Dating is a necessary pain. I don’t like dates but I try not to turn down every proposal because I think it’s crucial to practice my social skills and to learn what I do and don’t like. Even though sometimes I pretend to have it all figured out there’s always more to learn. First dates are often awkward but sometimes they're refreshing.
I’ve learned to be myself at all costs. I don't pretend to know every item on the menu and I don't try to suppress my obnoxious laugh.The worst that could happen is I’ll never go out with him again (in some cases that’s the best that could happen). I’m not the traditional type so I make things less formal by meeting the guy at our decided location rather than letting him pick me up. I also like to offer to split the bill when the check comes. If I'm really into him I don't hold back from having sex; if it turns him off I'll know he wasn't the right person for me anyway.
I've also learned that I can define a date in my own terms. A date doesn't have to be planned a week in advance, or be a sit-down dinner, or anything conventional at all. The important thing is that I'm getting to know the person I'm with. One of my most memorable "dates" included me dragging my best friend along. A guy I'd never hung out with before came from out of state to go to a concert with me. I was impressed by how well he treated not only me, but my girlfriend as well. At one point we thought he might've been more into her than me! We ended up having sex that first night and guess what--he still wanted to date me after.
In another instance with a not-so-happy ending I went out with an older man. He treated me to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Philly. We had a stimulating conversation and some laughs. I could tell he was more into me than I was into him because he kept mentioning "our next date". I politely went along with it during the outing but when he asked me out again weeks later I simply said I didn't see us being compatible in the long run.
If nothing else, dating is a great way to practice having a conversation with someone I don't know. It's also a way to get out the house and do something on someone else's dime. At worst I spent a couple hours sharpening my people skills. At best I potentially started a relationship with my next beau. Currently I'm in hibernation, but when the weather breaks I'll be back on the scene...and hopefully I'll be going on my last "first date" for a long time.