Tomorrow is National Dating Day and with a record 11 million singletons searching for love in the UK, the etiquette of romance has never been more complicated. Follow these 12 golden rules of dating and you will be well on course to true love.
WHERE TO MEET
Ideally choose a quiet wine bar or pub, halfway between your homes. The whole purpose of a first date is to get to know a bit about each other, but if a venue is too noisy you won’t be able to hear each other speak.
Lunchtime is the best time to meet. That way, if the date is a disaster you’re not committed to spending hours together. If you live near a nice park or river, a walk is good and simple.
Restaurants are an easy and popular choice but don’t pick the most expensive place in town. It could give the impression that you’re too serious too soon about the relationship, or simply flash.
WHAT TO WEAR
Wear something that sums up your personality, but don’t choose something extreme.
If in doubt pick something from your wardrobe that is smart but casual – such as trousers and a nice top. That way whether your date is in a smart restaurant or a local pub, you’ll still feel comfortable.
Women should always wear a splash of colour, wearing only black says little about your personality.
WHAT TO EAT
Sexy foods include asparagus, artichoke and strawberries and cream – foods that involve touch and sucking are very sensual to eat and can be a turn-on for your partner.
Otherwise stick to simple dishes, such as chicken or pasta. You want to be able to eat easily and concentrate on your partner rather than worry about a complicated fiddly dish.
Always order food you’ve eaten before. You’ll just end up looking foolish if something strange or inedible arrives. Have a drink to calm your nerves if you feel like it, but go easy. Have no more than one glass of wine at lunchtime or half a bottle in the evening, unless you want your date to think they’ve landed a lush.
WHAT TO TALK ABOUT
A good starting point is the other person. Ask about work, interests and ambitions. Always remember to be yourself. If your date asks your opinion, give it honestly, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
Keep the conversation going. Ask about holidays or plans for the weekend and try to find some common ground.
Do be amusing. The top three characteristics that both men and women look for in a date are a good sense of humour, charisma and being in touch with your emotions. Remember that and you can’t go wrong.
HOW TO BEHAVE
Be polite and courteous. Many women are more than happy to pay their half of the bill by they still like old-fashioned manners on a date and expect a man to at least offer to pick up the tab.
Don’t be flash and order the most expensive wine on the list but be wary of appearing mean. It’s polite to ask if your date has a preference for a particular wine, rather than diving in and immediately ordering the cheapest house white.
HOW TO END THE DATE
With a peck on the cheek if you don’t see a future in it. A passionate kiss is fine if there’s a definite chemistry and you are genuinely attracted to each other.
If that’s not the case, don’t go for a full-on smooch. It will send out wrong and unfair messages.
If you’re not intending to see the person again, let them down gently now. It’s hard, but much better than them waiting for a phone call that won’t come.
If you do like them, exchange phone numbers but don’t pressurise them into arranging a second date. Call the next day instead.
WHERE NOT TO MEET
Smoky bars are a no-no, as is your local pub, wine bar or health club – anywhere you might bump into someone you know. Your mates might find it amusing, but your date will just be embarrassed.
Never invite a first date to your home. If you don’t know them it’s not safe and, even if you do, it looks a bit odd.
Avoid funfairs and bowling alleys unless you know you date really has a passion for them and stay away from the cinema or theatre. The whole idea is that you talk to each other, not sit in silence.
WHAT NOT TO WEAR
Avoid the extremes of your wardrobe. Business suits are not right unless you’ve just come straight from the office, but neither are combats, unless you’re just back from Iraq.
Men shouldn’t wear chains, football tops or Hawaiian shirts and women should avoid anything too tight or revealing.
White clothes are a bad choice for both sexes. They show up every splash of red wine and pasta sauce. You’ll be nervous enough without that to worry about.
WHAT NOT TO EAT
Corn on the cob and spare ribs are definitely out. They’re difficult to eat sexily and will almost always leave sauce smeared around your face. Spaghetti will splash your clothes and cappuccino might sound exotic but there’s noting remotely cool about a white frothy moustache.
Garlic should be avoided for obvious reasons (see How To End The Date above) and don’t over-order – watching someone tuck into a huge plateful is not a turn-on.
WHAT NOT TO TALK ABOUT
Politics, unless you’re dating a MP; religion, less dating a vicar, and sex, unless you’re 100 per cent sure it won’t offend.
Also don’t talk about your illnesses and operations – they’re boring to all except you.
Similarly, don’t spend all night talking about yourself, exes, your kids, your bank balance or the size of your car.
Finally, don’t moan about your problems. Everyone has them and you’re with a date, not your counsellor.
HOW NOT TO BEHAVE
Do not leave your mobile phone on unless you are genuinely expecting an urgent call. If that is the case explain in advance and apologise. Never, ever send a text message – it always looks rude.
Don’t tell complicated jokes and try not to look desperate – don’t try to pin them down to a second date before this one is over.
HOW NOT TO END THE DATE
By falling into bed together. Having sex on a first date makes you vulnerable. It can also leave the relationship with nowhere to go. It might sound old-fashioned but get to know each other better first.
Karen Mooney was talking to Sue Crawford.
Karen Mooney is the founder of professionals’ dating agency Sara Eden Introductions.