Dating dos and don’ts

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How to successfully navigate the dating world and win in the end.

By Massiel Ladron De Guevara/Special to The Malibu Times

It is Saturday, 8 p.m., and still no call from David. It doesn’t make sense Monica tells herself. Last week, when they met, he was the one who approached her at the coffee house and introduced himself. He was also the one who offered his phone number and graciously accepted her invitation to dinner when she called that same night. As far as Monica was concerned, she did everything right. The dinner date was great. They drank the best wine on the menu and shared the finest filet mignon, all the while engaged in a deep and intimate conversation. Now, nearly two weeks have elapsed since their first date and he still has not returned any of her calls. Confused, Monica grabs her zebra print cell phone and dials David’s number again, hoping this time he will answer.

On the other side of Malibu, David is at a local bar for free beer night, chatting with friends when his cell phone rings for the third time that night. The name Monica, flashing on the caller identification, strikes him back to what he considers his worst date. Declining the call, David turns to his friends and says, “That was Monica again. You’d think she’d have gotten the hint by now that I don’t want anything to do with her.”

Laughing, one of David’s friends asks what went so wrong on their date that he would decline a call from one of the prettiest women in Malibu. Rolling his eyes, David recounts every negative aspect of his date with Monica. “The first red flag that she’s clingy should have been when she called me 20 minutes after I gave her my number,” David says. “Ever since then, she hasn’t stopped calling.”

“If she’s doing that now, wait until she starts thinking she’s your girl,” a friend teases from the group.

“After waiting 30 minutes for her to finish getting ready,” David continues. “We went to a restaurant, where she insisted on ordering the most expensive wine on the menu and a single side salad.”

The group of friends erupts into laughter as David continues his tale. “By the time I took two bites of the garlic mashed potatoes she had already ‘tasted’ half the steak I ordered. That’s not where it ends though. I had to sit through two hours of her ranting about her home life and any other problem she could think of.”

The group of friends groans in unison, expressing their sympathy.

Unfortunately, David and Monica’s dreadful date is not unique to them. Whether male or female, in your teens, 20s or 40s, chances are you can relate to both-going on what you consider an amazing date then never hearing from your potential partner again, or going on what can only be classified as a date from hell. In either situation, you are left wondering, like Monica, why someone does not call you back, or, like David, why your date does not get the hint you want nothing to do with them. Although there are no maps to help you successfully navigate through the dating world and avoid such disastrous situations, there are a few rules that can help you along the way.

Elina Furman, author of “The Everything Dating Book,” offers singles a list of dating don’ts that illustrate what is generally not accepted by daters, while Carolyn Campbell, author of “Dating in the New Millennium,” offers a list of dating dos to help avoid a date like David and Monica’s.

Dating Don’ts

Do not ignore your date-Unless your intent is to hurt your companion’s feelings, keep your eyes directed at your date at all times.

“There are some people who feel they have to leer at every attractive person who walks through the door,” Furman says. “Most dates would take this behavior as a personal insult, so keep focused on who you are with.” Campbell agrees, but warns daters not to over do it. “Maintaining eye contact is necessary,” Campbell says. “Just make sure it’s not too intense. Remember, you aren’t a hawk eyeing its prey.”

Do not become intoxicated-Even if you are not driving, excessive consumption of alcohol can be deadly to a date. “Nothing is less attractive than a date who gets overly drunk,” says Reggie, 29. “I took a girl out to a business dinner once and she ended up having one too many toasts and wound up vomiting the rest of the night. Facing my clients after that night of flailing arms and kicking feet was one of my most embarrassing moments. There is no way I would take someone like that out again.”

To avoid such disasters, Campbell encourages daters to stick to one beer or glass of wine if drinking is a must.

Do not road rage-Obey all traffic laws. If you happen to be cut off by a kamikaze driver or even get thrown the bird, act as if nothing happened. Do not chase the offender or slam on your brakes to get revenge. Not only will your date by paralyzed with fear for his/her safety, but also he/she will probably not agree to a second date after such behavior Furman warns.

Do not talk about your ex-The last thing your potential partner wants to hear is how horrible or great your ex was, Furman warns. Dwelling on the past is not a healthy way to begin a new relationship, and should therefore be avoided at all costs.

Do not talk about building a family-Few things are more frightening than going on a first date and being confronted with the issues of marriage and family, Furman cautions. “Grilling your date about their desires to have kids will only make you seem foolish and desperate,” Furman explains. “If you want to find out whether someone would make a good husband or wife, try studying their behavior instead. Actions will speak louder than words.”

Knowing what not to do during a date is only half the battle, however. In order to have a well-rounded, successful date you must also know what you should do. Campbell offers a few key suggestions.

Do plan your date ahead of time-Avoid falling into the vicious cycle of saying “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” Nobody wants to spend half of the date deciding what to do. Campbell suggests couples decide on something before the date and stick to their plans, while staying open to other suggestions if things fall through because of weather or other unforeseeable reasons.

Do meet in a public place-Campbell says Not only is meeting in a public place a safe idea, but it also allows for distractions should conversation begin to lag.

Do act chivalrous-Campbell claims the women’s liberation movement may have provided women with the means to financial independence, but that does not mean they no longer appreciate the little things. If used correctly, chivalry is the charm of all charms. If overused however, it becomes machismo.

Adrian, 24, discovered this rule the hard way. “I’m a traditional guy, so I was surprised when I went to open the door for a date and she started yelling at me. She went off on me all night, even when I tried to pay for dinner. I didn’t understand her; the date went against everything I believe. It was like the more I did, the more upset she got.”

Do discuss heavier topics-Discussing deeper topics allows daters to learn about their partner’s values and ideas. If you find some topics appropriate and your date finds them taboo, it may be better to realize this early on, Campbell says. If you are informed on a topic, go ahead and discuss it, but if not, stick to small talk.

Do follow up-Call or e-mail your date to let them know you had a good time. This should not be a desperate plea to see them again, but a courtesy. Bonnie, 48, agrees. “People need to cut the game playing and be polite. Call and say hi without expecting anything back.”

Despite the list of dating do’s and don’ts, both experts agree the rule above all is to be yourself. If you are confidant in who you are, you will be successful not only with dating, but with every other aspect of your life.