After divorcing, jumping the fence, and dating for a while, I began wondering why most of the people I went out with disappeared after the first date. I started reading self-help books, where I learned about something called emotional sobriety. This meant I needed to create healthy boundaries and rules for myself around dating. One way to do that was through appropriate disclosure, which means you don’t give someone your entire history of sexual and romantic monkeyshines on the first date.
I wondered if maybe some of the subjects I talked about had not been appropriate for a first date. After a lot of soul-searching, I developed a list for myself. On the first date, I will not:
- Say I’m in a program for sex and love addicts. I figured that one out from the big, did-I-ever-luck-out! Smiles that formed on my date’s faces when I made this announcement.
- Talk about sex. Being a Scorpio, the sex sign of the zodiac, this is harder than it may appear.
- Give an inventory of my sexual acting out. This makes people very insecure.
- Recite a litany of my character defects. I don’t have to worry about this one: all I have to do is be myself. They’ll find out soon enough.
- Talk about beating up people. I’ve trained in martial arts and collegiate wrestling. I also have anger issues, especially at men.
- Say that I am a pagan. Most people think this is a synonym for Satanist. It’s not, but I won’t be able to convince my dates as they’re running out the door.
- Not engage in processing. If something major enough to require processing happens on the first date, that’s usually a death knell. And if nothing happened but processing happens anyway, I run the other way.
Now, when I’m on a date with someone, I quickly check what I’m going to say against this list, always asking myself, ‘is this an appropriate subject for someone I’m just getting to know? Is it scary/off-putting/ too intense or self-denigrating?’ If so, I save it for later, when I’ve gotten to know the person better. I then made a list of appropriate topics for first dates:
- Books and movies (even though my preferred themes are on sex, vampires and serial killers, I make sure to pick inoffensive themes)
- Work history (as long as it doesn’t involve sex, drugs, or incarceration)
- My living space (unless I’m homeless at the time)
- Cats (as long as I don’t have more than 3)
- Cooking (as long as it doesn’t involve a sacrifice or cauldron)
- New Age subjects: I need to know where they stand on these issues, and superficiality tells me as much as depth.
- Education. This is important: if the person is threatened by my intelligence, I need to find someone smarter. That can be difficult, but someone more open-minded works too.
I avoid touchy subjects like politics and religion. My goal is to have a good time and keep it light, check out how we connect, how the energy is; not to interview someone for the position of girlfriend.
Also, I try to remember to use honesty judiciously. I’ve witnessed honesty being used like a club on others, or instrument of torture on one’s own character, saying much more than is needed, wanted or necessary–which is why I wrote this article. I’ve also experienced honesty used as a form of abuse–we probably all know that from some of our fights with loved ones. Conversational subjects should be tempered with tact, and I always remind myself that tact is about choosing among my truths. This is simple respect, so I extend myself that courtesy as well.
Xequina has been writing since grammar school. She came out during early middlessence and and now makes up for lost gay time through her creative endeavors–short stories, comic strips and paintings celebrating lesbian personalities and themes. She is the author of Santora: The Good Daughter under the nom de plume Resurreccion Cruz, and The Mermaid Girl, a children’s book, scheduled to come out later this year. Xequina lives in Oakland and works as a children’s librarian.