When I was in high school, my best friend worked at a comedy club, so I got to see plenty of up-and-coming (and sometimes neither-up-nor-coming) comedians. The first time I went, I was blown away by the warm-up guy. Whenever any drunken heckler in the audience shouted out a snide comment, he came up with the perfect comeback on the spot.
As impressed as I was, my friend was quick to plug up my gushing. He pointed out that if you’re a comedian, you have to deal with hecklers all the time. After a while, you build up a repertoire of retorts for just about any occasion. So, you don’t necessarily need a quick wit. You just have to anticipate and prepare.
Interestingly, I’ve discovered that dating follows the exact same principle….
I’ve mentioned before that if you’re on a first date, and the guy seems to know the perfect thing to say at every opportunity, that could just mean he’s been a lot of first dates. Well, I admit it. I’m one of those guys. If I manage to snag a first date, I usually get the chance for at least a second date.
Long ago, I realized that I will never be the tall, dark, mysterious guy who just sulks in the corner and lets the girls flock to him – the guy who seduces with a glance and a smirk. Nope, I learned that if I wanted to find any success with women, I’d have to rely on my personality. And I’m okay with that, because it taught me how to interact with the opposite sex.
It also made me realize that being charming can be practiced and learned. Through the trials and errors of countless first dates, I’ve figured out what I need to say to keep the conversation flowing. I’ve learned how to build rapport by listening to her stories and connecting them to my own experiences. I’ve learned how to come across as intelligent and funny, with just the tinge of flirty.
People say that a great conversation will naturally evolve and flow in unpredictable ways. And I completely agree. When I meet someone new, I really don’t know where our conversation will end up. At the same time, I do find myself drawing from my repertoire of tried-and-true anecdotes. It’s just a matter of inserting the appropriate one at the appropriate time. Because these are the anecdotes that have worked for me in the past.
I’ve also noticed that the stories I share often lead to specific questions. Like the comedian who anticipates the responses his jokes will get and crafts the perfect comeback to those responses, I’ve learned to anticipate and craft responses to the questions my stories elicit.
For example, I used to play poker professionally. That little nugget of my life always sparks a deep conversation. I remember the moment I decided I didn’t want to play poker for a living anymore, the moment that led me to where I am today: a teacher of at-risk kids. The question of how I went from poker player to teacher/counselor seems to come up on every first date. And when it does, I don’t hesitate to tell the story, because I know it paints me in an attractive light.
I’m also an avid swing dancer and have friends in the scene who will invariably talk me up if they see me with someone new. My girlfriend will probably feel a bit disillusioned to read this (because, ahem, I took her swing dancing on our first date), but I’ve taken many first dates out swing dancing. And those first dates have always gone well.
These are just two of the pre-cut patterns that I pull from as we paint our first-date canvas. My metaphorical palette is brimming with many more.
Of course, I’m not claiming that I can woo any woman. Far from it. If someone just isn’t interested, there’s not much I can do there.
No, what I have learned is to take that spark of initial interest and stoke it — to find threads of commonality and use them to build a connection. That, to me, is what first dates are all about: Taking every opportunity to build rapport. To get to that second date and beyond, so you can really start to get to know the other person.
So what’s the point of all this? To brag about my dating prowess?
No, far from it. The point is that rapport… chemistry… butterflies… whatever you want to call it, it’s easier to manufacture than most people realize. In fact, I’d argue that it’s actually easiest to create rapport on a first date, when you have essentially your entire unabridged tome of personal information to draw from, with no fear of accidentally telling the same story twice (something Melissa frequently gives me shit for).
No, to me, real rapport is when you’ve been with someone for a year-and-a-half, and you still look forward to talking to them every night, and you still find exciting things to talk about (and it’s only once every few weeks that you accidentally tell the same story again). That’s chemistry.
And that’s why I believe that if you meet someone who charms your pants off – perhaps literally – on a first date, you should exercise caution.
If you spend an evening with a guy, and you feel as though you know him so well, that you’ve connected with him so deeply, that there’s just something about him you can’t resist… sure, call it chemistry if you want. But, realize that he may be good at generating this “chemistry” with a lot of women. You may think you’re meeting someone special, but he might only be meeting someone who’s never seen his first-date routines before.
Yes, the butterflies you feel could mean that you really are compatible on multiple levels. And yes, he could very well feel the same tingling in his loins. But, it could just as likely be that he knows exactly what to say and exactly how to act because he’s been on a ton of first dates.
That’s why you should probably wait at least a few dates before you start putting any weight on the “chemistry” you’re feeling for him.