Like a delicious-but-messy piece of candy, the set-up date has many layers. Beneath the initial hard candy shell of anxiety is a secondary, gooey layer of responsibility. Beneath that layer is a softer, smoother, coating of acceptance, followed by a firm nougat core of pleasure.
As a participant in the set-up, you play the role of a sexy ambassador to a foreign land. Coupled with the task of getting to know your date, you must carry the responsibility of keeping your friendship in tact as well as the friendship between them and your date. But before you set foot into this fraught territory, keep the following tips in mind:
1. Chisel that ice with the an icebreaker you definitely have in common.
You both know that friend who set you two up? Boom: instant ice-breaker. Start the conversation with that and move on from there. How did your date meet your friend? Does she like your friend? Did your friend once screw over your date in college? Heck, maybe both of you can go egg their house. What’s more romantic than egging?
2. Channel Cusack.
We’re talking about John, not Joan, over here. (Though it’s common knowledge that the product of both Cusacks combined is greater than the summation of most people.) Your date is a date, so treat them as such. Don’t be afraid of how you both got to this situation, you’re just two people lookin’ to maybe lick each other’s tongues later. Get to know them. Remember the words of John Cusack from High Fidelity: “...what really matters is what you like, not what you are like.” Movies, TV shows, music, gluten preference, number of people they’ve fought in an underground club: this stuff is vital, so inquire.
3. Be like New Jersey.
Don’t pump your own gas. It’s a metaphor. Anyway, don’t eat foods that’ll make you have to rip ass. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, dairy, beans: Just say no. Is it presumptuous to assume you’ll be in close enough quarters to a person where the deadly release of gas could pose a major issue? Maybe, but it sure beats burying a potential love interest in a Dutch oven. Eggs, avocado, and beef will keep the gassiness down and—WAIT A MINUTE—all that stuff makes an omelet! Success!
4. Drink like a fish.
Whoever coined this vehemently ichthyophobic phrase had it all wrong. Fish drink water*, which is an attribute you should adopt on a date. Don’t use booze to calm your jangled nerves or you’ll end up getting all sloppy and pukey, then you’ll wake up covered in last night’s expensive dinner. Take it slow and try guzzling down a few waters. You’ll take pleasure in knowing the conversation you’re having won’t get lost in the hazy purgatory that is the passionate drunk chat. Tequila only gives you the impression that you have the conversational abilities of John Stamos. Plus, if you have a weak bladder, you can use the mirrors in the bathroom to look deeply into your own eyes and exclaim motivational phrases—just like in the movies!
5. Use your inside guy.
If you feel like you’re running out of material, just text the person who set you up and ask for pointers. Maybe your bud knows that your date has an affinity for peanut butter, maybe he knows that peanut butter will literally kill her. Just make sure to be stealthy and text while in the bathroom.
6. Be a cucumber, re: cool as a.
Perhaps one of the biggest fears with dating—any type of dating—is that you’re not going to connect with the person. So, the big question is: what happens if you don’t connect? There’s no right answer to this, just like there’s no healthy way to eat tacos at every meal. If it doesn’t work out and you’re not feeling it, don’t do as the kids do and flake like a delicate French pastry.
7. Be straightforward and don’t be a dick.
A bruised ego won’t hurt a relationship like a string of “Hey, sorry just saw this” texts. That kind of stuff should be put in the same category as amateur sword-swallowing, DIY nipple piercings, and sticking your face in a hornet nest: “things you probably shouldn’t do.”
8. Ditch your phone.
This little piece of advice goes for really any kind of date: don’t spend the whole night glued to your phone. Forget Tinder, forget the thirst-traps on Instagram, forget it all. Put your phone down and be there. And, you know what? If they spend the entire date swiping and tapping, let the date end gracefully and GTFO. Then you can chastise your friend for setting you up for failure.
By applying these eight simple lessons to your set-up date, you’ll find success in your romantic conquests, and maybe even become the person you’ve always wanted to be: the kind who doesn’t fall asleep with one hand down his pants and the other in a bag of pretzels. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
*FYI: Fish don’t really drink water, the seawater enters their mouths and is then pushed down their digestive tracts and the rest just goes over their gills. But I ain’t no marine biologist.
Photos by Getty Images, Mary Evans/Touchstone Pictures/Everett Collection, Flickr.com/creativecommons