Have First Dates Gotten Boring & Cheap?

I recently received this message from someone on Facebook.firstdate

Recently, I had someone ask me if I wanted to go out for coffee and I canceled on them because it was inconvenient and I personally think, a boring as hell date.

Should this come up for you in coaching, I’m a big fan of Vapiano (you get cards and pay your own way), 100 Montaditos (you have to pay in advance for drinks) or Claw Daddy’s – $4 drinks for happy hour, 6 days a week.

Her comment got me thinking about what makes a good first date.

Personally, I like to go to someplace that’s relatively quiet and small. That’s why I prefer first dates to be on early Sunday evenings. My go to choice is always a wine bar. I’ve done the dive bars, and what always seemed to happen is that no matter the night of the week, the music was always loud. Plus, I like to dress up for my first dates and I feel a little silly putting on a dress and heels just to hit up Charlie’s Crab Shack to sip $4 margaritas while we listen to Led Zeppelin on the juke box.

The cheap happy hour date is a turn off for many reasons. First, you look cheap or disgruntled. Second, cheap drinks are bad drinks. Third, cheap happy hours mean crowded bars. You want to find a place that sets the right tone. There’s nothing fun or flirty about a filthy bar, diner, or coffee house. I don’t want to be surrounded by Laptop Hobos working on their novel or presentation who give dirty looks to people who might be too loud. Side note: Coffee shops are for people looking to eat and drink coffee. They are not your personal office space. Stay home if you don’t like to be around people who talk above a certain decibel.

I’ve said dozens and dozens of times that coffee dates are a horrible idea. The environment is very sterile and lacks intimacy, plus it screams cheap. And boring. Anybody who suggests a coffee date for a first date is immediately relegated to Nopesville. Not only do I refuse to cater to some dude’s resentment for possibly having to shell out $50 without the guarantee of sex, but I also don’t want to date anybody who either frowns upon drinking or doesn’t drink that often or who, when he drinks, sally sips one glass of wine all night. That’s cool if drinking isn’t your thing for whatever reason, but I like my wine. I don’t want to feel self-conscious if I order a second or even a third while you sit there with your first glass that is still half full. I also prefer not to date people who are in recovery. I’m a big supporter of those who have gone sober, but I typically don’t date them. Drinking is a lifestyle choice, and it’s one where I prefer we be on the same page. Dating a non-drinker severely limits what you can do and where you can go. And while I know many non-drinkers who say they don’t care if their date drinks, I don’t believe for a second they won’t be either greatly apprehensive around or judging their date if he or she orders that third cocktail or does that shot.

The choice of the first date location tells you quite a bit about the person you’re about to meet. I’m now of the belief that people who choose dive bars for the location of their first date either want to show you how different they are or are so wary of spending money that they are choosing a location where the drinks are super cheap. If you’re strictly a beer drinker, then maybe it’s not that bad. But we all know that wine at a dive bar is swill and that the cocktails are either over or under poured. Dive bar does not say, “quality.” Dive bars say, “This is a place I frequent because it’s close to my apartment” as well as, “I don’t really care about impressing you or setting the right tone.”

Similar things can be said for very expensive or trendy bars. If you’re into that scene, then God bless ya. Have at it. But if you’re an average person making an average salary who leads an average life like most of us schmucks, then hitting up a high end bar for a first date sets a weird tone. I’ll never forget the first date I had with the guy who chose the piano bar at The Carlysle hotel here in Manhattan. Was it nice? Sure. But I felt super uncomfortable ordering anything because the prices were so steep and I didn’t want to be perceived as greedy. Dates that take place at expensive bars or restaurants come off as trying too hard.

A lot of people prefer to skip the bar scene altogether and go for activity dates. I’m all for that as long as it’s easy to talk and make conversation. First dates, in my opinion, are about gauging interpersonal compatibility and attraction. Let’s first decide if we get along and want to rip each other’s clothes off. Then let’s ride bikes and go to The Met. I don’t like to be in first date settings where I feel I have to behave a certain way or talk at a certain level. I like to just be in the moment and enjoy where I am and who I’m with.

At this point, I think expecting people to come up with something original for a first date might be unreasonable. Thanks to Hinge and Happn and Tinder and OkCupid, we’re all going on more first dates. These are not one off occasions anymore. Your average person probably goes on 2-4 first dates a month. It’s hard to keep things fresh when you’re going on first date after first date. Most of us pick two or three moderately priced spots that we like and rotate them. Women shouldn’t expect guys to come up with the date ideas or locations. We all should have places in mind that we like that aren’t too expensive that we can suggest. The days of guys planning the first date down to the detail really are over.

I don’t expect guys to have any kind of master plan for a first date. Nor do I need a first date to be “exciting.” If I want excitement, I’ll go to an amusement park. It’s not important to me that they’ve done their research and studied Yelp for reviews or that they’ve found a place that has all these add ons or bells and whistles. Just pick a place you like that is conducive to talking and flirting and that isn’t too loud or crowded where we can have a couple of drinks and relax and I’ll be fine.



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20 Responses to “Have First Dates Gotten Boring & Cheap?”

  1. sf Says:

    Agree with all of this. My first dates thoughts (based on some recent experiences):
    – Dinner at a pretty fancy restaurant that you go to all the time where you clearly want to impress me with what a big shot you are because the waiter sucks up to you – NO
    – Dates where you want me to schlepp downtown to a place next to your apartment screams either a) I think I’m going to get sex out of this, so might as well be close to home or b) I care so little about this date that I can’t be bothered to leave my block – NO
    – A bar where you’re “hosting” a party, tell me I need to dress up and then it turns out to be a crappy sports bar and you’re so busy with your friends that you never talk to me – NO
    – First date and you want me to come over to your apartment to “watch a movie” and then claim to be insulted that I would think you’re just trying to sleep with me – NO

    There are more, but these are the highlights (lowlights). Like Moxie, I don’t think I’m particularly high maintenance about a first date; I’m happy to choose the place, a wine bar is lovely, I’m happy to dress up, but fine going somewhere that’s more jeans and boots. But the places you suggest really do say a lot about who are you are and what you’re looking for from the date.

  2. Millie Says:

    Agreed. I used to think coffee dates were legit, but after going on one or two it was clear that the whole scene sets you up for meh.

  3. Steve from the city next door Says:

    I think it is tough. The first thing I will note is along time ago I noticed 100% reject rate when I suggested a first date that was primarily about alcohol. ie. a bar: no a restaurant that happened to service wine or whatever OK. Needless to say I have not suggested such a place in a long time.

    Coffee seems like the best option of no good options.

    Wine bar seems like a really odd suggestion given the other comments. I see two types.
    1. Is very expensive and usually trying to be trendy. Clearly fits into the expensive bar category.
    2. Usually more of a wine shop, still kind of expensive – all the complaints except for the hobo’s for the coffee shop apply – and usually worse. They scream over-priced, boring and trying way too hard.
    I can think of only way place that doesn’t fit into those and I would say it is more of a wine focused bar – last I was there was for a meetup and their well rum and coke on happy hour was $7. So it is rather expensive consider I am used to getting an OK rum and coke for $4.50 not on happy hour.

    Activity dates have not been good for me…at best it seems like you end know little more about the other person…and if they don’t like the activity that is not good.

    Dinner gets expensive fast and you have the whole minefield of which place.

    really there does not seem like a good choice for fits most cases.

    • Shadowcat Says:

      Where can you get a rum & coke for 4.50 not during happy hour? I want to drink there! I think even the Continental and the old Mars bar (dive bar to beat all dive bars) back in the day charged more than that. I’m deadly serious, and I live in Paulus Hook, (it’s in the “city next door”, for you die hard Manhattanites) and would love to find a local spot with 4.50 cocktails, in the city or around here!

  4. Marshmallow Says:

    ?: when you are meeting someone for the first time whom you’ve only emailed through a dating site, do you consider that a first date? See, I look at it as meeting to decide if you want a first date. At this point, we haven’t even had a phone conversation. To me, coffee or lunch is painless since you know pretty quickly if you click or not.

  5. JulesP Says:

    Nothing wrong at all with suggesting a decent coffee bar for your first date. After all, as you more or less say Moxie.. first dates are for checking each other out… Don’t need a restaurant for me to do that.

    I also ‘rotate’ three go to venues in my area. One of which is a great local, small micro brewery. (This one’s my personal favorite) All of them warm, inviting, not sterile type places at all.

    I would never send anyone to “nopesville” based on their preferred choice of first date meeting in a coffee bar.

    • JulesP Says:

      I should also add that in my three local go to venues, they each have small but very good food menu just in case!

  6. WO7 Says:

    The problem with coffee dates is the atmosphere doesn’t encourage people to loosen up, and it doesn’t have any kind of romantic vibe. So there is just a huge tendency for it to encourage platonic actions leading to platonic feelings.

    The whole choose a first date thing is a huge pain in the ass for guys. We know all the rules. You can’t come off looking cheap, so you have to pick a place that doesn’t immediately make people think “cheap”. But you don’t want to blow a bunch of money on a first date with someone that most likely either you or them is not interested in a second date. If a girl requests “something to eat”, it’s very hard to steer the date away from that without looking cheap. Expecting dinner from a guy is a lot to expect of a first date from an online meeting. Wine bars seem to be a perfect choice for women, but unfortunately tend to be on the expensive side of the dating spectrum.

    A lot of times women seem turned off by the idea of going to “just a bar/lounge” on the first date. I don’t know why they feel so entitled as to have a first date carefully tailored towards them to make them experience the most fun possible. That’s a lot of one sided effort right there. It’s also a hell of a lot easier to be creative when it’s warm out. When it’s cold, most of the creative ideas cost too much money for a first date.

    • John Says:

      The acceptance of coffee for a first date has risen dramatically on POF on Long Island. In at least half of the female profiles, they list coffee as an OK first date in the “First Date” section. I never used to see that but its now pretty common.

      SO for a guy it becomes easy to decide what to do. If they mention coffee in their “First Date” profile then I suggest the coffee date. If they don’t mention that at all, then I will suggest a bar date. No need to stress over it anymore.

      Not sure if OKC or Match has that section, but it is one of the good things about POF- it eliminates the decision making problem on what to do on a first since the woman has already put it out there. Of course the ones that list dinner in that category are immediately passed by./

      If you pitch a coffee date to the “I only do wine bars” crowd you will get nowhere. If you pitch it to the “Coffee is a good first date” crowd then you will do fine. Marketing 101.

      • AC Says:

        “The acceptance of coffee for a first date has risen dramatically on POF on Long Island.”

        That’s because we’re talking about a different demographic than the OKCupid crowd of Brooklyn or Manhattan.

        I can’t speak for Long Island but my experience with POF in the Manhattan/Jersey City/Hoboken area is that it’s filled with time wasters who want to email, text, talk on the phone, and engage in all of the other arduous steps before meeting.

        Who’s got time? Just meet already. As you said though, it’s marketing 101.

  7. Snowflake Says:

    Totally agree on the coffee shop vs bar (intimate) atmosphere conducive for flirting and letting people loosen up. However the city I live in introduced stricter drink driving laws in ’12 so I stick to a one drink limit because of that. Our pub trans is non existent so to get around esp where I live I have to drive. The one drink limit gives me an out if chemistry isn’t there. It’s only a first meet for me anyway I don’t see it as a first date til I know there may be a possibility for first date.

    It’s worked for me.

  8. Steve Says:

    There’s something wrong with every location or someone who doesn’t like it for whatever reason. Why is it that there is some unspoken rule that we must ingest something when we meet someone, it’s silly if you think about it. I like the idea of activity dates where meeting someone isn’t centered around eating or drinking and staring at someone for an hr or two in a fixed location. However, during the winter months these ideas are limited.

  9. NASHWC Says:

    From reading Moxie’s and others responses here, I get a sense that some people seem to have so many ‘disqualifiers’, many of which appear a bit trite and uncompromising. Auto-stereotyping (arriving at a number of assumptions based on a single act or observation) when that action could be easily explained as any number of other intents is OK when you’re in your 20’s, but not later when your pool of options has greatly shrunk.

  10. Sylvie Says:

    I thought I’d put in my two cents here and say that when I think coffee house/café, I don’t think “sterile” at all. I think there are tons of great cafés out there with great atmosphere, good music, and that are conducive to relaxing/loosening up!

    • The D-man Says:

      Me too. I don’t live in NYC, but one of my best dates took place at an all-night coffee shop/French bakery when I was visiting a couple years ago.

  11. E-B Says:

    “And while I know many non-drinkers who say they don’t care if their date drinks, I don’t believe for a second they won’t be either greatly apprehensive around or judging their date if he or she orders that third cocktail or does that shot.”

    Hate to admit it, but Moxie is 100% right about that. I’m one of those non-driners and, when I think about it, I would subconsciously react that way. I’m not proud of that, and I have to change…

  12. Kyra Says:

    See, I actually love coffee dates. That may be partially due to my obsession with coffee and that I prefer it over drinks, but there’s a lovely little cafe in my area which is my go-to for online first dates.

    I have nothing against drinking, but I prefer to drink on special occasions rather than on dates. Not to mention I’m not really a night person either, so while I’ll go on evening dates, my favourite is an easy-going afternoon date.

    If I’ve met the guy before, instead of an online, we’ll probably do something more adventurous (one of my favourite first dates was with an acquaintance and we went to the water park, which was a total blast!) like go to the museum or stroll through the river valley.

    With a stranger though, coffee dates are ideal.

  13. mxf Says:

    I always base first date options on geography – once we’ve figured out roughly which areas we respectively work or live in, we pick something based on the mutual convenience of those areas. And since most people I know want to meet up on a weeknight after work, as do I, that automatically gears us towards a bar or bistro and not a coffee shop, since cocktail hour seems like a strange time to have a coffee.

    But I’m in Montreal, so maybe it’s a different dating scene. Also, I don’t order food on the first date, and I always pay for my drinks/bill, unless the other person has seriously insisted and I know I’ll see him again to return the favour. If I’m not going to see him again, I wouldn’t let him pay, but I don’t think I’ve ever had that kind of one-sided insistence.

  14. Lisa Says:

    I don’t really need ambiance on a first date or any particular setting in order to feel flirtatious. I just want to see what he looks like in person and hear what he’s talking about and decide if he’s waving any obvious red flags.

    Loud music is a bad idea and is a super crowded location. But anything else works for me.

  15. AC Says:

    This might be one of the best posts in a while. I’m not knocking other recent articles but instead calling attention so the valuable nuggets of advice provided by Moxie and her readers. Whenever the topic of coffee’s dates arises, I’m always quick to jump on how “lame” they are. While I stand by my opinion, I don’t think I’ve ever been clear why I’m so staunchly against them. As Moxie points out:

    “The environment is very sterile and lacks intimacy, plus it screams cheap. And boring.”

    WO7 goes on to add:

    “The problem with coffee dates is the atmosphere doesn’t encourage people to loosen up,” and there’s no romantic vibe.This leads to “a huge tendency for it to encourage platonic actions leading to platonic feelings.”

    The whole point of a first date is to determine if there’s any chemistry. Drinking a caffeinated beverage in a sterile environment isn’t going to encourage anyone to relax. There’s also something about the coffee date that screams, “I’m screening you.” It may not conscious but that vibe is more prevalent than while having a drink.

    I know that there are many who will flat out disagree and that’s okay. Which brings us to the main point which is that gauge of compatibility:
    “Not only do I refuse to cater to some dude’s resentment for possibly having to shell out $50 without the guarantee of sex, but I also don’t want to date anybody who either frowns upon drinking or doesn’t drink that often or who, when he drinks, sally sips one glass of wine all night.”

    Most men have been taken for the proverbial “ride” where we’ve spent too much on a woman. A “drinks” date increases the likelihood of this happening. If we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that, 90% of the time, we could have avoided the situation by either sacking up and asking the woman to contribute, choosing a less expensive place to begin with, or bailing before we spent too much. At the same time, when it comes to compatibility, it’s important to choose someone who lives a similar lifestyle. I also don’t want to date someone who or rarely drinks or nurses one glass of wine during a three hour conversation. I also feel self conscious trying to nurse my beer.

    My experience is that agreeing to a coffee date knowing that it’s not your cup of tea (no pun intended) is a poor choice. If you’ve had success on coffee dates, all the power to you.

    As yes, I think we can all agree that dinner is a terrible choice for a first online date.

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