Minimum viable dates (and what to expect from them)

Everybody loves Spaghetti

This week I had dinner with some colleagues (mixed Gyoza, Sushi and half a piece of Gateau au chocolat at iimori Gyoza-Bar, in case you are wondering). One of those colleagues at the table was Dennis (this is not his real name, obviously). Dennis is very active when it comes to dating and he also loves talking about it – which I enjoy, since I love talking about that topic too. Last year Dennis and me went to the Frankfurt book fair together and I remembered that he had bought a book that was named something like “How to get some in the digital age”. So I asked him very bluntly – after having checked out pictures of his most current tinder matches – what he took away from the book in order to improve his dating routine. “Well” Dennis replied, “…stuff like: When you take a woman out for dinner, go to an Italian restaurant, since the atmosphere is always pretty romantic there, the food is not too complicated from an how-do-I-eat-that point of view and also: everybody loves Spaghetti. Make sure your date gets a good and comfortable seat, hold the doors for her, let her order first and pay the check at the end.” Then he paused and I used the short break to mention very casually that all of this – except maybe for the not very contemporary fact that the guy is supposed to pay the bill – seems to be pretty basic stuff to me. “Yes” he said, “it might seem basic to you but nowadays this cannot be taken for granted.”

The conversation continued for a while but I somehow got mentally stuck at the question: How the hell is dating supposed to work in the year 2018? What can I – as a woman – expect from an evening with a man I have met somewhere in the real or the digital world? And most importantly: What is the minimum viable date (MVD) I should look out for and what behavior is simply out of scope? (By the way, I found this very adapt cartoon when I was googling “minimum viable date.”)

Romance is required

I guess for me personally all those practical things like holding the doors open, paying the check and letting me go first when the waiter asks for the order are really not what constitutes a pleasant date. Although those things are “nice to have” – what would they help if the guy sitting opposite of me was really boring or showed no interest in me? My minimum viable date would also not necessarily have to take place at a restaurant (although I love to eat, as you might have noticed). It could take place in a park, at an airport, at the gym, in a boulder hall, on a plane, during a dancing class, on a playground or at a funfair. I strongly believe that if two people have a connection they find ways to be romantic with each other everywhere. Plus: Spending time in rather unusual situations right from the start might be good in order to find out how open your date is for trying out new things (which is a very important character trait for my personal taste).

Two of those rather practical minimum requirements for a date, in my eyes, would be punctuality and focus. While “punctuality” is pretty straightforward, “focus” for me essentially translates to “Keep your hands off your phone”. Yes, even in the digital age I strongly hold the opinion that real people who are present at this specific moment in time when a date takes place should be more interesting and more attention-grabbing than all the other people digitally sending likes and beeps and tweets to your phone. The worst case and an absolute out-of-scope-action for me would be if a guy “managed” his upcoming dates while sitting next to me on a park bench. In a world where attention has become a currency there is nothing more flattering than complete and utter focus on the person you are spending your time with. And that includes mental focus as well – I expect a guy to listen to me, remember the stuff I told him and apply that knowledge at our next meeting.

Let’s get physical

Could all this be too much to ask? Is all this way too complicated considering that most people are just looking for a fling, a digital quickie that has been transformed to real flesh and blood for one evening and that can be consumed as easily as it has been set up? Well, in my opinion: no. People seem to forget that a date is a physical meeting between two people and that it differs profoundly from what they do when they continuously swipe left or right (whatever the correct side for “I think you are hot” is) on Tinder while binge-watching Netflix with half their attention. It seems to me that everybody has to define his or her own rules for minimum viable dates – even if they contain requirements that have been pretty standard in the pre-digital days. Because how else are we able to determine whether to give a five or a one start rating for a guy or a girl, considering the sheer amount of dates the average online dating user is going on?

While indulging in our delicious desserts Dennis told me that he is using Tinder less and less these days. “Getting to know someone in real life is totally different and gives you way more information about a person” he answered after I asked him why. “You do not waste days or weeks texting someone who might turn out to be a totally different person in real life. Instead you get a pretty good first impression of somebody’s personality and whether you might like that person or not. So it actually is not only a nicer way to meet people, it is also more efficient.” I smiled as I picked up the last piece of my chocolate cake. Romance and efficiency? Those two things usually do not go together. But hell, as long as the real world overrules the digital world I am happy. So let’s get physical!

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