– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at Rediff.com)
From meeting your prospective-would-be with flowers and gifts to lounging over coffee with someone you’re attracted to, the dimensions of dating have undergone a radical change over the years. Now, dating does not necessarily indicate commitment or a serious relationship.
How different is dating today?
“It’s not really about boyfriends or girlfriends,” says Radhika Pingale, a college student from Pune. “I would say it is about spending quality time with a person you find interesting and probably care about a little more than others. Yes, at times your attraction towards that person is rather high — you might want to eventually look at a relationship. But one shouldn’t assume that going on a date with a person means the person would be ready for a commitment.”
While dating in India has traditionally been associated with two people seeing each other with the possibility of marriage as a backdrop, the scope seems to have broadened now. It is more about meeting to explore a relationship and knowing more about each other. It can boost an existing relationship, or initiate one.
How do you approach a person for a date?
This is something that gives a lot of us the jitters. How do you go about approaching someone that you like, without ending up with a black eye or being rejected?
“Honesty is the key, I would suggest,” says Romit Jhaveri, a chemical engineer. “If you like someone and want to ask him/her out, I think you must let the person know why. Once the person is comfortable with your intentions, s/he would be more comfortable going out with you.”
It is not advisable to ask a stranger out. A certain degree of acquaintance and friendship is necessary. A casual “How about catching up for coffee this evening?” is likely to get a better response than a nervous “Uhh… actually, I was wondering if, you know, we could meet up for dinner? I mean, if you don’t mind, of course, just to get to know each other better?”
You must sound confident. If you are jittery, the other person is likely to doubt your intentions. Be friendly, casual, but sincere, to make the person comfortable. Do not pull the person into a relationship without his/her consent.
A few things to be remembered when you ask someone out the first time:
– Be there in person. Avoid asking your partner out over the phone or any other medium. It is easier to clarify misunderstandings, if any, when you are face-to-face.
– Ensure you have privacy. Do not ask a person out in front of a group of friends. There’s a great likelihood of at least one of you turning red in the face with embarrassment.
– Let the conversation be natural. Do not rehearse your lines – nevermind if your fave movie star does it in his/her movies. It’ll only make you nervous and you’ll end up feeling like a clown.
– Begin with small talk. The other person may be taken aback if you jump to the topic of meeting up somewhere out of the blue. Steer the conversation towards catching up on a date.
What can you do on a date?
A date with an acquaintance is bound to be very different from a date with your steady partner. In the latter case, the comfort level is already established and you are likely to know the person’s likes and dislikes.
When dating an acquaintance, what to do depends on the nature of the relationship.
A couple of hours at a coffee shop is the safest bet if the person is relatively unknown. Else, you can try a casual lunch or dinner (not the candle-lit ones). Of course, in this case go to a restaurant that serves a variety of cuisines, not just your favourite one. Preferably, ask for suggestions from your date before freezing on the rendezvous, so that his/her tastes are taken into account.
There are a few unconventional ideas as well, in case both of you are not the flowers-and-chocolates kind.
If you know each others’ likes and hobbies well, you could try trekking, maybe even with a group of friends. Else, some quality time spent together in community work – at an orphanage, a photography expedition around the city, a bowling parlour or a pottery workshop – can make for an interesting date.
In such cases, ensure both of you are into it and that one person is not bored at the end of the day. Such activities not only help you bond better, but also help you discover a lot of facets to each others’ personalities.
How to prepare for a date
Make an effort to let your partner have a pleasant time. You need not go over the top, but do keep a few simple things in mind:
– Dress well. You need not buy a new dress for every date or don designer wear. Simply wearing well-pressed and well-maintained clothes suitable for the ambience goes a long way to show that you value the occasion.
– Do not over-accessorise. Dress up the way you would when you go for any social occasion. Being well-groomed does not mean being overdressed. You need to be comfortable with what you wear.
– Use a deodorant. Body odour is an absolute turn-off. If you are using a perfume, use it minimally. Some people are allergic to perfume; you need to be sensitive to that.
– Be on time. Excuses such as ‘stuck in traffic’, ‘the boss called for a meeting’ and ‘there were guests at home’ do not create a good impression.
– If you are not very familiar or close to your date, do not embarrass him/her with a gift. If you insist on buying a gift, let it be something that lends a casual touch to the occasion – such as a simple bouquet or a small pack of chocolates. Avoid red roses and heart-shaped items if you think the other person is unaware of your romantic interest in him/her.
“It’s so embarrassing to be with a person who is ill-mannered or awkward in social situations,” says Pingale – something that many would echo. “Once I was out for a movie with this guy who I thought was rather cute. But when we met another friend of mine at the movie hall and I introduced them to each other, this guy did not even shake hands! He just said ‘hi’ shyly and looked away.”
While social etiquette is applicable to dating as well, do not go over the top – you run the risk of appearing over-courteous and artificial.
– If it is late in the night when you decide to get back home, offer to drop the lady home if she does not have her own vehicle. Do not expect her to invite you in for a coffee. The drop home gesture is meant purely for security.
– Chivalry is not yet outdated, though the men may not be expected to open the doors all the time or let the lady in first everywhere. Be practical. You need to be relaxed on a date; do not be too formal.
– If you plan to go on a date that requires some preparation like booking of tickets, making reservations in a restaurant, etc, the person initiating the date should take care of these before the date. Do not disappoint your partner by being disorganised.
– Respect each other’s views and do not expect your date to agree with or appreciate whatever you do. Also, be assertive – you need not agree with everything that your partner says simply to please him/her. It can be irritating when the other person realises you are faking it.
– Brush up on dining etiquette and other aspects of formal social behaviour if you are not well versed with it. Avoid embarrassing your date.
– If you do not want to be seen with your date by certain people, choose a meeting place accordingly. It is extremely ill-mannered to request your date to walk at a distance because you can see your uncle across the street!