Blame Hollywood. Blame Tinder. Blame the economy. Blame whoever you want, but it won’t change the fact that nowadays there seems to be a whole lot of expectation tangled up in date planning.
Dates, arranged by either party, need to be as romantic as a La La Land montage, as whimsical as 500 Days of Summer and as unique as… well, nothing else.
Nothing hammered this home to me more than a dinner party conversation I stepped in on a few weeks ago. A woman I hadn’t met before was discussing a recent encounter with a chap she had met online. They’d gone on one date – shopping together from what I could gather – which she was shrugging off with a nonchalant “meeh”. She wouldn’t be seeing him again.
And I mean, fair enough. Who goes shopping on a date?! Anyway, when she excused herself to use the bathroom, our mutual friend filled me in. Apparently, they hadn’t “gone shopping”, he’d taken her shopping. On his family’s private jet. To Milan. For an entire weekend. And all he had to show for it was a “meeh”.
Up until that moment, I thought getting to know someone over a coffee was perfectly acceptable. Despite my friends reassuring me that it totally is, I still grilled each of them for their own less-than-formulaic date experiences so I could have something slightly more impressive up my sleeve, just in case.
If you’re in a similar boat and want a list of fallbacks, here are my suggestions.
1. Sapiosexy Free Museum
If money’s super tight, wander around a free museum or two. BUT avoid looking like a cheapskate and take your date to an exhibition about something you’re genuinely passionate about – being their personal tour guide will make for a far more interesting time than sitting in a dark room with some overpriced popcorn.
2. Outdoor Flix n Chill
When you really can’t shake the traditional date routine, give it a serious retro upgrade and book tickets for the nearest outdoor-screen. Hit up an American diner for your food, or bring an old-school picnic filled with lunchbox treats. Don’t forget a blanket to sit on, and prepare for some nostalgia-fuelled romance.
3. Love Birds
You want to know about something awesome? Hawks. Hawks are awesome. Take your date to a falconry center and get involved with some beautiful and deadly birds of prey, including hawks, eagles and owls. Even if your date is a dud, you get to chill with cool birds all day. Use a company like Into the Blue to find the nearest experience center to you.
4. Seductive Songstress
Put your pride on the shelf and head to your nearest karaoke bar. Making a fool of yourself is half the fun, and you can use the opportunity to scope out your date’s music tastes while enjoying a bit of camaraderie during a big chorus. Most places have private booths, so if you’re shy, or terrible (or both), you can keep the rock star impression between the two of you.
5. Role Play
How about some roleplay? Get tickets for a Secret Cinema or a Rocky Horror Picture Show. Not for the faint-hearted, these immersive performances are thrilling, theatrical and memorable to say the least. You’ll never be accused of suggesting a boring date.
6. Pump the Adrenaline
Get your blood pumping with an adrenaline-fuelled outdoor adventure. Try to choose something neither of you have done before, but might not enjoy alone, like quad biking, zorbing or a high-ropes course. It’s the perfect chance to test each other’s limits, and will give you plenty to talk about as you wind-down over a coffee (or pint) later.
7. Knees Up
Can’t imagine a date without some Dutch courage? Rather than your standard pub, scope out a local brewery or winery and book in on a guided tour. You’re guaranteed to learn something new, and the pace of a tour should break up any awkward silences in your conversation. Plus, at the end you can take the edge off with some house samples.
Visit a board game café and vet your date with a game of Monopoly. Apparently, playing this board game with a prospective partner gives you a great insight into their money habits, how they deal with failure and their strategy skills – which could help you decide if they’re a keeper! Of course, if they make it through an entire game their stamina is already pretty impressive, no matter how childishly they play.
At the end of the day, keep in mind that dating is supposed to be fun. It shouldn’t be stressful, and the most important thing is to enjoy yourself. If this sounds like too much, there’s always the local cat shelter…