I’m a big fan of bucket lists. I have bucket lists for places to see before I die, things to do with my friends in the next six months and – as a romantic kind of girl – dates I’d like to go on. For example, my current dating bucket list includes:
- gazing at underwater life at the Ripley’s Aquarium
- a picnic and impromptu photo shoot at Guildwood Park
- dinner, drinks and a classic crooner at the Jazz Bistro
- cheering for the home team at a Toronto FC soccer game
- smashing some shit good at Toronto’s Rage Room
My dating bucket list does not include Starbucks.
I don’t do coffee dates.
Don’t get me wrong. I may suggest we stop for coffee on a date or meet at a coffee shop before heading elsewhere; but, when it comes to seeing someone new in person for the first time, only going for coffee is an crappy decision. Here’s why.
1. Coffee dates limit conversation and put both parties in an unnatural interview situation
Is there anything worse than sitting across from someone being grilled with all the usual questions: what do you do, where are you from, how long have you been single? (Yes, I suppose genocide and all that is a lot worse… but you know what I mean).
One of the best ways to break the ice with someone new is to talk about the things going on around you. That’s why locations like galleries, street fairs and restaurants with a type of cuisine that is new to you can be great ideas for first dates.
For example, a thoughtful gentleman recently took me to a high-end sushi bar. If there had been nothing else to talk about, the artfully prepared servings and sake samples alone would have been great fodder for discussion (as it turned out there was lots to dish about in addition to what was on our plates).
Rather than staring at each other, environments that incorporate some sort of novel experience allow for you to gradually get to know each other as you share your thoughts on what’s going on around you. Coffee shops in themselves, however, rarely offer much to observe.
2. Coffee dates are unoriginal and don’t show off who you are
Unless you are a huge coffee connoisseur, chances are you aren’t in the dating game to find someone to repeatedly go for coffee with. Doing non-coffee dates gives you the chance to see what it would be like to hang out with a person on a more regular basis in different environments.
When a date suggests we go somewhere I’ve never been and that place turns out to be amazing, it makes me think, “Here is a person in the know – someone who has a cool life of their own and who, by sharing a bit of that life with me, can expand my world for the better.” And it makes me want to find out more about them and their world.
You are an interesting person with an interesting life. Why not show it?
Can’t think of anything interesting in your life? Ask a friend for suggestions or better yet, get out and do some exploring on your own. Make it a point to go one place you’ve never been before at least once a week. Before long you’ll have lots to share and not only will you come across as more interesting, you’ll be more interesting.
3. Coffee dates give little room for momentum
The best dates I’ve ever experienced have had multiple parts: for example, going to a hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown for lunch followed by trying on vintage clothes in Kensington Market and finishing the day people-watching on a patio.
Not all dates are going to be epic, but they should have the flexibility to allow for a change of scenery should the mood to be spontaneous arise. Coffee dates, which are often wedged in between other plans, limit this and in doing so limit the potential for creating an unforgettable first impression.
4. Coffee dates make it difficult to initiate physical contact
I’m not talking about making out per se (although spontaneous kisses on a date can be a lot of fun if you are into each other). Instead, I’m referring to those temporary moments when one person places their hand on their date’s shoulder, upper back, arm, hand or other non-sexual area.
These moments are a critical part of flirting. When reciprocated they let two people know that they are comfortable with each other physically and comfortable being in each other’s personal space.
Over time, if both parties like each other – and opportunity allows it – these moments of contact typically become longer and progress to more intimate touching such as placing a hand on a leg, the lower back or under the chin. When done right, all of these things build up to the type of chemistry and sexual tension that makes a date so delicious.
Sitting across from someone in a coffee shop makes this dance tricky to say the least.
5. Coffee dates signal doubt in your date’s potential
Arranging some experience other than “going for coffee” demonstrates not only forethought and the ability to make plans, but also a belief that the person you are spending time with is worth more than $1.75 and a half hour of his or her time.
In this age of Tinder and instant hook-ups, few people make an effort to actually court others. Being the person who suggests something unique for a first, second and third date not only makes the object of your affection feel special, it can put you light years ahead of your competitors.
But, I do have doubt in my date’s potential. I don’t even know this person!
Yes, I can hear ye of little faith saying it now.“Why should I do all that work for someone who could be a total disappointment?
At least a coffee date gives me an opportunity to see that they look like their photo and, most importantly, the opportunity to bail if they don’t.”
To you I say: Have you spoken to them on the phone? Googled them? Or at least Google searched their image? Doing all of the above before arranging any first meeting will give you a good opportunity to do a preliminary assessment.
Even then, a date with a stranger always poses some risk that they will not come as advertised. That said, first dates aren’t about finding your soul mate. They are about:
- seeing if you are compatible with someone enough to see them again in either a romantic or a non-romantic way, and possibly expanding your network in the process
- improving your game around dating, practicing having authentic conversations, and learning how to put yourself and others at ease
- creating memorable experiences and doing those things that you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time or the right company to do them with.
In short, first dates are the perfect opportunity to try out those items on your dating bucket list. By making a first date fun and interesting, even if the date is a dud, you still get to do something you wanted to. And, that my friends, is a hell of a lot more fun than a half-hour interview at Starbucks.
Stuck for date ideas? Here are some alternatives to the dreaded coffee date:
- street festivals and fairs
- mini golf, go-karting, or bowling
- amusement parks or arcades
- zoos and aquariums
- restaurants that offer a unique experience (I once had a date at a restaurant where we had to order in sign language – that was unique.)
- concerts where you can still hear each other enough to talk
- sports events (so long as your date isn’t such a superfan they will ignore you the whole time)
- art galleries and museums
- cheesy tourist attractions (try a city bus or boat tour)
- hikes and neighbourhood strolls
- free dance lessons
- trivia night at a bar or karaoke
What do you think? Coffee dates yay or nay? What do you like on a first date? What’s on your dating bucket list? Leave a comment below.