There are lots of safety tips for online daters, and dozens of articles on the subject, which mostly boil down to a few key points: Meet in a public place. Drive yourself there and home. Stay sober.
All of this is good advice for staying safe.
There are other tips that apply to all first dates: Dress nicely. Express interest in the other person. Choose an activity that is low-pressure, but can be extended if things go well.
All of this is good advice for making a good impression.
Meeting for coffee is a good activity for a first date. You can always have dessert after, or just take a really long time drinking it, especially in Seattle, where some people seem to live in coffee shops and nobody thinks anything of it unless they can’t find a place to sit with their own latte and laptop.
Choosing a coffee place in Seattle is harder than you might think – the coffee you drink, and where you drink it, are statements about who you are. For example, if you suggest meeting at Starbucks, you are saying: I lack imagination. I play it safe. In a city full of unique coffee spots, I’ve picked the most generic choice available.
If you choose a unique coffee spot, you run a different risk. Its personality may make a statement, but is it the right statement? If not, you are going to spend an awkward hour sipping a beverage with someone you’ll never see again, making halting conversational attempts and trying not to check the time too often.
If possible, you should find a place that is a safe choice, but doesn’t appear to be. Ideally, this should be someplace you don’t frequent regularly, because if you like the place and the date goes badly, you might have to find a new favorite coffee place. Based on my own admittedly unscientific research, there is a 98.3% probability that your internet date will fall into the “went badly” category.
One final tip for a successful first date: Relax! Be yourself.
After several weeks of perusing mostly inactive profiles and sending unsuccessful “flirts” on jdate, I receive a message. The sender’s profile photo was taken with a webcam, possibly as part of an application for clown college: Goofy smile, strange angle, glasses askew and too big for the face they’re on.
He gets straight to the point: You seem intelligent, he writes, would you like to meet for coffee?
I tell him no. I prefer to know a little about random men from the internet before I meet them. Tell me about yourself.
As we message back and forth, a message arrives from a second man.
Like the first, he’s significantly older than I am.
Like the first, he wants to meet for coffee.
And like the first, he acts as though he’s being gracious when he suggests that I pick the place where we’ll meet for coffee.