Valentine’s Day is a good time to brush up on your dating skills. Should you offer to pay for dinner? Is it ok to top off your martini with the vodka you keep in your purse? To get answers, we reached out to famed matchmaker Janis Spindel. An award-winning author who’s been featured on Dr. Phil, The Today Show, and 60 Minutes, Janis is just shy of 1,000 marriages, not including her own (she’s been with her husband for 31 years, after picking him up at the gym).
To ace the big day like a pro, check out Janis’ list of dating DOs and DON’Ts. “The rest,” she says, “is up to chemistry and the universe.”
DO: Be confident.
Confidence, not to be confused with arrogance, is a turn on for everyone. You don’t need to brag about your job, your apartment, or how many hot wings you can eat in one sitting. Just be the smart, hilarious person that you are. Remember, you’re a warrior, and your warrior name is Beyoncé Pad Thai.
DO: Take the time to prepare.
John Mayer may love you in your grey sweatpants with no makeup, but that’s not really the first impression you want to make. According to Janis, “You need to have your date-game on, not your work-game.” Which means, do not rush to your date straight from the office while applying deodorant in the car. Book a blowout or a manicure a day or two beforehand. You can save the sweatpants party for the fourth date.
DO: Focus on what you’re doing, not who you’re meeting.
We’ve all been there: The conversation stalls, you tense up, and then have that out-of-body experience where you watch yourself ask your date if he’s a fan of Cats—the musical, not the animal. Instead of obsessing over the other person, focus on what you guys are doing together. Janis told us of one couple that took a yoga class followed by breakfast, and another pair that hit up a painting class. Just find an activity that allows you to share an experience, rather than grasp at straws trying to figure out what similarities you do (or don’t) share.
DO: Go on a second date.
“People are very nervous on first dates. Men are nervous, women are nervous… you really don’t know on a first date,” says Janis. Guards go up, people overshare, they talk about their exes and excessive sweating problems…basically, just your average horror show. Janis told us about a client who refused a second date with “the worst kisser ever.” Finally, after some convincing, she gave him a second chance. He turned things around, swept her off her feet, and they were married three weeks later. Moral of the story: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
DON’T: Be on your phone.
Honestly, we shouldn’t even have to mention this, but we will since IT CONTINUES TO HAPPEN. Phones are for staring at when you’re trying to avoid eye contact, not make it. That emoji-only riddle text can wait. Be a decent human being and give your date your full attention, recommends Janis.
DON’T: Go out for “just a drink.”
“Just drinks” may sound like a good way to avoid a potential three-hour meal with Weirdo McTalksAboutHisMomALot. But as Janis wisely points out, “a drink is an audition.” When you’re auditioning a date, that means that you’re not really committing to getting to know him or her by spending real time together. Make reservations at a nice restaurant for dinner, play putt-putt, or go see a play together. Just do something that sparks romance, not a chugging contest.
DON’T: Be without a plan.
If you ask someone out on a date, make sure you have an itinerary. Janis applauds “a man [or woman] with a plan,” routinely going on simulated dates with her clients to make sure they’re prepared. (She once took a client to see five Broadway shows just to put him through the “culture shock” of proper dating.) You can already assume there’ll be the occasional lull in conversation, so having a blueprint for your get-together will prevent lulls in activity. Side note: Your “plan” should never be to hook up. Which leads us to…
DON’T: Have sex on the first date.
Janis’ No. 1 dating rule: No sex on the first date. “It’s inappropriate and unacceptable,” she says. Sure, there are exceptions to every rule, but those exceptions are usually fictional characters played by Zooey Deschanel and Lena Dunham. We know you’re a cool, sexy girl, but there’s something to said for keeping ‘em waiting. Besides, your mom heard it from her mom, who heard it from her mom, who heard it from hers. And you just don’t f*ck with tradition.