Summertime is, in my opinion, perfect first-date season. While cold weather tends to send me into a spiral of "I just want to put my hands in someone else's back pockets!"-style couple-yearning, summer feels like the ideal time to go on a series of ill-timed adventures and touch a bunch of people in their sensitive parts.
As far as I'm concerned, any time of year that simultaneously allows you to wear shorts at night and provides a surefire excuse for not moving more than three feet during the day is the perfect opportunity to make a lasting first impression on a near-stranger.
The tricky thing, for me anyway, is that eventually all those long looks over martinis and "spontaneous" walks around one's local park start wearing on the psyche. I know this is shocking (ha), but I tend to get bored of my own bullshit pretty fast. When you're trotting out the same "cute" anecdotes to try to get conversation rolling over and over, it's easy to become tired of your own presence, let alone someone else's.
I know in an ideal world, every date would be new and sparkling and different, but let's face it: Unless you're talking soulmate status, this first-date shit can get pretty fucking formulaic. After the fourth or fifth time you run through the small-talk gamut, it starts becoming more and more tempting to go back to your futon and reread "The Princess Bride" until you pass out and drown in your page-drool.
Getting caught between genuinely wanting to get to know someone and the suspicion that you're not being your most authentic self is the pits. It's not fun for you, and not fun for your date, either, who wasn't present the first hundred times you told the story about anxiety-barfing on Splash Mountain during a high school trip to Disneyland. This is also true, for that matter, for making platonic friends: All those summertime barbecues are prime fodder for acquaintance-bonding, but it's also a whole lot of charm to drum up at once.
If you're starting to experience "date fatigue," here are a few techniques I've employed on some first dates in my life. They haven't all been foolproof, but they've definitely kept me (and my date) from getting bored.
The Gayest Thing Imaginable
This one was mostly an accident. When I proposed going for drinks with a straight dude friend-of-a-friend last Wednesday, the fact that it was the day that the Supreme Court was likely to release its DOMA decision had totally slipped my mind. To make matters more complicated, I had also suggested we go see a movie beforehand -- specifically, a compilation of shorts about bisexuality as part of an LGBT film festival. Naturally, any possibility of me maintaining a demeanor of composure was pretty much set on fire, since I spent the whole movie (and our drinks afterward) wriggling around with barely contained queer-related rage/glee.
I felt a little bad, because a young man preparing for Casual Conversation About Bands is probably going to be a little overwhelmed by a froth-mouthed jabberwocky grabbing herself in the face about homo politics. I did warn him beforehand that I might be a bit excitable, but still. It was probably sort of intense.
But I figured that, hey, if we ended up dating more down the line, that shit is just gonna get worse. LGBT politics/rom-coms might not be your thing, but taking the time to share in an experience you're really emotionally invested (whatever it is) in can be really valuable first-date material. If you're passionate about something, trying to hide that is only going to make things uncomfortable in the long run. Might as well get 'em used to it early, right?
Things That Bring Out the Worst in Both of You
As you can probably tell, I'm a fan of the "trial-by-fire" style of dating, where you throw all your weirdness at someone and see whether they rise to the occasion. I don't think it's very fair, though, to possibly discomfit your dating partner without putting yourself up to an equal challenge.
Trying out things that terrify (or, OK, slightly annoy) you both can actually make for a really great time. I'm not talking skydiving, exactly, but if you're the kind of person that can stand making a fool out of yourself, something like a strenuous hike, improv session or (the worst) a hip-hop class can really bring out the belly-loosening, self-deprecating guffaws in both of you and cut some of that first-date awkwardness. Plus, they say that adrenaline spikes make you more attracted to the people around you, so if you're looking to get busy early on, this might be the way to go.
Semi-Surprise Group Dates
OK, so this is actually a dick move if you spring it on someone without warning. But a few months ago, I realized that I'd accidentally invited both this dude from OKCupid and an old friend from work to go see an author I admired speak at a local bar. I contemplated canceling on one or both of them, but it seemed like kind of a shame to orchestrate a group flake-out of something we'd all enjoy. So instead, I told everyone involved about the blunder, offered them the genuine chance to bail, and then decided we'd all try to have a good time when we got there.
And, weirdly, we did. I mean, it was definitely a little awkward, and it would have been pretty terrible if OKC guy had turned out to be monstrous. But he got along with my friends, it totally prevented him and I from having to be forcibly chipper at each other for hours, and my scheduling idiocy (along with the author event) gave us all something to chat about afterward. SUCCESS!
Give Yourself A Break
I realize this is easier said than done. Over the weekend, though, I found myself at a going-away party for a dear friend and just sort of…hit the wall. It was the tail end of Pride weekend, I'd been half-drunk and sitting in direct sunlight for like 48 hours, and I only wanted to sit and listen to everyone else shoot the shit.
I wandered over to the couch and collapsed on it, smiling vaguely. Eventually, another party-goer came and sat beside me, clearly with the same "Good Lord, my brain needs a break" face on.
Normally, I would have been jazzed to chat with a stranger about the filibuster in Texas or that duck that got a prosthetic foot, but I honestly could not muster up the energy. So instead, we sat in comfortable silence for a good five minutes, both of us chewing toritilla chips and occasionally grinning at each other.
When we did eventually break the silence, we didn't seem to need to ease into conversation with the typical "So, how do you know our friend?" openers. Our weird mutual-staring-while-sucking-down-guac session tipped right over into a conversation about One Direction with no apparent transitory period, and it was completely awesome.
Granted, maybe that would have happened anyway. But it's more likely that had I tried to maintain a usual level of party-intensity, I would've sputtered off a scary attempt at small-talk before melting into a panicky puddle. For someone who's normally pretty extroverted, giving myself a brief Quiet Pass felt like dipping my brain into a warm, friendly bath.
(It also made me way more amenable to meeting people in a fashion that would not end in tears and blood, which is always a plus.)
Again, I'm not saying these ideas don't carry some risk of alienating people. I do think, though, that they're a way better way of strengthening whatever relationships do survive the first date, and really, isn't that better in the long run?
Kate is dating all of you (surprise!) on Twitter: @katchatters