The world of online dating is a gigantic beast of an industry offering companionship, romance and yes, even love, to the lonely-hearted denizens of the ‘Net. In fact, it is precisely because it is such a large industry that, much like Apple and Google, it has managed to spin off a score of satellite industries and niche markets.
One such niche is the online dating advice market. It would be hard to find any website devoted to the 18–30-year-old demographic that doesn’t mention in at least one article or forum posting some good old-fashioned advice for online dating. They cover how to take your profile picture, what you should and should not put into your profile and advertisement, how to make sure the person you choose isn’t Doctor Lecter in disguise – in short, they give the ultimate how-to on finding and snaring that one-in-a-million guy or gal.
But then they just stop. No more advice. Just when you need it the most, too.
You see, when you finally make the big jump from an online relationship to a real-world one, you’re stuck with several problems: does your new friend match up to their online profiling? Are you hooking up with a latent stalker? Do they giggle and drool whenever you say the word “conjugate”?
And one more major problem – where should you NOT go for a first date.
Oh, sure, there are plenty of articles you can Google on “where to go for your first date”, but not a single one that offers advice on locations to avoid. My aim in writing this article is to outline 10 of those very places and thus fill the void.
Note that with only one exception, these 10 no-fly zones are all legal businesses frequented by law-abiding individuals on a daily basis. They aren’t on this list merely because of their inherently evil nature; rather, they are here because of the anesthetizing effects they can have on a new relationship.
For example …
A church, of any denomination, is a very bad idea for a first date for several reasons.
First, if you take your date there during services you’re faced with pew-fulls of people, all potential witnesses for any nookie you may be planning. Two is company, but 400 is a Mass.
Then come the guilt trips. Even if you are a raging atheist you’re going to develop pangs of guilt when you’re whispering sweet nothings in your date’s ear while being watched by a 20-foot tall statue of whatever saint or holy figure is preeminent in that church. Such statues, usually made from cold, hard marble, always seem to be like those trick 3-D paintings – wherever you move their eyes seem to follow you.
Another problem is that you’ll probably have to cough up a few bucks for the collection plate, which, if you’re going for a freebie night out, is going to cramp your style.
So it’s best to avoid churches during their services, but what if you plan your date for a time when the church is empty? Many churches actually lock their doors between services nowadays in order to foil the crack heads coming in and stealing whatever isn’t bolted down. How would you feel if you had spent days convincing your on-line love that St. Albert-In-The-Field would be the ideal location for your first tryst, only to find the doors securely chained upon your arrival?
Even if you manage to find an open, empty church, you can be sure that just when you’re starting to fire on all eight cylinders with your date is the moment when the cute little 90-year-old cleaning lady will pop up in front of you and begin a discussion of what homemade cleaner is best for oak.
So, churches are pretty much off the list.
Don’t laugh – a morgue offers many of the most sought-after attributes of a wonderful first-date location: secluded, quiet, elegant and thermostatically-controlled. But unless you have truly found your soul-mate you’ll probably rue the day you came up with the idea.
The reason a morgue isn’t an ideal first destination for your budding relationship isn’t the obvious one – it isn’t because it’s a big room filled with dead people. That’s incidental. No, the real reason you don’t want to be there with your honey is because of the ill-timed interruptions that seem always to happen just when you’re getting into the swing of things.
Consider this scenario: you’ve got your hunky partner up on the septically-clean autopsy table, the cold, gleaming stainless steel turning you on. You’ve just begun to unbutton his Calvin Klein shirt when a noisy bunch of attendants burst through the swinging doors arguing amongst themselves over whether Drawer #3 weighs more than Drawer #6. They screech to a halt when they see the two of you doing your best imitation of the zombie tango, stare open-mouthed at you for what seems like hours, then finally back out of the room and take to their heels to see who can be the first one to call the cops.
No, I’m afraid that the morgue is definitely off the list, no matter HOW much fun it could be.
Used Car Lot
A used-car lot might seem to be the ideal first-date place for several reasons: all those festive, fluttering banners, the tall inflatable guy doing his dance in the front, all that shiny metal and glass – it’s like a Caribbean vacation!
But there are hidden drawbacks to this idyllic spot, the most annoying of which is that if you are discovered lurking on the lot during your date you will most probably be subjected to a lengthy sales pitch by a guy wearing a cheap toupee. The best thing to do in that case is to feign interest in one of his more luxurious rides, take it out for a test drive with your date and at least salvage a bit of dignity in the process.
New car showrooms, by the way, won’t even be mentioned here as they are too gruesome to even think about.
XXX Adult Shop
Those of a more liberal – or liberated – mind-set might consider an adult book shop as an interesting choice for a first date. Though certainly not for everyone, these establishments might offer a few benefits such as an environment devoid of talking, the thrill of avoiding direct eye-contact and the ability to watch movies for the price of just a few quarters.
There are often racks full of toys that you and your date can inspect, reading material that can lead to speculation and entertainment and the joy of striking up conversations with like-minded strangers, but beware the pitfalls: do not accept any offers to attend a “party” as these usually turn out to be, if not totally false, at least greatly depressing. Do not attempt to “make-out” with your date in the movie booths or the merchandise aisles, as this will result in your immediate ejection from the premises.
And do not attempt to bring in a picnic basket – from previous experience I can tell you that this practice is strongly frowned upon.
Walmart offers many things for many people – food, clothing, auto parts, toys – but that offering comes at a price, a price that you and your date might not want to pay.
First are the crowds – if you are in the right (wrong) area the store will be jam-packed with overweight, yoga-pants-wearing locals who will crush you with their flappy arms if you get between them and their bargains. There is nothing like seeing your date disappear in a fold of flesh to totally ruin your day.
Also to be considered is the security. You know that if you attempt to shoplift a 72” LCD television by cramming it down your pants you’ll do just fine, but if you try to steal a quick peck on your date’s cheek the Wally Police will come down on you like a ton of frozen chicken wings and will broadcast your perversity on the six-o’clock news.
And, the greeters are just creepy.
Having been a security person (“bouncer”) in several strip clubs over the years I can attest to the fact that many couples use these establishments for their dates. It does, however, take a certain level of liberal leaning to truly enjoy such a venue, and the possible bad side-effects can be many.
Consider – you might be enjoying the up-close charms of a pulchritudinous dancer while your stick-thin date sits and fumes, finally dumping her margarita in your already-occupied lap and storming off through the front door. Even worse – that same dancer and your date might hit it off, leaving you to cry in your warm beer.
The volume of the music in strip clubs is high enough to cause concussions in a rhino, so don’t think you’ll be able to communicate with your date at anything other than a primitive hand-signal level.
The drinks are overpriced unless you get there at happy hour, in which case they are overly diluted. Some clubs still water down their booze in the original bottles, just to save a few bucks.
We won’t even mention the VIP rooms …
Home Improvement Center
Your stereotypical “man’s man” loves nothing more than to browse the aisles of the local home improvement center for hours on end. He can spend an hour just comparing thread sizes of lag bolts, and Buddha help you if he manages to slip into the power tool section.
Abandon hope, all ye who enter there.
Now if you’re a woman who enjoys these sorts of things as well then have at it, but from my experience I’ve found that less than 0.01% of the female gender qualify for this category. Most of you will harrumph and pace the floor while your date is fondling the newest Makita. Not a good first date.
On the plus side you might be able to convince lover boy to pick up a few washers for your leaky sink while you’re there.
Are there even any libraries left in the world?
In my youth I would spend hours among the stacks, discovering new worlds with every volume I pulled down from the shelves. It could be snowing or raining outside, but there in the warmth and safety of the library I was floating in my own little special cocoon.
That may seem to be a call to arms to use your local library as a first-date destination, but think carefully before you do. First you’ll have to deal with the head librarian, who is ALWAYS a 90-year-old lady who loves cats but hates the world. The minute you try to caress the spine and open the cover of your date the librarian will be there to shriek her indignation and eject you into the cold, cruel world.
There’s also that library smell – that musty, dusty aroma that only true bibliophiles can appreciate. Your date is probably not one of them.
Finally, the word “overdue”, although a common term in the library world, is a terrifying one in the realm of dating.
Admittedly, most of us would never consider holding our first date in a place where people will sell their children for their next hit, even if we never plan to have children ourselves.
But for some, the allure of a crack house as a dating location is quite powerful. The entry fee is non-existent, it’s fairly quiet and there’s always a spot on the floor you and your date can occupy – no reservations or waiting for tables here.
You and your date, if you do choose to visit your friendly local den of inequity, will be able to take fantastic journeys – although separately. That you might not return, because of some silly little poisonous additive, is just that little bit of danger so essential to first-date success. Brush up on your self-defense skills as well, as you can never tell when you’ll be the target of a mugging.
One of the television networks is coming out with a new series, Night Shift, wherein the lives of nurses and doctors working the graveyard shift at a hospital are profiled, with much emphasis on their love lives. This might encourage you to think that a hospital, especially a hospital emergency room, is a romantic spot for your first date.
I don’t think so.
Unlike the television portrayals, most real-world emergency rooms are dull. You might find yourselves sitting next to a gunshot victim for several hours as they wait for the next available doctor. The nurse at the admissions desk will keep pestering you to fill out forms and list your next of kin. The occasional scream or moan will only serve to interrupt your getting to know your date.
There’s also the small fact that the smell of emergency rooms is an instant turn-off. A combination of anesthetics, cleaning supplies, fear and intimidation, the smell will affect you and your date in the same way that a veterinarian’s office instills fear in your dog and cat. You’ll know that no good will come from being there.
So there you have it – ten places you should probably avoid on a first date. For most of you, it would be far better to choose a more conventional venue – a restaurant, movie theater or even bowling alley.
But for the more warped among my regular readers, this list may have served not so much as a warning as an inspiration. If so, send me an email and let me know how it went – I always enjoy a good first-date story.