Dating For Dummies
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Dating can be scary and fun and challenging, but you want it to be that way for all the right reasons — not because you haven't taken reasonable precautions about your own safety. Just as you look both ways before you cross the street, you should be wise enough to look both ways before you venture forth on a date. You'll feel better and safer if you've been sensible.

Tell somebody where you're going

Always let someone you trust know where you're going when you go out — and with whom. Unless you went to kindergarten with your date and every grade since, it makes sense to let someone know where you are, especially these days, when people meet through the personals and blind dates and online chat rooms. Even if you're both safe from each other, what if the car breaks down or there's a storm at the beach or your roller blades are hijacked? Not only is it smart to be safe rather than sorry, you'll feel more relaxed as well.

If your mom or your big brother is likely to grill you about your date for weeks afterward, pick someone else to tell — a friend who gives you the same kind of info. If you don't know a soul, the next best thing is to leave a detailed note of where you are and who you're with posted in an obvious spot in your home or apartment, such as on the refrigerator door. It just makes common sense. If you should stumble into trouble, speed and accuracy are essential.

Particularly if you're a single woman living alone, tell a friend what you're up to. While it may feel like a pinch on your freedom, it's a gift you and your single girlfriends can give to each other.

Name, rank, and serial number

During your rundown of phone numbers, pager numbers, and e-mail addresses, ask one simple question: Whereabouts do you live?

Your date-to-be may or may not want to give an exact address — which is okay — but if he or she is reluctant to give any clues, you may want to ask why. While you're at it, make sure you know your date's last name (and how to spell it). If that person hesitates to freely offer any of this information, consider it a red flag because there are precious few reasons why someone would withhold full disclosure:

  • They're married.
  • They live with their mother.
  • They are embarrassed by their neighborhood.
  • They live in a car.

Getting there can be fun

Depending on the part of the country in which you live and your age and economic situation, your date may offer to pick you up in a cab, a limo, a scooter, a wagon, a bus, or not at all. While a car may sound like a good idea, consider other, safer and potentially saner, alternatives.

Meeting there

Meeting there is a good option for several reasons:

  • You are in control of your arrival and departure time. There's no nail biting if your date's late, or frantic rushing around if they're early. Moreover, if the date turns out to be a dud, you're outta there in seconds flat.
  • Realistically, you may not be so comfortable giving a near stranger your address just yet. That's okay. If he or she insists on coming to your house, that's another red flag right there.
  • You don't have to count on your date staying sober when you drive your own car. You do, however, have to make sure you don't drink (unless you've been dropped off by a friend, parent, cab, bus, or so on).
  • Unless you invite your date to follow you home at the end of the evening, the sex question is definitely out of the question.
  • Meeting at the location lends a slightly businesslike air to the date — which can be ideal for a first meeting where you're still checking each other out.

Meeting at the office, workplace, or school

After-work or school dates have advantages as well as a few pitfalls:

  • Unless you work in a one-person operation, you're meeting in a public place and can keep your private home address to yourself for now.
  • Presumably, your co-workers will still be around. It's a great opportunity to see how well your date relates to others.
  • You can still exercise the option to provide your own transportation from work — you can leave your car there and call a cab from the restaurant or theater.
  • One disadvantage is that it increases the pressure for your date to offer to escort you home if you haven't left a car at your meeting place.
  • Another disadvantage: Now your date knows where to find you eight hours a day. At home, at least you can leave the machine on or change your phone number if the situation gets too dicey (for example, your date won't take no for an answer). In some working environments — a store, restaurant, driving a city bus — it can be much harder to avoid a too-ardent admirer.
  • Meeting somewhere near work can offset the major disadvantage of meeting at work: blowing your cover.

Meeting in your 'hood

Your neighborhood is your territory. It's where you feel comfy and known. Meeting at some nearby landmark — the fountain in town, the gas station, the Piggly Wiggly — has several advantages. It's public, close to home, and chances are, neighbors who care about you will see you.

Take cash

Always make sure you have enough cash to get yourself home should you decide to walk away in a huff. Tuck twenty bucks inside your shoe. Just remember to take it out at the end of the evening or you'll have a closet full of cash.

Safety in numbers

The top criterion for a safe date is to meet in a public place. When you do, you're creating your own safety zone — essential for not only feeling relaxed emotionally, but for releasing your body from guard duty, as well. Isolated, dark, quiet places may be great for romance, but on a first date, the goal is to get comfortable with each other. And comfort comes with safety. And safety comes in well-trafficked public places where you can let your guard down. Check out the table for more details.

First-Date Venues


Less Safe


Outdoor concert

Meeting at a bar

Going for a drive

In-line skating in the park on Saturday

A private party (unless you know the party-givers)

Midnight walk on the beach

Going for ice cream or coffee

Seeing a drive-in movie

Weekend in the country

Doing lunch or brunch

Sporting event (testosterone levels can go sky-high if it's a violent sport)

His or her home alone

Going dancing

A hike in the woods

5K run in the park


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