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Summer Lovin'

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"That is not Jennifer Anniston," the words spoken so loud and clear from the front door of 677 Prime that I'm pretty sure the busboy who was dumping the trash out back heard it.
It came out of the mouth of a buddy of mine who hates blind dates, but got talked into 'just drinks' with a gal pal who had someone she wanted him to meet. He called me a few days before looking for advice, convinced this was a bad idea. Knowing he's a visual creature and wouldn't go unless he had an inkling of what the woman looked like, I told him to use the old, 'If they made a movie about her life, what actress would be cast as her' line? Without hesitation, his friend responded with Jennifer Aniston. Yeah. Not so much. Then again his friend described him as Gerard Butler, so what goes around comes around on that date.
Is there anything worse than a blind date? Not really. I've only been on one in my life, many years ago, and I remembered both the woman and I thinking a half hour into it, "Do our friends know us at all?" We were so not right for each other. Yet, we still decided to get married and have six kids..... kidding.

I suppose the only thing as precarious as a blind date is a 'first date' with someone you've met, but never been out with. Oh, the pressure. If you ask around everyone has horror stories to share - he was cheap, she talked too much, she didn't talk at all, he wouldn't shut up about his ex, etc. ,etc., etc.

My worst first date was many years ago and involved a woman I met at a party. She seemed nice, so we exchanged numbers and after a couple of phone conversations it graduated to dinner at TGI Friday's in Stuyvesant Plaza. Being a Friday, the place was jammed so we waited at the bar for a table. She ordered one drink, bam gone. Then a second, bam gone. I thought, "Geez, this girl can slam them back," but cut her some slack thinking she might be nervous.

When the bartender took too long to bring her a third drink she reached over the bar and grabbed a beer out of the ice bucket. Hello? I'm pretty sure that's a felony. A week later when she asked if I wanted to go out again I told her I didn't have enough bail money.
People associate love and dating with Valentine's Day, but I think summer is the perfect time to get yourself back out there and have some fun. If you're meeting someone new, there will have to be that dreaded first date, so I wanted to share some tips from the experts (two of my friends and stuff I learned from the Internet). Here, are the top five mistakes people make on their first date. Try not to make them yourself.

1. Shut up and listen - I know the purpose of the first date is to get to know each other and tell the person about yourself, but come up for air once in a while Jacque Cousteau. My friend Amy went on a date with a very successful lawyer at Lanie's Café in Loudonville. She asked, "So what kind of law do you practice?" and he didn't stop talking for over an hour. Check please. Oh, and guys, I know girls are pretty and have neat things to look at, but when she's talking, eyes up here. There you go.

2. Leave the ex where they belong - By far, the easiest mistake to make on a first date is blabbing about your ex. If you trash the ex you come off as bitter. If you praise the ex you come off as not over it. Think of any conversation about the ex like a prostate exam: the quicker the better. I had a friend who went out with a guy who was recently divorced and clearly not ready for company. He'd say things like, "You like bread? Sarah liked bread too," then bite his lip and look away. Oy vey.

3. She should reach, but you pay - I know it's 2010 and women are independent and blah, blah, freaking blah, but on the first date men should pay. Period. Ladies, it is appreciated if you reach for your wallet, but guys pay. If there's a second date and she wants to treat, fine. Oh, and Kenny Coupon, can you leave the 'buy one appetizer get one free' clippings at home? Saving money is great, but on a first date? Come on, let her order what she wants and don't wince. You could be home watching reruns of "Entourage" like you have for the last 37 Saturday nights. Just be glad someone with a pulse said yes.

4. Be nice to everyone - That means the valet who parked your car, the coat check gal and especially the wait staff. This person sitting across from you really doesn't know you yet, so they are judging EVERYTHING you do and the telltale sign of a jerk or a witch is how they treat people they don't have to treat well. A good friend of mine went on a first date with a very wealthy man to Siro's a couple of summers ago. The waitress accidentally spilled a glass of water down the front of her dress. It was water, it was going to dry and my friend was fine. Her date, Daddy Big Bucks, flipped his switch. He screamed at the poor waitress in front of a room full of people. Then when my friend told him it was okay, he started barking at her saying, "No, no, it's not alright!" He didn't know my friend waitressed her way through college. She was done right then and there.

5. Save room for dessert - I don't mean that literally. I'm talking about being so concerned the other person likes you, you try to jam everything into this one date. Women don't need to discuss how many kids they want and what their names would be, and guys can hold off on telling her about their comic book collection, secret love for Derek Jeter or ability to recite the entire courtroom scene from "A Few Good Men". Romeo, she can handle the truth, just not all in one night. Oh, and guys, go easy on the kiss goodnight. You know that song, "You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss"? Yeah, not really. There are sweet, soft, I'd-love-to-see-you-again kisses and OH-MY- GOD-a-meteor-is-coming-and-this-could-be-our-last-moment-on-earth kisses. Look up Spike, the sky is clear, so save something for the later innings.
I'd avoid going too fancy on a first date; it gives you no where to go but down. In fact, if the weather permits, skip the restaurant altogether. A couple of fancy sandwiches from Panera and a nice spot at The Crossings offers beauty and privacy at the same time. Oh, and ladies, if he's a complete creep, there will be lots of witnesses if you scream.
All kidding aside my best advice is just be yourself. After all, everyone else is taken.

John Gray is a Fox23 News anchor and contributing writer at the Troy Record. He can be reached at johngray@fox23news.com.


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