Some of us are looking for love; some just want a booty call. Either way, neither can be achieved without that initial "meeting," and for some, the blind date becomes the avenue to that first tryst. If you think the blind date is dead, think again: On an average day, there are 2,235 web searches for "blind date," according to Webster's Online Dictionary. "I don't think the blind date will ever die," vouches Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and host of NBC Digital's ondating.tv. "Setting up people is still customary in many places around the world and has been around for generations. It still is, and I believe will remain, a great option for singles looking to meet new people."
Yet, in a world where texting has become the newest form of communication, and meeting men can rely solely on how hot your MySpace photograph looks, the idea of the blind date has started to go digital for the 21st Century. Everyone from your mom to your ex-boyfriend can get in on the act, and many friends are more eager than ever to play cupid. But whether or not an online entity is involved, the blind date takes finesse.
Broadcast Yourself. First and foremost, to score a blind date, you need to make your status as a single person known. Most people (excluding your meddling auntie) won't think of setting you up if they aren't aware you'd even entertain the thought. "You need to tell people that you're single and open to dating," says Renee Piane, author of Love Mechanics and the founder and president of RapidDating.com.
Trust Your Source. The more you know the person who's suggesting the set up, the better chance you have of a successful outcome. "Blind dates can be especially hard," says dating coach David Wygant. "So you want to be set up by somebody that knows you—knows what you're all about—and is willing to hook you up with a friend they also know a lot about. This way the date is a meeting of mutual interests, mutual friends. After all, there's got to be some type of mutual bond in the first place for you to even accept the date, right?"
Match Unto Others... If you're the one playing matchmaker, remember the golden rule: do unto others as you'd have done unto you. Translation? If you're best friend just got out of a relationship and is looking for a hot fling, don't set her up with the guy from accounting who has a pot belly and a Star Wars action figure collection, just because "he's really a nice guy." Similarly, "because you're both single" is not a good answer to why you should meet someone, and it's not a good reason to hook up two friends. Don't do it.
Be Honest with Yourself. What are you looking for in a mate? What are the values that are most important to you? "You can't expect someone to want to date you until you become what you're asking to meet," says Piane. "Think logically and make sure you are aligned with the timeframe in the other person's life." In other words, if you're recently divorced and still not over your ex, and your potential blind date is ready to get married, your timelines might make for incompatibility even if there is some physical attraction.
And Be Honest with Others. "Men tend to be very superficial when they seek out blind dates," says Piane. "Guys don't like to tell their buddies what they're really looking for; instead they'll say they are interested in physical attributes when really, deep down, they want a woman who reflects or shares their core values." Being honest with the person setting you up allows him or her to guide you toward a more successful match.
Pre-screen. Outside of online dating, ready-made profile doesn't exist. That's when you turn to your matchmaker, whether he or she is your aunt, best friend, or gym buddy, and ask some questions. "This way, you have a vantage point when you meet ," says Piane. Her suggestions for some starting questions: What is he like? Where is she from? What does she do for a living? These questions are all general enough to give you a feeling as to whether you're even interested in taking the next step. And, by all means, Google the person. "I think Googling is a part of our lives and many of us will do some research on search engines before a job interview or prior to a blind date!" Syrtash laughs. "Besides, it helps to feel a little more prepared."
Dial Them Up. "Before the blind date, you should spend 15 to 20 minutes on the phone with the person to see if you have any chemistry," says Wygant. "If you're awkward on the phone, chances are you're going to be very awkward on the date." Indeed, the consensus of blind date experts agree that the energy you feel over the phone is extremely telling. "You can feel the vibe of a person by their voice," notes Piane. "But also, this phone conversation allows you to build a bridge to rapport, so that when the blind date rolls around, you're less nervous."
Ask and You Shall Receive. The general questions you asked the person setting you up: You already asked them, so don't ask them again! Wygant calls these "resume swapping," and suggest avoiding them when talking to your blind date for the first time. Instead, try to explore the person's lifestyle as well as personal values. "What do they do for fun? Where have they traveled? Where do they like to hang out? What are they passionate about?" Wygant says. "As they answer these questions, take the conversation deeper. Ask follow-up questions." These questions allow the person to open up about their personal beliefs and goals.
It's a Date Place! Choosing the setting for your blind date involves several factors—all of which you can discuss during your phone conversation. "Try and find a place that is equidistant from the both of you," suggests Piane. Short dates are better facilitated at coffee shops, happy hours or during lunch, where it's perfectly acceptable to end the date in under an hour. "If you feel a connection over the phone, a dinner date can work," says Piane, "but realize, if you make a great connection over drinks at happy hour, you can always extend the date to dinner." Settings to avoid: brightly lit places, too-crowded areas and kid-friendly places.
Safety First. Do you meet up at a spot or do you go together? When you're being set up, someone is usually vouching for your date's sanity, but it's better to be safe than sorry. And even if your date isn't a serial killer, he may not be someone you want to get stuck with on a long car ride. "For this reason alone, I'd strongly recommend meeting your blind date in a public location and taking your own transportation so you aren't tied together should you want to end the date a little early," says Syrtash. "If you have sparks, there will be plenty of other opportunities ahead to share a ride!"
Ex Marks the "Not" Spot. Just like with all first dates, certain rules apply: No ex-talk or detailed descriptions of mental illnesses that run in your family. Lay off the baby names. Skip spaghetti unless you're sure you can eat it without splattering yourself and your date.
Overall, Be Open-minded. Blind dating requires a sense of adventure and a healthy dose of humor when things go awry. Piane has this advice: "Keep an open spirit and an open mind when going on a blind date because, even though that blind date might not be the man or woman of your dreams, you can meet and connect with amazing people through that person or at the venue." She should know: she met her husband only hours after a bad blind date!
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