Planning a first date? Make sure the venue fits

BALTAMOUR

August 25, 2007|By MARYANN JAMES

Love is war. If you aren't ready, you can be shot down before you even start. Which is why you have to be prepared. You've gotta know your enemy. You have to put on your game face. And you have to have a stellar opening strategy -- an original plan for your first date.

But how do you figure out that plan?

There are many factors that go into a good first date, says Toni Coleman, dating coach and founder of consum-mate.com. One key factor is venue.

Stay away from expensive restaurants or very elaborate plans, she says. "You want to keep it simple."

A concert in the park, a neighborhood bistro and an art-gallery opening are all fun, low-commitment venues, says Coleman. Key word: low-commitment.

"No place secluded," says Sachkia Hamilton, 29, of Chesapeake City, who says that exit-friendly dates are the only way to go. "In case you want to dip out."

And it seems everyone I talked with agrees that movies are a no-go.

"Even if a person is a natural talker, you just don't talk [in movies]," says 24-year-old Kevin Caldwell, who lives in downtown Baltimore.

And if you can't talk, what's the point of going out?

"It should be interactive," says Sarah Benning, 16, of Lauraville.

Her best first date?

A surprise outing to a rotating sushi bar.

It seemed to work. She's still with the guy.

"That was fun," she says. "He didn't tell me where we were going."

While surprising someone you're trying to get to know can seem like a good idea, Coleman warns of taking too big a risk on the first date. Different views of a good time can upset the best-laid plans.

Take the opinions of newlyweds Sid Meanor and Annie Jenson of Mount Vernon, for example.

Meanor says a shooting range would be a good place for a first date.

"It's guns, it's power," says the 26-year-old. "...Women like to hold something powerful in their hands."

(He was joking. I think.)

His wife, also 26, is partial to a museum visit on a first date.

It's important to have "a social space where you're comfortable and can be yourself," says Jenson.

There's a big difference between high-caliber guns and high-caliber art. But differences such as this are typical. And there is a way around them, Coleman says. It just takes a bit of compromise and what she calls "emotional intelligence."

Think about what your date likes. Is her favorite art exhibit in town? Is his favorite jazz band playing?

A date that shows you've been listening to the other person is way more appealing than the cookie-cutter dinner at a chichi restaurant.

"I think it's really about showing her a good time and being a gentleman," says Coleman. "And that will impress her."

Tari Brown doesn't remember where her best first date was -- "somewhere south," she says -- but she remembers the view.

"It turned out to be the best park I've been to," says Brown, 25, of Mount Vernon.

But she says the sights were second to the company. And that leads to perhaps the most important piece of intel I can give you: Don't forget that all the reconnaissance, plotting, planning and donning of war paint is done for one reason: to create the best environment for getting to know each other.

"The best part was that we were spending time together. It wasn't the place that mattered," Brown says.

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