Don’t be a wishy-washy 21st-century boy. Women are looking for Don Draper with a little less Brylcreem, and when it comes to dating, that means being decisive about plans. Don’t worry, she won’t see your taking charge as alpha male tactics – she’ll see it as a sign of your interest. And unless you’ve both bought into schoolyard tropes of The Game, that’s exactly what you want.
The same holds true on the actual date. If you’re halfway through a drink by the time she walks in the door, flag down the bartender as she slides off her coat. And that means being ready to order for both of you. Find out her favourite drink and ask the bartender to create a new variation on that; any decent mixologist will rise to the task.
At dinner, suggest a couple of appetisers to share. Then order them before inviting her to order her own main course. Think of it as showing off your hunter-gatherer abilities. And always have a game plan for after dinner: assume the meal will be a success, and have a nearby bar scouted out where you can continue the evening.
2 Treat Drinks Like Recon
In vino veritas, they say, and the same goes for bourbon, tequila, and stout. Meeting up for drinks is the ideal opportunity to find out more about your date’s taste in food. Skip this intel gathering and you have my inaugural dinner date with “Kourtney.” (All names have been changed to Kardashians to protect the innocent.) I took her to an unabashedly carnivorous restaurant, the kind of place now, where reservations and credit cards are verboten, tables are cramped and communal, and vegetarians are roasted alive. When we were finally seated next to a gaggle of photo-snapping food bloggers, Kourtney gently informed me of her food intolerances, which included but were not limited to: meat (vegetarian), nuts (allergic), gluten (intolerant), dairy (ditto), and garlic (picky). I’d walked her into a culinary minefield. And she’d left her EpiPen at home.
I could have avoided the scenario entirely had I done a bit of recon when we met for drinks the week before. Aside from the obvious advantages for early-stage courtship (low time commitment, easy access to social lubrication), how your date drinks can speak volumes about how she eats. Is she eager to try obscure cocktails? Then she’s probably an adventurous eater as well. Offer her a sip of your drink. Does she reciprocate? If she doesn’t, don’t expect her to take a bite of your entrée later on (and don’t ask for one of hers).
3 Expose Yourself
No, that doesn’t mean showing up for dinner in a trench coat and enjoying the draft. It means realising that your go-to Korean taco joint or that dive bar with the secret pool table in back is worlds better for a first date than shelling out for 200 bucks for cocktails in a swank hotel lobby. As long as the place says something unique about you, it’s worth her time (providing, of course, that she’s into it too – see Rule No. 2).
I mastered that principle after my first date with Khloé. I’d picked a trendy faux speak-easy for afterwork drinks since I thought it would impress her. We sat at the bar and I spent the bulk of our date trying to impress her by ordering obscure, aggressively flavoured concoctions and bombarding the bartender with questions about single-village mezcal. After two rounds, Khloé and I parted ways, me with a heavy buzz and her craving a vodka tonic. I realised my fatal error(s) when her text arrived minutes later: “Was that a date?” She wasn’t impressed – just alienated.
I’d learned my lesson: keep the focus on yourselves, not the venue or the other people there. Likewise, instead of relying on the bartender to chaperone your conversation, grab a table to make it easier to talk to each other without distractions.
If she’s coming over for dinner, the same principle applies. Skip the latest Lana Del Ray song everyone’s humming. Dig into your playlist and put on something unusual (or even embarrassing) that you’re obsessed with, and you’ll actually have something to talk about, not just listen to. Me, I love the obscure recordings – everything from old Delta blues to Dutch punk and Thai country – yes that exists.
4 Master Your Manners
At the risk of sounding stodgy, a few words about manners: Use them – always and as naturally as possible. Good composure at the table indicates good composure elsewhere. A few key principles: offer her the more comfortable seating, and the better view. Invite her to taste the wine (before or after you do) when the server presents it. Don’t get drunk, or noticeably so.
As for dinner, offer her a bite of your dish, but don’t eat off her plate unless enthusiastically invited. Say “excuse me” before standing to head to the restroom. And yes, be respectful to the service staff. If something is wrong with the food, address the problem immediately and politely. (Coarse confrontation is hard to digest.) Dessert? It doesn’t matter if you’ve saved room or not: she wants some.
If you have her to your place for a meal, cordiality is even more critical. She’s on foreign territory, and a dose of consideration will put her at ease. Before she arrives, eliminate any potential distractions: clean your living quarters, empty the dishwasher, set the table, and put on that playlist (long enough to last the evening).
When she arrives, have a drink and perhaps a snack ready to keep her occupied while you finish cooking. (You’ve taken careful mental notes on previous dates, so you’ll know what she likes to drink.) Better yet, stop what you’re doing and have a drink with her; this will show that she’s more important than the dinner and that the kitchen is under control. She’ll probably ask, “ What can I do to help?” Your first answer is “Nothing. Have a drink and relax.” If she seems truly eager to assist, let her pitch in, but pick a task that’s not mundane or intimidating. (Chopping parsley = fun; scaling fish = punishment.) Otherwise, keep her entertained by offering her the occasional taste.
5 Don't Eat The Obvious
The ultimate gesture of affection – or seduction, if you want to be blunt about it – is the homecooked meal. (Anyone who doubts the power of cooking for a woman should watch I Am Love, in which a young Italian chef makes Tilda Swinton’s character swoon with one bite of prawn.)
But there are murky waters to navigate here. Skip the so-called aphrodisiacs (oysters, chocolate-dipped strawberries); in other words, don’t serve her a plate of clichés. Instead, start with a dish you know she likes (you’ll show you’ve been listening), and then make the recipe your own by adding or subtracting an ingredient or changing up the presentation.
Have a “signature” pasta dish you can make on autopilot? Transform it into something you haven’t cooked for countless others by giving it a twist – a pinch of curry, a side of vegetables from the farmers’ market. Or just stick to a simple but surprising make-ahead menu. (See “Cook This for Her” in this article.)
My most successful meals in this arena have reflected the life histories of women for whom they were cooked. “Kim” was a native New Englander who missed summers in Maine. For our first home-cooked dinner, I made lobster rolls and steamed clams and we sat on the floor with cold beers. Of the dozens of subsequent meals I cooked for her – many of them ambitious affairs – that one was unquestionably her favorite.
6 Hot In The Kitchen
Genesis Rodriguez tells us what she’s hungry for.
“They’re looking at you on the computer in the kitchen. They’re in love with you,” our tattletale waiter blabs to Genesis Rodriguez. She used to act in soaps on Mexican television but then she co-starred with Will Ferrell in Casa de mi Padre. Now she’s full-bore Hollywood in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and men are taking notice.
“They ogle and Google,” she says. Our waiter has a remedy: “Want to go catch them?”
Oh, does she ever. Genesis is all adventure. So we march through the back kitchen,
Goodfellas-style. “I heard you been checkin’ me out!” she yells at two guys in her best tough-girl voice. “ What is this? You gotta pay for the goods, brother.”
They freeze, busted. She cracks up. They melt. Now everyone’s slapping hands. “You’re a trouper, man,” she says. “Nice to be in a kitchen.” And Genesis does love kitchens: “ I think about what I’m going to eat as soon as I wake up,” she says later. “It’s one of the pleasures in life that I give in to. I don’t have many vices, but to me food is really the way to my heart. If you can give your girl some good food, you’re in.”
In the quest to win a woman, food can be your best ally – or worst enemy. What’ll it be?
Modern courtship revolves around eating and drinking,and we’re judged on not only where we go and what we order but how we conduct ourselves over drinks, at the dinner table, and in the kitchen.
Exhausting? It doesn’t have to be. Deploy these rules in the crucial early stages, and you’ll telegraph confidence and charisma – and she’ll come looking for seconds.