Meghan O'Keefe
June 02, 2012 9:00 am

First dates give me panic attacks.

That said, almost anything can give me a panic attack. When I was five years old I used to be nervous about waking up because I was worried about getting up on the wrong side of the bed. Sometimes I get jumpy just ordering salad because I’m afraid I’ll stutter when I say “Fat Free Balsamic Vinegarette”.  So, in the grand scheme of things, it makes total sense that I, or anyone else for that matter, might wig out on a first date.

However, in order to ace any sort of classic seduction, you’ve got to swallow your nerves and be the greatest version of yourself that you can be.

Here’s just a few ways that I manage my own desire to crawl under a desk and hold myself in a fetal position before and during a first date:

Get ready like a diva

I may not always be in the mood to go out, but I love, love, love getting ready to go out.

Sometimes I actually come back from parties thinking, “Well, that was boring and the people I hung out with were all boorish, but that party-of-one I had getting ready at my apartment was fun and fantastic!”

Here’s how it works: I usually put on some of my favorite, most confidence-boosting tracks (Madonna’s “Express Yourself“, Brown Eyed Girls’s “Abracadabra” and Alizee’s “Moi… Lolita” rank high) and dance around my room pretending I’m about to make a Nicole Kidman-like entrance at the Moulin Rouge.  Even though I’m probably doing the robot dance like a total nerd, that doesn’t mean I can’t imagine that I’m surrounded by glitter and that Ewan McGregor is about to fall in love with me.

See? That’s just my silly diva fantasy. Indulge in yours!

Take a bubble bath and light some candles or put on a fancy face mask and chill out in front of the television. Do whatever it takes to make you feel relaxed, gorgeous and confident. Even if that just means just showering after a power run.

It’s more important to feel beautiful in your own skin than to look exactly like some air brushed photo in a magazine. Besides, if you feel gorgeous as yourself, then you’ll attract people who like you for who you are and not for whatever it is you’re trying to be.

Which leads me to…

Wear something that makes you feel like the best version of yourself

I have regretted wearing short and tight things that I believed made me look thinner and I have regretted wearing high heels that I believed made my legs look more toned.

I have never regretted wearing a comfortable, worn-in sundress or a pair of Toms on a date.

What I’m saying is your first date is not the time to play the couture fashion Barbie version of yourself. It’s the time to wear whatever it is you wear when you’re hanging out with family, friends or just by yourself.

If you wear heels all the time, then wear heels on your date. If you don’t, maybe you shouldn’t!

The more comfortable you feel physically during your date, the more comfortable you’re going to feel in general.

Be comfortable.

Listen to a podcast on the way to your date

This is a weird thing that I stumbled upon last summer and now I have to swear by it.

Personally, I’ve found that if I listen to super romantic music while taking the train to see my date, I automatically project too much romantic pressure on the guy I’m seeing. That’s not fair to him and it sets my stomach in knots. Alternatively, if I listen to super sad romantic music en route to my date, my brain is already predicting our inevitable break-up. Again, not fair and my stomach is still in knots. If I listen to dance music, I’m just physically on edge, and that’s not fun either.

The best thing to do is to listen to a podcast–especially an interview one. Either the subject will be talking about some silly thing in pop culture, which will distract me. Or the subject will be talking about themselves and how they got to where they are in their career. This will also distract me.

Podcasts are basically a means to get the voices in your own head to shut up.

I’m sure that books probably work just as well, but I find Marc Maron’s “WTF“, Julie Klausner’s “How Was Your Week?” and Riki Lindholme’s “Making It” podcasts to be my personal pre-date Godsends.

Remember that your date is the one who has to impress you

I remember telling a friend once about how nervous I get on first dates and her reply was a bewildered “Why?”

I explained, as one does, that I get really, really scared that the person on the date won’t like me. What if he doesn’t like my hair or if I mention loving a movie he hates or if he ends up finding me physically repellent?

What she said next is the greatest thing I have ever heard:

“Dude, why are you worried about impressing him? He’s the one who has to worry about impressing you.

When I explained that my date was someone I had a huge crush on, she stopped me again.

“What do you actually know about this guy? I mean, facts.”

“Um…I know his name and I know that he works at this restaurant I like.”

“DO NOT BE NERVOUS AROUND HIM. He could be a horrible human being and you don’t even know it yet. I’m not saying don’t give him a chance. Give him a chance! What I’m saying is that this crush you have…this idea you have in your head about him…it’s just an idea! You don’t know the real person yet. Get to know the real person and then decide if he’s worthy of your time.

And then she reiterated, “Remember, he’s the one who has to impress you.”

So, there you have it, ladies. The way to be great on a first date is to just take a deep breath and remember that you are already great. There’s no need to be nervous. There’s no need to go to insane lengths to impress. It’s not the end of the world if he (or she) doesn’t like you or vice versa.

You are already great.

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