(Note: This is the conclusion of a 3-part series. Read the series from the beginning here: dating in midlife.)
11. Awkward is ok. First dates and blind dates are awkward. It’s just a fact, and there’s no reason to dance around it. Acknowledging it can lead to some funny moments and can be a terrific ice breaker. On my first date with my boyfriend Mike, I arrived at the table really needing to run to the restroom. I introduced myself quickly, dropped my coat into the booth, and said, “I’ve gotta run to the ladies room. If you want to make a run for it, this is your big chance!” He looked surprised and laughed. After coming back from the loo, I told him I found blind dates to be so awkward. He said he felt very comfortable and that there was no need to feel awkward – I could just be myself. So his first impression was that I was funny and sarcastic. My first impression was that he was kind and gentle and put me right at ease – that he had high “EQ.” So as it turns out, awkward is ok – acknowledge it, and then let yourself move beyond it.
12. Be open to new experiences. For me, dating was made even more fun by the fact that I got to try a LOT of new things. Several of my dates have revolved around dinner and a movie – but others were wild and fun and totally unique. One guy took me to an ethnic restaurant for the first time, where I learned that I really LOVE Indian food. Another bought a Groupon for a unique experience – being trapped in a room full of puzzles for one hour with a dozen strangers, where we all worked together to solve the puzzles in an effort to escape being eaten by a zombie. (Full disclosure: it was an actor – not a real zombie.) Other dates have included a hot air balloon festival, a drag show, stand-up comedy, and a Christmas music show at a beautiful barn-style church. Even if those men turned out not to be right for me, they were nice guys, and I got to make some fun memories that I will never forget. They were great dates.
13. Be smart about your safety and privacy. When it’s time to meet face to face, do so wisely. Pick a public place (and someplace busy – not a park or anywhere secluded). Give his name, photo, phone number and a link to his online profile to your best friend so she’ll know where you are, and make sure he knows that your whereabouts are accounted for. I’m not a safety expert – I’m sure there are a lot of articles you could Google that would give you great pointers on protecting yourself on a first date. Just be smart and, as my mom would say, “keep your wits about you.”
14. Be yourself. I know this is the most trite advice about dating, but it’s a cliche because it’s true. Don’t try to impress someone if it means not being you. When in doubt, wear the clothes you feel comfortable in, not the outfit that makes you look ten pounds slimmer. You’ll laugh more and feel less self-conscious. If you have a snarky side, don’t hide it – he might like it! And if not, he might not be the guy for you. Let your personality shine through. Smile. Try to find something wonderful in each person you go out with, and in the meantime allow him to see all the wonderful things about the real you.
15. And finally, this isn’t advice but an important fact you should know: even at midlife, you can still get butterflies in your stomach when the right guy kisses you. After several first dates (just a few of which turned into seconds or thirds), I finally learned this. And I was so grateful to learn it, because I had feared that the fluttering feeling I got as a younger woman would be gone and replaced by the practicality and reality that’s necessary in my 40s. But the truth is, even at midlife, when you meet a man who’s right for you, and you click, you can feel that same excitement and electricity that you felt when you were young. It’s just as fleeting, just as wonderful – and you might even treasure it just a bit more.