Banish the Lettuce: First Dates That Aren’t So Lame

As y’all well know, I’m not too fond of dating. It’s not the guys I take issue with, but the actual process. The idea of a first date dinner sends a platoon of carnivorous butterflies to my stomach. What will we talk about? What if I get salad in my teeth? Nobody wants to date a mute green-toothed girl! I’m going to spend the rest of my life with cats, aren’t I? Well, eff. I better stock up on Benadryl.

It quickly devolves from there. Talking with my mom this weekend, however, I had an epiphany. Maybe dating wouldn’t be so painful, if we weren’t following society’s prescribed script. Who decided dinner and a movie were the perfect date? Dinner is a minefield of small talk and check dancing, while movies – movies! – are dark events where you’re not allowed to talk. Don’t even get me started on “just having drinks.” Bars are the noisiest places outside of yodeling competitions. If I wanted to shout about my family history, I’d do it in the privacy of a therapist’s office, thank you.

There has to be a better way. Naturally, I have a few suggestions…

  1. The Zoo – Seriously, y’all, if someone took me to a zoo on our first date, my ovaries would probably explode with lust. Is there anything so fun as walking about looking at animals? No, there isn’t. Plus! Animals are weird. They do ridiculous, awesome things, like sneeze. I dare you to have an awkward conversation at a zoo. There are just too many creatures to see and read about. If you’re sick of talking about your years as a mime, drop an animal knowledge bomb. (Did you know that polar bear livers contain toxic levels of Vitamin A? Arctic explorers learned that the hard way.) Also, zoos have portable food, like corn dogs and lemon ices, which pose less of a threat to your clothes than traditional date food. Who knows? You might start an eternal bond, based on your mutual love of fruit bats. (Yes, that is a fantasy of mine. Shut up.)
  2. Baseball Games – This could be any sporting match, but baseball is my ideal. Even if you’re not a sports person, this has the potential to be a good date. There are plenty of drunk people around to make fun of, if conversation lags, and it’s a fun, casual atmosphere. If you like your first dates on the scandalous side, there are also endless opportunities for double entendres – balls, bats, bases, hot dogs. Get your witty innuendos ready! Also, unlike a concert or a bar, the atmosphere is raucous but not too loud. You can have good conversation and impress your date with your mad heckling skills.
  3. Road Trips – It is a well-acknowledged fact that random road trips are the most fun thing ever. When I was an undergrad, my friends and I would routinely pile into the car for a journey to the fabled House of Pies or some small town pumpkin festival. I know a road trip sounds daunting for a first date, but trust me. You can play fun car games, instead of your average get-to-know you conversation, and end up at a really cool destination. Why not play an extended round of Throw John Mayer Off A Cliff (commonly known as: Screw-Marry-or-Kill) on your way to the World’s 2nd Largest Hockey Stick? Personally, I long to be whisked off for the two hour ride down to San Antonio Zoo (Again…bats!), with a stop for BBQ in Lockhart along the way. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see that semi-famous henge a county or two over? Get in the car!
  4. Ghost Tours – Whether you believe in the other side or not, ghost stories are still decidedly spooky. You don’t need a campfire to hear them either, since most cities now have ghost tour companies. A couple of tickets and you two lovebirds are taking a walking tour of your town, through the lens of its more murderous and spooky historical spots. Even if you’re not scared, it will be a good laugh and provide lots of fodder for post-ghost dinner conversation. Personally, I’m a giant chicken and would seriously accelerate the hand-holding timeline. So, that’s always fun.
  5. Museums – An afternoon spent at a museum always sounds delightful. Whether it’s filled with art, dinosaurs, or medical oddities, I’m in. (Really, let’s be honest, the weirder the better. Vienna’s Crime Museum, anyone?) Once again, the very destination provides you with endless conversational choices. Perhaps your date has a heretofore unknown passion for Egyptology? (Swoon.) This is also a great litmus test for hidden pretentious streaks. If your date launches into a pedantic lecture at every painting he sees, what do you think he’ll be like at the grocery store? Egads.
  6. Bonus Pick: The Masters – Alright, this one is pretty Grace-specific. If you know anyone who has a secret crush on this anonymous blogger, listen up. My ultimate fantasy date? The Masters. I am a huge golf fan. If a guy invited me along to be his date for the tournament, he’d have to be a convicted murderer for me not to say yes. It’s also a perfect first date! Sure, the tickets are impossible to get, but once you’re there it is both fun AND cheap. The food sold at Augusta remains in a strange limbo of 1970s pricing, there are tons of people to watch, and there’s the ever-present threat of being hit with a errant tee shot. Danger! Lovely scenery! Cheap food! Though, there is always the chance that Graeme McDowell and I will fall madly in love at first sight and I will run away to Northern Ireland with him. So, you know, fair warning.

These choices could still end in disaster, of course. I once went on a first date to a Renaissance Festival, which should have been really fun. Except…my date dressed, head-to-toe, like the Dread Pirate Roberts without warning me and refused to ride an elephant. After one too many swipes with his replica sword, it was clear I never wanted to see his – ahem – other sword. Still, I’d rather take my chances with the zoo than another night spent shouting how many siblings I have over the din of bad bar karaoke. Drunken bachelorette party attendees singing “Oops! I Did It Again” do not a romantic backdrop make.

– Grace

25 thoughts on “Banish the Lettuce: First Dates That Aren’t So Lame

  1. Good God, we are one in the same. I thought I was the only one of my kind.
    I cannot tell you how many times I have tried explaining to my friends (to no avail) that the first date and, more specifically, the “traditional” first date is my nightmare.
    We go out to dinner (dreadful), and what do I order? Is this too expensive? Too messy? Too gross? Will I look weird eating it? Will I spill? Probably. Get food in my teeth?
    There is entirely too much to worry about over dinner, not to mention the stress that is maintaining a fluid conversation without it feeling forced.
    My last first date had me so petrified (because I was actually interested in the guy), that upon ordering my food, sitting across from him, I worked myself myself up into a nervous, nauseous frenzy, only to sit there, staring at my plate…unable to eat for fear of throwing up all over myself. Needless to say, there was no second date. I’m sure he thinks I have an eating disorder. I also wasted his time and money, it seems.
    And yes, the dreaded movie experience.
    Can I just say that the movie theatre is one of my least favorite places ever??
    First of all, I have the attention span of a goldfish. There is almost nothing you could take me to see that I won’t wish was over about 30 minutes in. Not to mention, the seats are severely uncomfortable, and I’m always freezing my ass off.
    The zoo is the ideal date. Animals, fresh air, and easy, breezy conversation.
    I need to be tricked into a date, essentially. Take me out, treat me well, and show me a good time. It should not be until I’m home, snuggled in the safety of my own bed that I realize…I just went on a date. And it was fantastic.
    I need a very special man, apparently. Either that, or I also foresee many cats in my future.

    • Skyelar, can I just amen that? The only date that doesn’t freak me out is the one I didn’t realize was happening. Casual! Fun! Anything but the pressure packed etiquette fests of dinner & a movie.

    • Oh, Ashley, those are such great ideas too! We’re sadly low on theme parks here, but that would be an AMAZING first date. Definitely a great plan to keep things fun & light.

  2. I think that those are better ideas for first dates, but I think I would be hesitant on the road trip idea. I haven’t dated in a while, but some of my first dates were not exactly people I would want to get stuck in a car for an extended period of time.

    • Ha! Melissa, that’s a really great point. Not going to lie, I was thinking of a specific person when I wrote these up, whom I would happily be stuck with in a car. There are certainly past dates with whom that would be torturous. Perhaps day trips hold the caveat that you, at least, somewhat know the person already.

  3. Love, love LOVE the first date ideas. I love the zoo. The miniature hippos make me happy 🙂 I’ll just add, if you’re in the Boston area (or any other area with a really great aquarium)… the Aquarium. I don’t know about the other aquariums, but the one in Boston is awesome. They have penguins (including the little ones with orange pompom bits sticking out of their heads) and giant sea turtles and mysterious fish. The only way that date could be better is if the guy works there and brings you in after hours to frolic amongst the penguins and pet a sea turtle.

    • Lexy, the aquarium is SUCH a great date idea, as well. The more I think on it, the more I realize Austin lacks a bunch of these wonderful date destinations – no real zoo, no aquarium, no theme park. I’m jealous that you could, potentially, frolic with penguins on a date. Now that really would be a dream date!

  4. These are awesome first date suggestions. I too have always wondered at the traditional first date game. I worked in a restaurant for years and it was always obvious who were first daters by what they ordered and how they ate the food. We’d set up side bets to see who paid for what. Ah, the entertainment people unwittingly provide for servers.

    • Oh, Jami. I can only imagine the awkward situations you’ve witnessed! The only thing worse than being on an awful first date is having to bear witness to one. At least you got some entertainment out of them!

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s just bored and tired of the “traditional” getting drinks first date scenario. For one thing, it’s easy to run out of new places in your locality for said first date. It’s happened to me already.

    I would love to do one of these things on a first date. Zoo or museum or something like that would be great! Only thing is, would it scare off a guy to suggest something like this? A lot of people consider the first date to be the cheapest in terms of time and money. Mostly because you don’t know how it’s all going to turn out! But then again, putting more investment into a first date, like this… maybe it’d all be more worth it?

    • Jaina, that’s a really interesting point. I hadn’t thought about the relative value of first dates. Personally, I’d rather pay a little more and be more guaranteed of a good time, but there is the social expectation that the guy pay, so they may feel differently. Though, maybe when dinner, drinks and a movie totals up it’s not so different price-wise? I definitely think it would be worth it, either way.

      • It isn’t all that different these days. The majority of my first date experiences are from online dating. Meeting a guy for the first time for drinks seems to be the standard of online daters. I’ve never met anyone who’s willing to give any more time other than a few hours after a work day. I mentioned a weekend date to a guy and he just flat out said no!

  6. Your date ideas are fantastic and I love them!

    My boyfriend and I had our first date at a beach in Maryland and it was a blast because there are horses that just roam the beach AND on that particular day there were dolphins in the water, which I never witnessed at a MD beach in my 100+ trips! He brought his camera and took a bunch of great pictures while we just sat with our toes in the sand.

    If all my first dates were remotely as laid back and unique as that first date, I probably would have had a lot more second dates. 😛 I hate the dinner and a movie date with an unholy passion – even if it’s not a first date.

    • Oh, that sounds like a BLAST! What a fantastic first date. Also, can I just say how jealous I am that wild horses roam your beaches? All we have on Texas beaches are drunk college kids and tarballs. Yours sound infinitely more romantic.

  7. A road trip on a first date? Sounds like a serial killer to me!

    Anyway, you should try a video arcade! Play skee-ball, air hockey, and all those fun arcade games. Unless you have an uber-competitive date, it’ll be fun for everybody!

    • Ha! Drew, you’re probably right. Perhaps road trips, even small ones, are best with dates one already knows.

      Also, that is SUCH a fantastic date idea. Holy crap, I want to go on a date tomorrow, just so it can be at a video arcade. Skee-ball is right up there with animal watching on my List of Awesome Things. Thanks for the suggestion!

  8. Someday, I’ll have a dude ask me to a baseball game as the first date… Every time I’m asked out on a first date, I want it to be to a baseball game and alas it never is! Then again, I now live in a city with a team that doesn’t lose all the time (I love you Pittsburgh Pirates, but….. please win a few games this year?), so maybe that will change?

  9. I love looking at the monkeys!! My first date with my gorgeous man was a surfing lesson. I said yes (because I was so enamoured with him) without thinking. 6am pick up, no make up, wet hair and swim wear. Aaargh. Turns out it was great fun and we are still together 2 years later.

  10. Pingback: Banish the Lettuce: First Dates That Aren’t So Lame « frannyz22

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