First dates can be daunting; even after consciously deciding to partake of the event, the cold hand of dread can throw up a whole heap of question. The ‘What if:’ phase. What if I run out of things to say? What if she eats like a savage? What if he invites me back to his? Do I want him to kiss me? What time is the right time to deploy the emergency phone call?
But what comparisons can we make to the perceived freedom of dating in this generation, to the first dates of our forbearers?
Dating per se wasn’t a thing in the early 1900s, you were simply betrothed to marry someone, or if you were too poor, necessity prevailed and you married who ever asked.
The war years, were given over to making do with whomever was left and little of that was about the excitement of first dates, as many young men went off to fight for their countries. When the war came along dating was a rarity, unless you lived in one of the countries with the soldiers in; that wasn’t so much dating, as well, the other thing.
A Gentleman caller in the 1950s was expected to have a chaperone accompany their chosen ‘lady’ on a first date, and the chaps of the 1960s pre-an era of free love were still expected to follow etiquette.
The 1970s was where it was at. The generation of first dates where the lines of what would happen were less to do with etiquette and more to do with the belief in free love.
The music of the era encouraged love and smoky toned crooners begged you to stay the night. Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’ tells his lover she’s “the best thing that he’s ever seen,” while Marvin Gaye’s molten chocolate temperance begged: ‘Don’t you know how sweet and wonderful life can be? I’m asking you, baby, to get it on with me”.
The age of hippy wisdom may not have been lived to the full in catholic Ireland, but it preceded the age of caution brought by the 80/90s where the fear of HIV meant free love was put on the shelf.
No matter the era, the excitement of the unknown along with the trepidation of making a complete fool of yourself on a first date has likely changed little since the 1970s. While not all first dates are accompanied by the paradox of failure; a survey from the dating website Match.com offers some insight into getting to date number 2.
Helen Fisher, Ph.D., chief scientific advisor for Match.com suggests: “Dinner is ideal for a first date because it helps you get to know each other, you’re focused on the conversation, rather than an activity. Sitting opposite them, making eye contact, listening to their voice, seeing how they smile, seeing how they listen to you, you can really find out who the person is,” she says.
Don’t assume you will spend the night, but a piece about first dates in the years to come, might reference this ear with the dulcet tones of Ed Sheeran.
Last night you were in my room, now my bedsheets smell like you.