The last time I dated, a decade ago, I pretty much went out with anyone who asked me. I had a profile on Nerve Personals, the OkCupid of my day, and I remember going on a lot of dates with people who were not seemingly a great fit because "Who knows what kind of chemistry we might feel in person" and "Not everyone represents themselves well in writing." There's definitely some truth to that, but that method also resulted in a lot of uncomfortable-ranging-to-bad dates and a lot of wasted time.
This time around, I was very comfortable with my single life and dating wasn't a significant priority to me. Accordingly, I implemented my new dating strategy, which essentially boils down to: I don't go on a date with anyone I'm not really, really excited about.
No more heading off to meet someone with a tiny pit of dread in my stomach, or making excuses for why I should "just see" if this person has some redeeming qualities in person. I only date men that make me want to go on a date. Really want to go one a date, like butterflies, counting down the minutes, the works.
All this is to say that after more than a year of singledom, I've met someone I'm excited about dating. It's still pretty early, but it feels special, so I'm going to carefully cradle it in my hands like a tiny, fragile bird egg. Just kidding! I'm going to put it on the Internet for everyone to tromp their muddy feet all over.
But the real reason I am writing this is because I have been going on some rad dates lately, and I wanted to share the love with some fun, offbeat date ideas.
Since I don't drink, we have to get a little more creative with our date destinations -- I don't mind going to a bar for a first meeting, but there's only so many times I can sit in on a stool sipping Diet Coke with a dude before it gets boring. The date ideas below are obviously NYC-specific but you ought to be able to find versions of at least some of these in your own cities.
1. Karaoke Bar Off Night
Karaoke can be a fun date in general, but there's something really intimate and romantic about meeting up at a karaoke bar (we went to NYC's Planet Rose) at 6 pm on say, a Monday night, and singing to an empty room. Alternately, a lot of karaoke places rent private rooms fairly cheaply, especially during off hours. Bonus: private makeout room.
2. Oddities and Antique Shops/Flea Markets
On our second date, we went to Obscura Antiques and Oddities, where we looked through medical photos of syphilitic genitals and I admired the taxidermied deer hooves, one of which my gentleman friend covertly purchased and gave to me on a later date. (For this reason, I will refer to him in the future as Deer Hoof.)
Flea Markets can be another awesome date destination, especially now that the weather is getting nicer. There is usually plenty of weird stuff to look at and comment on, and if you're lucky you'll find something as epic as my "Damn You Loretta" bracelet.
3. Cover Band Concert
FOR EXAMPLE: Deer Hoof took me to see Doll Parts, Brooklyn's premier Dolly Parton cover band. This was the date we decided we like to sit on the same side of the booth. I sincerely apologize to everyone. Any concert can be a good date, but going to see a cover band is a cheaper and potentially more fun option.
4. Destination Food
I could have also called this category "novelty trash food." Wait in line for a cronut, or trek to a restaurant that serves deep fried Mars Bars or burgers with mac and cheese on top. We had a great time at the Times Square Red Lobster one night.
Perhaps most epically, we got reservations to Whitecastle's annual Valentine's Day table service event, after which I only threw up once. Later, Deer Hoof posted this one his Facebook page with the caption, "When you're dating a princess on Valentine's Day, you have to take her to a White Castle." Cool, I'll just be over here quietly melting.
5. Weird Museums
Obviously you could visit an art museum or other cultural institution, especially if there's a special exhibit that interests you. But with a little digging, you can find some weirder options, such as the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, whose death-related exhibits and events include lectures on "Erotomania and Murder: 19th-Century Sexual Monsters," and taxidermy classes, or the City Reliquary Museum, which features a rotating collection of NYC-related oddities. (Here's a list of 51 weird museums across the country, also known as what I plan to do on my honeymoon.)
Nothing gets me primed for romance like skeeball. There are lots of great arcades, but Dave and Busters, which are located all over the country, turned out to be one of the best freaking dates of my life. After about an hour of games, we sat down to dinner, and lady came over and took our picture for a keychain! (Wednesdays offer half-priced games.)
I'm a terrible bowler, but eating greasy concessions and rolling a few frames is a fun way to spend a few hours. I recommend a cheap, grungy bowling alley like Melody Lanes, rather than one of the trendier Manhattan bowling alleys. Just make sure you bring socks, because that would be a really embarrassing reason to cut short a date.
8. Burlesque Show
I find that naked breasts can really help take a date to the next level. (Suggesting a game of "Erotic Photohunt" on a bar game machine used to kind of be "my move.") There are burlesque shows happening every night of the week in New York City at venues like The Slipper Room. I like a themed show, such as Hotsy Totsy Burlesque's tributes to "Game of Thrones" and Stephen King.
9. Board Games
Lots of bars and cafes have their own collection of board games. In NYC, The Uncommons has a vast collection of board and roleplaying games that are rented out for $5 per person per game. Deer Hoof and I spent a few hours drinking coffee and playing Trivial Pursuit one night. The highlight of the evening was finding this Dolly-Parton themed Trivial Pursuit card.
10. Walking Tours
Once the weather warms up, many cities offer walking tours focused on pop culture, history, or even the supernatural. I'm a fan of Boroughs of the Dead in New York, which offers tours with macabre themes such as the "Ghosts of the Titanic" tour. Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn is one of my favorite places in the world, and they offer both walking and trolley tours, some with historical themes like "Gang of New York." (They also have occasional battle reenactments, which would be a delightfully bizarre date.)
11. Trivia Night
Like karaoke, trivia nights fit into the category of "stuff to do in a bar besides drink," particularly helpful for those of us who don't. The prize is usually free booze, but oh well.
A movie can be kind of a weird early date, since you spend most of the time staring away from each other in silence. But a screening of an old film at a bar or event venue has a little more personality and may be more social. For New Yorkers, Videology in Williamsburg has regular screening series like "Sci-Fi Sundays" and "Strong Female Lead." (They also have movie-and-tv-themed Trivia and Bingo nights.)
OK, those are my best ideas. Tell me where you like to date. Or about the best date of your life, even if it was somewhere boring. And do you go out with people you're kind of meh about?