I hate to say it, but many people do not put enough thought into dating these days. If you Google “great dates,” you’ll see tons of articles recommending settings, restaurants and activities. What a lot of these pieces lack are the intangible elements that make for a great date. Before you even get to the part of truly figuring out if you can see yourself with someone, you must first put effort into coming up with a date that will wow your potential mate.
I’ve been on and planned tons of dates. Some were as simple as an afternoon sushi date; others took place out of the country. This is going to sound really cray, but one of the best dates I’ve ever had was getting some fried chicken and going to the lakefront 11 years ago (grape soda included). I know it sounds a tad bit thotty, but just hear me out. What made this date so dope was that it had all of the elements listed below.
1. Attention to Detail
We live in an era of omnipresent information technology, and unfortunately, people are slower to physically connect because of it. These days it’s rare for people to not have at least one phone conversation and/or text exchange with one another before going on a date.
What made my fried chicken excursion so grand was the fact that my date paid attention to what I mentioned in previous conversations. We were discussing the best chicken spots (it’s a Chicago thing), and how I hadn’t been to one in a while. While I thought this was general conversation, notes were being jotted down. I also talked about how I enjoy the lakefront during the summers to unwind with good company.
Sure, we could’ve gone to a nice Michelin-starred restaurant or some other fancy production, but I specifically mentioned that my life called for low-activity relaxation. The chicken date not only earned my beau brownie points for paying attention to detail, but also created a breeding ground to see if we really vibed. At the lakefront, all we had was each other’s company… which brings me to my next point.
2. Great, interesting conversation
While going on dates can be exciting, they can also be a bit intimidating. You want to make a good first impression, and the possibility of “blowing it” with someone you’re interested in is always there. People go on dates for a variety of reasons, but the main goal is to find some sort of companionship. Choosing the “safe” option of a movie, or any other activity that limits conversation for a first date will get you nowhere.
No, you don’t have to be a motormouth, but it will serve you both well if you scheduled some sort of activity that involves conversation and bonding. If you insist on seeing a movie or play for your first date, then go out for drinks after or shoot pool beforehand. You want to incorporate an activity where you are active, but still have the chance to converse and get to know each other.
3. An Element of Surprise and Spontaneity
Every great date includes the element of surprise. While figuring out what makes your date happy can be a challenge, especially if he or she is new to your life, it is necessary and definitely doable. Skip the traditional dozen roses and bring them that DVD they can’t stop talking about instead. Surprise him or her with their favorite candy or magazine. The goal is to make a lasting impression. Nothing sabotages that feat more than textbook actions like flowers and/or a box of those nasty Valentine’s Day chocolates—unless your date happens to like those sorts of things. Then, get them.
4. Commitment to Following Through
Let’s revisit my date. Originally, we had plans to go miniature golfing and out to eat, but those plans got derailed due to unexpected work obligations on my end. Despite my suggestion that we go out another time, we went out at midnight instead of 7:30pm as planned. Granted, the fast food spot was one of the only places open that late, so options were limited.
My point is that the date went on despite me suggesting that we reschedule and giving my date a chance to opt out if desired. My date’s commitment to us going out actually opened my eyes to the importance of keeping commitments, not just when establishing new romantic connections, but in life.
5. Confidence, Authenticity and Openness
Great dates have a certain level of genuine openness that makes you comfortable with being in the presence of each other. Awkward moments are always lessened when you’re comfortable, and your level of confidence in being around someone automatically increases. Chemistry and a natural connection is a huge part of how well you vibe with someone, but in order to even see if your chakras align, you must provide an entry point for your date to see who you really are.
This doesn’t mean you divulge every single private detail about yourself, but you must be willing to entertain certain questions that scratch below the surface. Talk about your passions and why you enjoy certain hobbies. Open up about why you chose the given career field you’re in and share ambitions and desires for more. Someone who’s genuinely interested will want to know these things, and your willingness to answer these questions shows how much you’re interested too.
6. Something to Remember the Date By
My last suggestion for a great date falls a little bit along the lines of the “surprise element,” but there’s one difference. The element of surprise serves to elicit a strong emotional reaction of shock, while this last suggestion aims to serve as a constant reminder of thoughtfulness, and as a trigger for memories created during your date.
I remember another great date where I was taken to a BYOB painting spot. Not only was I surprised with an activity I’d mentioned I had never done, but it was a special session where we painted renditions of our dogs. I’m a huge animal lover, and to this day, the painting is hanging on my wall. And guess what? Every time I look at it, I’m reminded of where it came from. That is the type of reaction you should aim for: lasting impressions that will hold steady for years to come.
Shantell E. Jamison is an editor for EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Not confined to chasing headlines, this Chicago-based writer, radio personality and cultural critic is also the author of "Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self."