I’m sure you’re all looking forward to Valentine’s Day and that some of you are already planning for a dinner date with your girlfriends, though if you don’t know the girl you are taking very well or it’s your first big event, you may be feeling a little nervous. The most important thing to remember is that you have invited someone out and your main objective of the evening should be to do what you can to make sure that your partner enjoys herself. It will be a memorable evening if she goes away with a very good impression of you, with good memories of a very enjoyable evening.
What a girl really looks for in a man is someone who will respect her and behave well, showing an interest in her for her own sake, not for how she makes you feel. I remember a great talk that my son, who is now 22, went to and the speaker made a very good point: do you want to be a protector or a predator?
I’ll leave that idea with you and get onto more pedestrian details. I’ve grouped my ideas into 3 parts because research has shown that people assess others on 3 things:
- How you look
- How you conduct yourself
- What you have to say.
So, the first thing is how you look
This comprises what you wear and your personal presentation. Starting with what you wear.
These occasions are traditionally black tie but it is becoming more and more usual to see a young man wearing a suit. Black tie is certainly more romantic, but a suit is perfectly acceptable. Don’t let your budget stand in your way – lots of second-hand stores stock good quality dinner suits and business suits. Invest in dry cleaning the suit before the big night – this is obvious and makes a good impression. Same with your shirt and tie and polish your shoes! This is a small detail that is easy to overlook but all these details say that you care about yourself and that you are able to care about others.
Personal presentation also includes general grooming so ensure that everything is top notch in that area with for example, well groomed, clean hair, clean nails and a little bit of aftershave, but nothing that will overpower anyone.
It’s traditional also that you buy your date a bouquet of flowers for the evening. You can ask her in advance if she has a favourite flower – asking this shows you care about what she likes, you’re not just doing “the right thing” – and surprising her with it on the big night.
The second thing is how you conduct yourself
Remember the focus is on you going out of your way to make sure she has a good evening but also with the balance of not being a clinging ivy.
You should arrange to pick her up and drop her home from where she lives. If she lives at home with her parents, you will score major bonga points if you go in and introduce yourself to them. A car, if you drive and can get access to one, is good. However, if you can only get there by public transport, just give her a quick ring and let her know that’s what’s happening. It’s a good idea to arrange to go with a couple of friends and their dates. This always helps ensure we don’t get ourselves into any compromising situations.
Always make sure you introduce her straightaway to anyone she doesn’t know. It’s very rude to leave her hanging and will make her feel unimportant. As far as introductions go, and who to introduce to whom, the rule of thumb is to use the name of the person with the most senior rank first. With your friends, introduce your date first: e.g.: “Sarah, I’d like you meet Joe. Joe, this is Sarah.” With older people, use their name first: “Mr. Shannon, I’d like to introduce you to Sarah Smith. Sarah, this is Mr. Shannon.”
Adding what is called a “tag” gives them something to talk about: e.g. Sarah, this is Joe. Joe lives at Warrane with me and is studying science or, Mr. Shannon, this is Sarah Smith. Sarah is from Canada and is here studying medicine.
A few very important details to remember:
- ALWAYS hold doors open for her and let her walk through first, even if she is a slow coach.
- ALWAYS make sure she has a drink in her hand before you.
- ALWAYS make sure you pace yourself with what you drink. There is nothing worse than a partner who drinks too much.
- ALWAYS make sure everyone is served, in particular your partner, before you start eating. If tea, coffee, juice or water is self-service, make sure you do this for her.
- ALWAYS follow basic table manners, which I’m sure you all know: don’t talk with food in your mouth or chew with your mouth open and with cutlery, work from the outside in, one set per course and don’t wave your knife and fork about.
- ALWAYS make sure she is not sitting by herself for more than 5 minutes while you chat to your friends and she has no one to speak to, though as I said before, do this without being clingy.
- ALWAYS excuse yourself before going to the bathroom or going to chat to a friend or on the phone (although there’s absolutely no reason why your phone should be on, on such an important occasion!).
- ALWAYS make sure that you dance, even if you hate dancing or you’re not good at it. You don’t have to be on the floor for the whole night but it is particularly frustrating to attend an affair like this with someone who refuses to dance. Forget about yourself and remember you are there to make sure your date has a good evening.
The third thing to think about and to prepare is what you talk about
There are generally safe topics that a girl likes to discuss:
- Family. Ask about her brothers and sisters and parents and chat about yours. This is generally a very welcome topic to a girl.
- What she likes to do and what you like to do. The idea is to show an interest in her life. If you are good at talking, make sure you don’t do all the talking. If you are not good at talking, tell her more details than you would normally discuss, in order to keep the conversation flowing.
- Her work/ study and yours.
- Current topics: the elections, the Ocampo 4, but don’t get bogged down in this. If you state an opinion, back it up pleasantly, don’t get aggressive. Other people are allowed to have different opinions!
- Don’t be negative. The old adage “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it” holds true. If you don’t agree, just say “Do you think so?” and leave it alone. The dinner is not the place to have a fight.
Some of you may have heard of the personality types. It’s good to know this and get to know yourself because then you know where to improve yourself. Socially, this will make you better company. I’ve included a brief outline in the write-up with recommendations for each and I’ll just run through these briefly.
– Choleric: This is the commander-type. Cholerics are dominant, strong, decisive, stubborn and even arrogant. A choleric is focused on getting things done but can run rough-shod over others.
Advice: Practice not being bossy!
– Melancholic: This is the mental-type. Their typical behaviour involves thinking, assessing, making lists, evaluating the positives and negatives and general analysis of facts. A melancholic is a highly talented person; they have brilliant ideas, although they can paralyse themselves with over-analysis. Lists and “doing things the right way” are characteristics of this type.
Advice: Practice saying positive things!
– Sanguine: This is the social-type. They enjoy fun, socialising, chatting, telling stories and are fond of promising the world, because that’s the friendly thing to do. A sanguine gets on well with people and gets others excited about issues, but cannot always be relied upon to get things done. They love interacting with others and play the role of the entertainer in group interactions. They have a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver.
Advice: Make an effort to quieten down and let others have their turn!
– Phlegmatic: This is the flat-type. They are easy going, laid back, nonchalant, unexcitable and relaxed. Desiring a peaceful environment above all else. A phlegmatic is neutral – they tend not to actively upset people, but their indifference may frustrate people. They try not to make decisions and generally go for the status quo. They care about people and harmony.
Advice: Try to combat natural inhibitions and voice some opinions!
Also, last but not least, pray! I know that not all of you are Catholic but don’t leave prayer out. Guaranteed: you will have a much better time if you pray for one!
By Gemma Saccasan, Fashion Designer & Image Consultant
Adapted from the Warrane Occasional Papers, with the kind permission of the administrators of Warrane College, from a talk given by the writer to the College residents; original title: Preparing for the Ball.
Warrane College is a university residence in Australia with objectives similar to those of Satima.