Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Second Time’s A Charm?

I have a good friend who just came back from a phenomenal three week honeymoon in the Maldives. Wonderful you might say, but what does that have to do with a dating blog? Ok, bear with me – there’s a relevant story behind this.

My friend (let’s call him Dave) met his wife at a party and proceeded to ask her out. Though they had a very nice time, “Tracey” didn’t feel enough of a spark to go on a second date. Standard dating story so far. Dave is a persistent fellow, however, and he remained undeterred. He took the “friendship route” and never gave up hope – despite everyone else’s feeling that he had a better chance of winning the lottery than getting out of “platonic purgatory” with Tracey. A full year later, and after going on yet another bad date, Tracey realized that she’d rather be doing just about anything with Dave over having dinner at the most fabulous restaurant in Manhattan with anyone else. Had Dave just walked away letting their first date be their last interaction, obviously, they would not be reveling in their newlywed bliss at the moment.

I suppose you might think the point of this blog is the power of persistence – but let’s save that topic for another day. Rather, the question that comes to mind when recounting the story of Dave and Tracey is how many people walk away from an enjoyable (but not "phenomenal") first date but don’t wish to spare another two hours of their lives to see if there could possibly be more there the second time around. Sometimes a first date is simply not a fair indicator of people’s potential compatibility. For starters, a lot of people are nervous on first dates. Sometimes people just don't bring their A game. Sometimes people have bad hair days … sometimes all one’s flattering clothes are simultaneously at the dry cleaners... If people said to themselves “hey, why not give this sweet, engaging, bright guy/girl the benefit of the doubt?” who knows … perhaps a Sliding Doors version of their lives would show that had they given the person across the table the benefit of a second date they might also end up very much in love like my dear friends Dave and Tracey.

Now, some people have the philosophy that, outside of thinking “I’d rather go to the dentist than go out with this person again,” a second date is always warranted. I don’t know if I’d go that far … Your married friends’ advice that you should give everyone at least a second date has to make allowances for the guy who thinks it’s appropriate to tell sexually explicit jokes to a virtual stranger (“Have you heard the one about the panda and the prostitute…” Fair response: “Is that really the best conversation you can come up with?!”) or for the girl who thinks that Antonin Scalia is an Italian fashion designer. There are limits.

Others espouse the opposite philosophy – they know immediately whether someone is right for them and so they ask “why should I continue to waste valuable time?” These folks are looking for fireworks, the big Kaboom!, love at first sight … or at least lust at first sight. If that feeling is absent, they posit, why should anyone bother to further prove that this is not the future Mrs./Mr. Smith.

Ok, fair question. But think about this for a minute. Have you ever met someone who you thought was super attractive only to feel after getting to know this Adonis/Venus better that, physical appearance aside, this person was wholly unattractive? Now, there is the obvious follow-up question - have you ever met someone who, at first blush, you thought was ok looking but over time you got to know so-and-so and started to contemplate “I wonder what it would be like to kiss so-and-so? Oh wait, so-and-so is my co-worker!” Obviously, at the point you’re thinking this you’ve come to know so-and-so quite well and now there is a whole different level of assessment at play.

It seems that people in other parts of the country tend to be a little more open-minded in regard to engaging in a second date even when they didn’t fall head over heals in love over drinks. My friend in LA attributes it to New Yorkers’ limited time and apparent need to make fast judgments. In her view, people in California are simply more laid back (about everything) and tend to be a little more forgiving. A Michigan friend and a former resident of the Big Apple, agrees. As she astutely noted, New Yorkers always have a million opportunities and thus are quick to toss someone aside. Out in the land of automobiles, good prospects are harder to come by resulting in a willingness to go a little deeper before ruling out a potential partner.

Of course, one’s age and experience can also factor significantly into the openness to go on a second date after a “good, but not great” date. This is not code for “desperation” (though of course that can always be a factor). Rather, it simply means you understand that it takes time to really get to know someone. And as for all those dates where you felt the “Kaboom!” – well, the “Kaboom” couldn’t have been a fail-proof barometer as it ultimately didn’t get you where you want to be... One could say it’s almost like shopping. Once you get to be a seasoned shopper you know that sometimes when you fall in love with that gorgeous dress in the window, it doesn’t always love you back. On the other hand, one learns that sometimes the dress doesn’t look like much on the hanger, but when you try it on … well, it’s a sleeper and a keeper. Maybe more men need to go shopping?

No doubt the arguments could go both ways on this one – and, as always, these things are very circumstantial. But I would love to hear from people who had an ok first date, then hesitatingly chose to go on a second and now are soundly converted to the “benefit of the doubt" camp. You can post your comment anonymously … and your partner never has to know!


  1. hey marni, nice blog! I think persistance is key...i persisted a second time around because i was actually interested in friendship with the girl i am with now. she rejected me the first time a year before and I tried again...people in NYC and long island are interested in the numbers dating game (dating as many people as they can) and things have gotten way out of control...hopefully you can help people! jeremy

  2. You are right, people in NYC/LI engaging in a numbers game don't have patience for anything that requires cultivation or effort.

    So glad things worked out - she is a lucky girl!