Making meeting-places work for you
By Vivienne Palmer
Dating has changed a lot in the last 15 years.
You don’t passively wait around in hopes that you run into someone nice; you go out there and get ’em on OKCupid, eHarmony, J-Date, Match or perhaps the most anxiety-producing one of all, Tinder.
But while technology has changed how people find dates, going on that first date is pretty much the same as it has always been. A first date, at its core, is a fact-finding mission. The ultimate goal is to figure out whether a second date is in the cards.
Where you and your date decide to meet speaks volumes. For instance, whether they choose an old-school Boulder establishment or opt for a national chain may be all it takes to tip the scales in, or against, one’s favor. An informal poll of locals netted three types of first dates: safe, active and optimistic.
Playing It Safe
Whether you are calling the shots or simply going along with your date’s suggestion, the very time of day and location say a lot about the person who chooses them. The person who likes to play it safe usually opts for a low-cost, short-time-investment, easy-way-out date.
Whether this means they are incredibly busy or commitment-phobic is up for debate, but there isn’t a lower-stakes first date than coffee. Even for night owls, most coffee dates happen before 5 p.m., cost less than $10 for two, and can last as long as several hours or be over as quickly as it takes to gulp down a searing-hot latte. Marci D. loves the Dushanbe Teahouse because “the vibe is so colorful, hopeful and full of possibilities.”TAKE OUR DATING PERSONALITY QUIZ (below)
Since this is Boulder County, first dates often take place outdoors or in a gym. What better way to break the ice than to be active? For one, you can assess your date’s physical prowess by how fast he/she surmounts Mount Sanitas. If you are shy, a tough hike is perfect, given how difficult it is to hold a decent conversation while walking single-file and gasping for breath. The more conversationally inclined are better off choosing Chautauqua or Sawhill Ponds, where the terrain is gentle and the trail is wide.
Ranee D. learned from past experience what she wants in a new man. “My ex was blah. He never liked hiking or physical activity and had an apathetic attitude. But when people light up and have a great attitude when they’re working out, it shows they have a passion for life.”
If you know what you’re looking for in a Significant Other or have a passion that’s a must for a mate to share, design the first date to weed out those that don’t fit the mold. For example, if you’re set on finding someone who’ll run marathons with you, take them running on the first date to test those waters.
Kenneth K. uses a mutual experience to learn about his date. “Why interact only over drinks and intellect when you can learn about an entire person through a life experience?” What he’s talking about is parkour, or street running, and there’s a gym right in Boulder where you can meet for a fun and challenging drop-in and learn a lot about your date. Anyone who can roll with a parkour lesson is going to be game for almost anything. If it goes well you can wander over to Sanitas Brewery for a beer on the back patio.
Meeting for a mountain bike ride is a chance to check out each other’s bods and keep the focus on the trail rather than the more awkward face-to-face dining experience. Walker Ranch, Community Ditch Trail or, for the thrill seeker, Flagstaff are go-to choices. You can make it a double and fuel up at a coffee shop before you go.
Cat C. had a successful, mildly active first date that started at the grocery store. “Chris took me to Whole Foods because I had to grocery shop and then we went to the dog park. It was really kind of adorable.”
Hoping for the Best
Finally there is the optimist. This person doesn’t mind investing time and money in a date, and is open to other opportunities should the two of you hit it off. I’m talking about dinner and drinks.
In Boulder you can’t swing the proverbial cat without hitting a brewery. From fancy with fine dining to rustic (think picnic tables and food trucks) to something in-between, you can glean intel about your date by the kind of wine or beer he/she favors.
Meri B.’s only prerequisite is “somewhere with lots of beer choices, so you can judge them on what they choose. But also you can enjoy the date even if it tanks and at least have a good drink out of it.” Lisa M. agrees. “I do judge dates on what beer they order … I’m a jerk.” (I don’t know if that makes her a jerk, but I wouldn’t order a lite beer around her.)
But if your date is truly in the mood for love, there is no better spot than the west end of Pearl Street. Nina R. met her husband at the Rio for their first date. “Justin and I had our first date at the bar of the Rio. I think a loud/fun/energetic atmosphere is great for casual conversation compared to a sit-down dinner. Plus, going there for happy hour guarantees you’ll be standing or sitting close to your date since it’s so packed.”
Amy F. likes it more romantic—“the bar at Salt or the couches at The Kitchen Upstairs. There’s good lighting and enough background activity to create a romantic bubble around you and your date.”
Where you eat says tons about you, not only how much you are willing to spend, but how picky you are. One of the trendy new restaurants that specialize in gluten-free, paleo menus means your date is probably going to be finicky not only about what they eat but about life. Not that that’s a bad thing. But someone who picks the Sundowner or La Chosa means you’ve got an easy-going, low-maintenance person on your hands. Maybe a winner, maybe a slob. That’s up to you to decide.
All this you can tell simply by where you go on a first date. Around Boulder, we have so many choices that finding Mr. or Ms. Right too soon would be rather tragic—there’s too much fun to be had on all those first dates.
Vivienne Palmer is a writer, blogger and pole-dance enthusiast. She has two boys, and lives in downtown Boulder.
What Kind of Dater Are YOU?
1. At the gym, you catch the eye of someone cute by the water fountain. What do you do?
a.) Quickly look away, then sneak glances of them while they’re not looking.
b.) Lift a little harder, run a little faster, work a little harder. I’m killing it.
c.) Compliment something about them, introduce myself, and see how the conversation flows.
2. Casual sex?
a.) Um, OK, maybe. I don’t know. Do we have to talk afterwards?
b.) Sure, let me grab my camping gear and I’ll be there.
c.) It’s not a good idea for me … I have feelings, you know?
3. What’s your preferred online dating avenue?
a.) Tinder, ItsJustLunch, OkCupid.
b.) The League, Glutenfreesingles or Dapper, but generally I meet through mutual activities.
c.) Match, eHarmony, JDate.
4. In five years, you’ll be:
a.) Five years? What is this, a job interview? I don’t know what I’m doing in five hours.
b.) That’s the year I’ll be doing Yosemite’s Triple Crown/hiking the PCT/biking across Malaysia.
c.) I have a few dreams—a better job, maybe a house and a dog. Hopefully someone there to share that with.
5. What’s the first thing people notice about you?
a.) Probably my hair. Or, no, my clothes? I have an OK handshake, also.
b.) I’m super fit!
c.) My eyes? Though I’d hope it’s my personality.
6. Your most recent ex:
a.) I’m not sure you can really call them my ex, ’cause, like, we were sort of not really dating? Labels aren’t my thing.
b.) Couldn’t keep up.
c.) Pretty much broke me for a while, but I’m putting the pieces back together.
7. At a party, you can be found:
a.) Mingling somewhere between the door and the drink table. If the vibe goes downhill, I’ll make a quick exit.
b.) Ripping the dance floor into shreds.
c.) On the couch, talking with a few close friends.
How You Score:
Mostly A’s – THE COMMITMENT DODGER. You like to keep it safe and low-commitment. You’re probably best suited for coffee shops, movies and lunch dates. But make sure it’s a good movie; there’s nothing worse than being stuck next to a loud popcorn cruncher and trying to focus on terrible acting at the same time. Always avoid: carpooling with your date. Where’s the exit strategy? Work on: making up your mind. It’s OK to get invested, just don’t overthink it!
Mostly B’s – THE SUPERACHIEVER. You’re fueled by a passion, and anyone who doesn’t fit in that mold won’t do. Extremely active and charming, you’re also kind of a control freak. Take dates on an active adventure, like a hike up Chautauqua. If they drop out ahead of time, or can’t keep up, you’ll know it won’t work. Always avoid: dinner at home and a movie. Opposites attract, but you don’t want to get involved with a homebody! Work on: making room for someone in your life. Compromise is the name of the game, and if you’re too busy doing you, then a long-term relationship won’t be in the cards.
Mostly C’s – THE ROMANTIC. You deserve someone who will treat you right! Maybe you’ve loved and lost, or maybe you still haven’t found that right person to give everything to. Go on classic dates where you can talk: Dinner, grabbing cocktails, or a mild activity like putt-putt are all good ideas. Always avoid: constantly hanging out as sort-of friends at someone’s house. You’ll get in too fast and too deep, and why waste the energy on someone who isn’t willing to treat you right? Work on: not putting too much pressure on the relationship—though you’re serious about looking for The One, you can still have a little fun with someone you don’t intend to marry.