Historically, I have not fared well on first dates. I blame 90210 for giving me the impression that all dates must be adorned with high heels, hilarious jokes, and a coy disposition that eases its way through conversation like a falling leaf. IRL, I look not unlike a cat walking in a puddle when wearing high heels, only manage to mumble out a few incredibly awkward and unintentionally sarcastic-aggressive jokes, and have the coyness of a fish out of water.
After a decade’s worth of good, bad, and terrible dates, I finally realized what I needed to survive my awkward nervousness: a task. Tasks helped me not focus on how I was acting or speaking or existing. They also helped me understand who I was on a date with and how they unfolded as we worked on something as a newly-formed team. Here’s a list of date ideas to help other awkward folks enjoy themselves on a date:
1. Thrift store celebrity dress up
Nothing says romance like treasure hunting through thousands of people’s past lives! Decide upon a celebrity and find clothing, accessories, and other various gems to dress up in and help give your date clues as to who you are. Once you’ve got yourself looking like Bruce Springsteen or Liza Minnelli, head out to dinner and try your best to stay in character, regardless of how much you do or don’t know about them. Whoever guesses correctly last, pays!
2. 12 Ingredients, one kitchen
Ask your date to bring six totally random ingredients to cook with (but make sure s/he doesn’t tell you what they are). Collect six ingredients yourself and join forces to see what, exactly, you can conjure up. Maybe you’ll open a restaurant or maybe you’ll end up eating stale pretzels and laughing about what terrible cooks you are.
3. Get spooked
Find an old ghost town near you (or make a day trip out of it!) and try to do as little research about it as possible. Spend the day speculating what existed there and how you think you would have lived had you been part of the town. Keep a souvenir and take lots of pictures and try to not get too spooked. The next date you go on, research what really happened!
4. Watch baby sea turtles hatch
If you are lucky enough to live in a coastal state and the season is right, this is one of the most dreamy, magical, and exciting dates I can think of. Pack a blanket and some snacks and set out to watch little baby sea turtles start their new lives. Your hearts will be too mushy to feel nervous.
5. Go see a band you know nothing about
Find a local show touting a band name or solo artist you and your date have never heard of. A change of pace helps you feel new and reminds you that there are things you will always be learning and discovering that you never knew you liked.
6. Go on some architecture tours
Buildings don’t care if you’re awkward or not. Find an interesting or historical building in your town that offers tours. You’ll learn a little history about the community you live in and have a brain full of ideas to talk about together later.
7. Go pick some apples
Fall is coming up and that means farms will be hosting all sorts of charming and fun events and festivals. Pick apples! Choose pumpkins! Go in a corn maze (but don’t get lost and call 911 like that one family). You and your date can ride a wagon and ease those nerves while searching for the perfect crop.
All-in-all a first date is likely going to be a little awkward for everyone. Just remember that the best dates don’t need fancy dinners or crazy schemes. Sincerity and a healthy dose of vulnerability go a long way.