—Man Repellant
A: On a date, you should merely be splashing your personality around, tempted as you may be to hold a guy down and try to drown him in it.
This isn’t to say you have to be “some mute little woman” to get a second date. Consider that there’s a middle ground between channeling Nancy Grace and playing a shy geisha hiding behind her fan. And sorry, but being “informed” and “opinionated” does not give you a pass to turn a date into a re-education camp with wine and entrees. In fact, this sort of conversational takeover is like a toupee; it usually ends up calling attention to whatever it was supposed to cover up (self-worth issues, nervousness, or maybe a need to push people away, despite putting yourself out there like you want a relationship).
To see more of these guys than their exhaust as they drive away forever, be mindful of the purpose of a date: getting to know somebody, not getting to know how they look listening to you. As for all this information you’re excited to impart, ironically, the way you get somebody interested in listening to you is by showing interest in them. You do that by listening to them—really listening (from the gut, not just nodding while waiting for them to take a breath so you can shoehorn in your next point).
Being willing to share the conversational space isn’t a sign you’re some empty dress of a woman; quite the contrary. It’s what secure people do—connecting with others instead of pepper-spraying them with words. Try an experiment on your next few dates. Say as little as possible about yourself all evening. Answer questions about yourself when asked, but focus on asking your date about who he is and what he thinks. Chances are, you’ll have a much better time and maybe get asked on some second and third dates. Wonderful things can happen when you give a man the sense that there’s a real reason for him to be there—as opposed to the idea that he could have stayed home and, in his place, sent a giant ear.
Q: Four or five months ago, I had an amazing dinner date with this guy. I ended up sleeping with him afterward, and he disappeared. Out of the blue, he contacted me, wanting to take me to dinner. How do I know he won’t pull the same jerko Houdini move?—Suspicious
A: When you’re on a first date and you’d like there to be a second date, it’s OK to leave a little lipstick on the rim of the glass. Your face should not end up smeared across the guy’s pillow.
Sure, there are couples who had sex on (or even before) the first date and have spent the next 67.3 years living happily ever after. But if you’re a woman wanting a relationship, be mindful that sex on the first date is a risky strategy. As researcher Anne Campbell dryly put it, “Women’s mate value is perceived to be low if they are willing to agree to low-cost sex” (as in, casual sex). A man will probably take it if he can get it—but he’s likely to, as they say, “sex it and exit.”
As for this guy, he’s already shown you that he IS someone who pulls “jerko Houdini” moves, with not so much as a texted “thx 4 putting out!!” the last time. If despite that, you agree to see him again, what prevents him from disappearing after sex is your ending the evening with your clothes on instead of on his bedroom rug. Unfortunately, the heat of the moment tends not to be home to Spock-like rationality and reserve. To guide how soon you’ll get naked, go into a date with your ultimate goal in mind—whether you have what anthropologists call a “long-term mating strategy” or whether you aren’t so much looking for Mr. Right as you are Mr. Right Next To You At The Bar.