Court and Spark

If you want that first date to lead to a second, you need to be aware of the point system behind women's secret scorecard

You both like flea markets, Nabokov and sushi. What could possibly go wrong? If it’s your first date with a woman you met online, chances are you may never see her again. And you won’t know why. It isn’t necessarily because there’s a discrepancy between you and your online description. (You’re 6'2" only when you stand on an unabridged dictionary.) No, the deciding factor is the secret scorecard women use to determine if you’re worthy of a second date. Here’s how it works.

Taboo topics

As soon as you mention what went wrong with your marriage or your recent online dates, you lose serious points. No woman wants to hear you kvetch about another female, be it your ex-spouse, last girlfriend or mother. Unless you’re paying your date $120 an hour to listen to you talk, this isn’t a counseling session. We all have issues; this isn’t the place to air them.

Focus on her. Not the cute waitress, the young thing at the next table or your iPhone. She’s looking for chemistry, what the two of you have in common. So don’t discuss a third party whom your date doesn’t know personally — your best friend, neighbor or a character on a TV show. If you’re both fans of "Breaking Bad," that can be an icebreaker, but quickly move on to topics that reveal her other passions and interests. If your children still live with you, it’s OK to briefly mention them, but don’t whip out photos and mistake your date for the admissions director at Harvard.

We’ve all had bad days. Many of us have had bad years. Job loss, divorce, the death of a loved one. But if you’d like to see her again, don’t express misgivings about not buying that condo, putting your mother in a nursing home or holding onto AIG stock. As the song says, “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative!” At least until you’ve paid for her coffee and biscotti. (Yes, you always pick up the tab, even if she offers.)

Avoid monologues

It doesn’t matter how witty, charming and brilliant you are, if you monopolize the conversation, your date will mentally give you a failing grade. The entire time you’re recounting your trip to the Amazon rainforest, she’s thinking about how to make a speedy exit. Here’s a tip: Watch her eyes. When they stray from yours, chances are you need to shut up. Remember, conversation requires two players. It’s like volleyball. When it stops moving back and forth, the game is over. Don’t tell long, involved stories, even if your date appears to be mesmerized. That gleam in their eye isn’t admiration. It’s agony. If she excuses herself to go to the restroom right in the middle of your soliloquy, the problem isn’t her bladder. It’s you.

Stay in the moment

Keep the conversation focused on what is going on in your life and in the world currently. Resist the temptation to talk about the distant past. Forget where you were on 9/11 or when JFK was shot. Stick to breaking news, sports, books you’re currently reading, films or plays. There will be plenty of time to tell her about dropping LSD at Woodstock on a future date, as long as you stay in the present for now.

Ask questions

Your date will score you, not only by what you say about yourself, but by the questions you ask. Think back to interviews conducted by Terry Gross, Barbara Walters or Charlie Rose. They are masters at putting other people at ease, eliciting information and bringing out the best in their guests. During your first meeting, you need to be prepared to play both roles: the interviewer and the interviewee. While it might not be as entertaining as a segment of "Fresh Air," your questions should draw your date out, make her feel comfortable and reveal her passions and aspirations. What motivated her to choose her present career? What does she love about it? If she’s retired, find out if she’s involved with any special interest groups, causes or organizations.

Ask questions that will encourage your date to express her values and pleasures, but don’t turn it into an interrogation. How long she was married, why she got divorced and whether she owns or rents isn’t any of your business. Not yet. And don’t even think of asking about her online dating experience. Unless you want to be one of her worst.


Sure, dating is a prequel to mating. But not on the first date. This isn’t the time to tell dirty jokes, remark on your date’s sex appeal, or reveal that your Viagra will become inactive within forty-five minutes. Look into her eyes, not at her breasts. And keep your hands to yourself. If you have reason to believe it will be welcomed, a parting kiss on the cheek is fine. But you’ll make a better impression by simply asking for a second date. “I’d really like to see you again,” is what she wants to hear. Not, “You really turn me on.” (The Sixties were great. But they’re so over.) Yes, you are setting yourself up for possible rejection by asking for another date in-person. But you are also showing her that you find her attractive and personable. That earns you extra credit on her secret scorecard.

Finally, nothing is sexier than humor. The more the two of you laugh together on your first meeting, the likelier you’ll end up laughing in bed ... in the south of France, a year from now. So, relax, enjoy your first dates and make her feel so comfy, she’ll forget about keeping score.

Tags: dating