Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

I Had A Great First Date. Why Am I Terrified of A Second One?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: So, I’ve been focusing on digging myself out of my inaction, depression, and general negativity.

I’m feeling better, happier, more hopeful. I had a great date the other day with a lovely, smart, dorky girl I met through OKCupid, and we had the most romantic and totally ad hoc time ever. Now that I’m in the aftermath of that, I’m worried naturally about screwing everything up.

I’m worried about texting too much. Worried about not texting enough. Worried that, since we are both only free on weekends, having to wait 5-6 days after a date will lead to things petering out too quickly for a relationship to take root. I recognize that so much of this really depends on her as fully half the equation, and fully anticipating her reactions is impossible, but I’d like some advice on how one ought to maintain optimal levels of mutual interest and anticipation for the next meeting. I’d add that I was pretty energetic and dynamic for our date, funny and spontaneous, but I’m just quite worried that I won’t be able to keep it up. Thus, more articles and advice on post-first date and longer term maintenance would be great!

– 2nd Date Nerves

DEAR SECOND DATE NERVES: Dude. DUDE. Chill.

This is my big advice for you.  Calm the holy f--k down. You had an awesome date, which is terrific! But you’re clearly so tense with nervous energy that you’re one espresso away from vibrating through space and time and I really rather like parts of this timeline so I’d appreciate your not Barry-Allen-ing it into non-existence.

(Though hey, if there’s some way of undoing 2020 without making it manifestly worse, I wouldn’t say no…)

Take a breath, do some yoga and calm the hell down, because you’re going to give yourself an aneurysm long before you can potentially screw things up.

No that doesn’t mean you’re going to screw things up, work with me here.

Calm? OK. Here’s what you do.

First: Quit treating this like it’s a life or death matter. Believe me I understand the way things feel: you’ve had an awesome date with an incredible woman and you haven’t had much success romantically so everything in your body is alternately screaming “DON’T F--K THIS UP OR YOU’LL BE ALONE FOREVER” and “LOCK THIS DOWN BEFORE SHE WISES UP NOW NOWNOWNOWNOWNOWNOW!” and that’s going to screw you over if you don’t get control of it. You’re working on a scarcity mindset right now and that’s going to color how you interact with her.  You’re feeling like she’s the only woman in the world who will ever be this awesome and that’s making you feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells.

Paradoxically, this attitude – the constant worry and fear that you’re about to screw things up – is going to cause most of your problems. You’re going to be expending so much mental energy trying to gauge how you’re doing with her by going over everything she says like it was the Zapruder film that you’re going to miss the forest for the trees. You’re going to worry that you’ve texted too much or that you’ve said something wrong and you’re going to end up living out that scene from Swingers where John Favreau calls that girl a dozen times and you’re not going to be able to sleep until you get another text from her to reassure yourself that you HAVEN’T f--ked up. You’re going to be radiating neediness like a radioactive chihuahua with separation anxiety and a cocaine habit.

On the other hand, if you accept that there are thousands upon thousands of awesome women out there and that she is just one of many who will dig you… you’re going to have an easier time. You’ll be able to enjoy talking to her and be your best self instead of trying to curate every single thing you do or say. You’ll be able to accept “yes” for an answer because you’ll be able to relax and appreciate that yeah, she digs you too. 

Start by realizing that she is not the last woman on Earth and every single interaction with her isn’t potentially the last time you’ll ever feel this way again and you’ll start to relax.

Second: 99.99% of the world is only free to date on weekends. Somehow they manage to make it work. Don’t feel like you need a date every two days to keep the emotional momentum going.

Third: The way you keep things going is to simply keep the conversation going. You don’t want to bowl her over with texts or WhatsApp messages, but you can send a (A. SINGULAR.) text about something related to the things you talked about or did on your date. If the two of you were kicking off like you said, then the chemistry between the two of you will help keep the conversation going. You can also send a (again, SINGULAR) cute meme or adorable short video that made you think of her or that you thought she would like. In a worst case scenario, here’s a text you can send that I’ve had great success with in getting the conversational ball rolling: “You just popped into my head, so I wanted to say ‘Hey’. Oh, and stay out of my head.”

Just stick to the basic ratio: one text per reply per day. If she doesn’t reply immediately, it’s not the end of the world, despite the worst-case scenarios playing out in your head. It likely just means she’s busy and will get back to you later. Flooding her with texts trying to provoke a response will only seem needy and unattractive.

So just chill out and be the cool guy who she had such a great time with on your date and all will be well. And plan another date already.

Good luck.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a woman and I’ve recently started online dating and I wanted to know whether you think it’s okay for a woman to make the first move online. How do you think it comes across online, if I was to make the first contact? In my view, I think it’s a bit aggressive. What is your view and advice?

– Rules? What Rules?

DEAR RULES? WHAT RULES?: While there can be the occasional risk, in my opinion, it’s always ok for a woman to make the first move, online or off.

To start with: there will be plenty of people who will be relieved that you’re taking the pressure off them to approach.

Second, consider it like a way of screening out the insecure and overly old-fashioned. If folks are too intimidated or otherwise put off by the fact that you took the initiative instead of them and thus have totally upset the gender-role apple cart… well, it’s probably a safe bet you didn’t want to date them in the first place.

Now that having been said, one of the reasons why a lot of women DON’T make the first move is because some men take it badly. Either they assume it’s some sort of trick or trap, or they think that she is FAR more interested in them than is actually warranted; after all, she wouldn’t have made the first move, right?

Once again, that’s going to be your filter: those are going to be guys that have, by dint of their responses, self-selected right out of your dating pool.

The other thing I would suggest that you should keep in mind: men and women tend to use dating apps differently, especially dating apps with a swipe mechanic. Because social mores tend to follow us online, men tend to initiate more with women on apps, just as in physical space. That means that women tend to be deluged with matches and messages and are incentivized to be more selective with who they respond to.

However, that means that a large number of men will swipe right on EVERYONE in hopes of maximizing their chances of making matches and then decide who they’re into after they match. So you could well match with someone on Tinder or Bumble, only to find out that they weren’t looking for you after all. It’s a lousy dynamic that makes everyone miserable — and it downgrades their profiles in the algorithm — but it’s still a thing that happens and it’s worth being aware of.

Oh, and as a general rule: if they only respond with a “hey” or a single sentence? That’s a match that’s probably not going to go anywhere good.

Good luck.

Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, doc@doctornerdlove.com