Don't talk about your ex... and other things not to do on a first date
Here are 10 tips to keep awkwardness at bay, writes Heidi Scrimgeour
Do you know your dating do's and don'ts?
A new survey revealed that 71pc of women think men should lean in for a goodnight kiss at the end of a date if the evening has gone well, while 82pc of women think their date should compliment them on their appearance.
But not everyone adheres to these basic rules so here, based on real disasters, are 10 dating no-no's to avoid at all costs.
1 Don't forget your table manners
Everyone knows that it is perfectly acceptable to judge a person by their table manners. Smack your lips whilst eating or talk with your mouth full and you deserve nothing more than to die alone with only cats for company.
OK, maybe that's a tiny bit harsh but you definitely don't deserve a place at the dating table. Heed the wise words of my friend Matthew, who openly admits to having committed more than his fair share of dating sins: "If you go to an Indian restaurant, then don't overdo the lime pickle in case you get a coughing fit and end up redistributing it all over your unsuspecting dinner companion's face."
2 Don't pay more attention to your smartphone than your partner
You know the types – they stare at their phone for longer than they're able to hold your gaze. But much worse can happen if you're overly attached to a gadget during your date, as my friend Natalie found out to her shame.
"It's not a good idea to text your sister halfway through the date to say 'Nice but no', particularly as you might accidentally send it to your date who is sitting across the table from you. Awkward."
3 Don't forget to be polite
Not all dates lead to true love and you might have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince. But along the way, try to be nice. And if you're optimistic enough to agree to a blind date without first seeing a snap of your potential suitor, don't let out an audible groan of disappointment when you first clap eyes on him.
That can really wreck a guy's self-esteem, and my pal Christine can vouch for the fact you might find yourself going on several more dates out of sympathy for the man whose ego you inadvertently crushed through non-verbal communication alone.
4 If you make a run for it, don't get caught
"I once ran away from a date at the cinema," confesses Angela. "I said I was going to the toilet but I'd decided I'd had enough. I almost got away with it except he came looking for me and caught me waiting for a taxi. If you're going to bail, plan your escape route properly. And use a reliable taxi firm."
5 Avoid religion
Or if that's not possible, make sure you're singing from the same hymn sheet before you hook up. Bridget has a catalogue of dating disasters under her belt, many of which had one thing in common – a difference of opinion over matters of faith.
"There was the former student priest who had to bless everything that moved and even things that didn't, like our dinner, and then tried to lick my face and have a quick grope while walking me to my car! Or the guy who asked my religious persuasion while we were still exchanging pleasantries and then refused to speak to me for the rest of the evening."
6 Don't be too honest
This anecdote from Cathy speaks for itself. "I'd just started dating this guy and one day he asked me what I was thinking about. Before I could help myself, out popped the word 'babies'. Oops." Yep, that's pretty much a dating meltdown.
7 Don't neglect your appearance
My friend Emma was seriously under-whelmed by one date's disregard for personal grooming. "He turned up in a hand-knitted jumper with long, dirty fingernails. Yuck. Suffice it to say he only got one date, and a short one at that!"
8 Don't be too uptight
Dates are meant to be fun, after all. Alanna, a married mother of two, recalls one guy she went out with who moaned about the menu at the restaurant she had chosen, on the basis that he only ate fried food on Fridays. Equally, don't assume that your date shares the things that interest you.
"I once went on a date with someone who thought it was appropriate to share his family's entire criminal history with me," recalls Catherine. "I think he was disappointed that I wasn't more impressed."
9 Don't talk about your ex
That's it really. If you need further explanation I really can't help you, but it's probably best not to inflict yourself on the dating scene until this makes sense.
10 Don't propose on a first date
"It's really not appropriate," says Mary, bristling at what is clearly still a troubling memory. In a similar vein, try not to look too keen. Needy is not – and will never be – the new cool.