Relationships should be equal. But when it comes to dating—especially first dates—things are different. Dating is where men step up with sincerity and show their interest in someone... but some men either don’t know or don’t show that they understand or accept this concept. Equality or not, courtship is primal. She wants him to pursue, and he needs something to chase. Perhaps Mark Twain said it best: “In order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.”
Does that mean a man should put in all the effort to make a first date great? Hardly. She needs to do her part… but he should be leading the process. After interviewing and surveying 1,000 men and women about their first date experiences, here are the most common screw-ups men make:
1. “He used an old picture on his profile.” He might have looked great back in college, but that was 20 years ago. It's not that looks are everything, but they are a part of the courtship/evaluation process; there needs to be a mental and physical connection that will help lead to an emotional connection as you get to know each other.
What she wants: Honesty and sincerity. Maybe he needs to lose a few pounds or have imperfections here and there... but no one is perfect. She might not want to see all of him on Date #1, but she will eventually want to see it, so keeping things honest is of paramount importance.
2. “He put in too little/too much effort.” Many men struggle with thoughts like: "Where should I take her?" or "What should we do?" Some men try to shock-and-awe with an over-the-top plan (which can come across as overwhelming, or even weird), while others come with no plan at all (which clearly communicates a lack of planning and/or caring about the date).
What she wants: Something casual, fun, and interesting, with no pressure from him or for her. It should spark conversation (so going to the movies should be out) and reflect the man he is.
3. “He showed up late (or not at all).” Sometimes things happen—work, schedules, life—but a getting in-touch to reschedule or cancel shows that you value someone else's time. Too often, however, first dates are a no-call/no-show... and unless there in an emergency there's really no reason for it. It's just common courtesy.
What she wants: A simple phone call. Not a last-minute text message canceling the date... a phone call. It shows integrity and that she is worth more than a technology-based blow-off.
4. “He looked like he just left the gym.” Let's face it: First impressions count. Showing up wrinkled, crinkled, and smelling like gym funk isn’t impressive nor endearing. Whether he loves his jeans and t-shirts, or lives in two-piece suits, he needs to come ironed, pressed, and bringing his A-game.
What she wants: To see that he values himself enough to take pride in his appearance.
5. “He made the conversation all about him.” She wants to get to know him, and she also wants to share what makes her tick... but too often men (and women) get caught up in talking about their resumes, jobs, incomes, and possessions. Not only is that not what makes up the person, it ends up a creating a one-way conversation—where you are talking about you instead of sharing and imparting information.
What she wants: Discussion that includes ideas, events, news, things he’s done, things he wants to do, and things that hold his interest. Part of that will break the ice, and it will also show what he values, what he things, and how he spends his time.
6. “All he did was talk about his ex.” If someone talks about their ex with a new dating prospect, chances are good that they aren’t completely over the relationship. Unless you plan on bringing your ex with you into your new relationships, there ’s no reason to discuss them. A discussion about an ex who is also a joint parent of children is normal, but that is a conversation that is best had when things have moved past the dating phase.
What she wants: For him to be interested in finding out more about her, without him needing to compare everything happening to his past.
7. “He answered calls and responded to texts at the table.” Phone calls and text messages in the presence of others is a kind of prioritization. If someone accepts call or responds to messages, they are silently saying that those they are with are not as important as the messages they are receiving. the reality: Technology exists for our convenience, not our forced usage. And there’s nothing ruder than being in the company of others, but concentrating on other things—claiming it’s possible to ”multitask”.
What she wants: If something is urgent/important enough to pull him away, he should excuse himself and take the call or deal with the situation. Otherwise, he should be in the moment—and both should put their phones away.
8. “He was rude to the waitstaff.” Treating waitstaff rudely is a major red flag. If he sees those in-service as beneath him, he is likely measuring peoples’ worth and value on the wrong things. And oftentimes that elitist attitude comes a constant-but-silent accusation of, “Try as you might, you will never please me or make me happy… but keep trying.”
What she wants: She wants a man who will treat others—regardless of their job, income, mode of dress, possessions, or station in life—with mutual respect and kindness.
9. “We had a great date, but he never called.” Dates are just that: singular events. If he doesn’t want to see her again, call he should call and tell her so—that he had a good time, but that he wants to leave it at that. It provides closure with respect, instead of a blow-off of silence.
What she wants: To know that she isn’t crazy in thinking that it was mutual, but then he just went dark.
10. “He expected me to make all the plans for this/next time.” As stated above, dating is rooted in primal courtship rituals. To those men who don’t act, your actions are being interpreted as you not being interested. If you really wanted her, you'd go after her—pure and simple. To be clear, this isn’t the case of "making a man chase a woman". It's about the primal driver of a man leading a woman through the courtship process—interest, date, bedroom, etc. A man who leads, plans, and takes some measure of action is going to be desirable... and she will respond if his actions are sincere. (And to those men who are shy and unsure: I get it. But just be you and put yourself out there. You'll find out right away if she's interested.)
What she wants: For him to do his part in dating, make the plans, and court her. She will do her part and make plans, also… but there’s nothing wrong with him making the moves and showing his interest.