Dating For Dummies®

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Table of Contents


About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What’s Not Required Reading

Assumptions about You

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: The Starring Roles: Who Am I and Whom Do I Want?

Part II: Setting Up the Date

Part III: The Big Day: Preparation and Action

Part IV: The Day After and Beyond

Part V: Playing It Safe and Keeping It Fresh

Part VI: The Part of Tens


Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: The Starring Roles: Who Am I and Whom Do I Want?

Chapter 1: Thoroughly Modern Dating

Scoping Out the Changing Dating World

Speed bumps

Changing definitions of marriage: When and why

Fantasies and realities

Terrorism, war, and recession

Gadgets, gadgets everywhere!

Money matters



Dating in the Age of Facebook

Privacy versus publicity: Protection or prudery?

Avoiding the nostalgia trip trap

Computer common sense

Being aware of the pitfalls of “friending” a date

Dealing with Specialized Dating Situations

One of you is a lot older or younger

You’re different

You’re gay

You’re in a long-distance relationship

You’re involved in an office romance

You’re a single parent

You’re dating your best friend’s ex

You’re dating your relative’s ex

You’re a senior

You’re married

Keeping a Dating Notebook

Chapter 2: Being Confident

Handling Fear

Winning the Confidence Game

Appearing confident

Confidence on the inside

Confidence on the outside

Confidence builders

When you’re confident enough to date

False Confidence

Chapter 3: Polishing Your Social Self

Self-Assessment 101

Three-Heart Ideas

Taking yourself off house arrest

Making friends

Two-Heart Ideas

Charm practice

Reading the personals

Writing a personal ad for practice or real

One-Heart Ideas

Making a good first impression

Considering a mini-makeover

Learning from past experiences

Turning your fantasy self to reality

Broken Heart Ideas

Comparing yourself to others

Throwing pity parties

Vowing never again

Beating yourself up

Beating up Mom

Putting yourself under house arrest


Chapter 4: Finding Out What Makes You Tick

Starting with Mom and Dad

How Mom and Dad can still ground you

Escaping parental haunting

Looking for Patterns

Who Am I?

Describing an Ideal Match

Being the real you

A personal ad with no purse strings attached

Figuring Out If the Time Is Right for You

The wrong time

The right time

Chapter 5: The Per fect Date: Person and Place

A Word about Attitude — Yours

Searching for the Best Places to Meet Someone

The halls of academia

The people in your neighborhood

Parties, vacations, and other fun stuff

Grocery stores, bus stops, and other public places

Spirituality and altruism — a dating duo

Good sports win big

Friends, relatives, and — believe it or not — exes

The personals: Online and off

Avoiding Certain Places like the Plague

Planning a Cool Approach

The eyes have it

From your mouth . . .

Admitting you’re not perfect

Perking up pick-up lines

Part II: Setting Up the Date

Chapter 6: Asking for a Date

Risking Rejection

Improving Your Odds

Never ask for a first date for a Friday or Saturday night

Never say, “Would you like to go out sometime?”

Always offer options about the date

Remember that timing is everything

Always go for it if you’re having a good hair (or anything else) day

The Invitation: Sending the Message

Knowing What to Do with the Answer You Receive

Dealing with a no

Getting some feedback

Asking for a Phone Number

You want to get in touch with the person

You want to keep your options open

You’re not interested but don’t want to be rude

Giving Your Phone Number

You’d like to see the person again

You’re not sure whether you’re interested

No way, Jose

Deciding whether to give out your home phone number

Talking Once You’re on the Phone

Chapter 7: Plotting the Perfect (Sorta) First Date

Ten Rules for Planning a First Date

Rule 1: Pick an activity that you enjoy

Rule 2: Pick an activity that you can easily afford

Rule 3: Do something that doesn’t require new clothes

Rule 4: Go where you can talk without getting thrown out

Rule 5: Go to a place that’s easy to get to

Rule 6: Do something that isn’t competitive

Rule 7: Pick an activity that doesn’t involve a lot of alcohol

Rule 8: Leave time to get to know each other

Rule 9: Do something that doesn’t involve high-ticket others

Rule 10: Find an activity that doesn’t last more than a couple of hours

Exploring First Date Ideas

Good places for a first date

So-so ideas

Places and things to avoid

Doing the Restaurant Thing the Right Way

General considerations

Specific considerations

Who Pays?

Part III: The Big Day: Preparation and Action

Chapter 8: Getting Your Outside Ready

Suiting Up

Dressing for real-world dates

Bearing other factors in mind

Putting together an emergency repair kit

Cleanliness Is Next to Dateliness

Don’t sweat it

Hair apparent

D-day hygiene checklist

Taking Care of Business: Practical Details before You Leave Home





One Final Checklist

Ten Minutes to Lift-Off

Chapter 9: Getting Your Inside Ready

Understanding the Psychology of Stress

The stress wall

Creating chaos

Easing Your Mind

Mind over what’s-the-matter

Looking at every dater’s fears

Relaxing into your sweet self

Relaxing Your Body

Step 1: Heavy breathing

Step 2: Progressive relaxation

Step 3: Visualization

Pre-Date Affirmations: Sweet Talking to Yourself

Chapter 10: Impressions: First and Lasting

Before You Begin

Say What? Knowing What to Say

Opening gambits

Small talk

Safe subjects

Avoiding Taboo Topics





Flirting Fun

Interpreting Body Language

Positive signs

Negative signs


Listening Attentively and Effectively

Chapter 11: Having a Way Cool Time

Enjoying Yourself

Making the Most of the Place You Picked


Movies or plays


Sporting events

Special events

Fielding the Curve Balls

Surviving dating’s most embarrassing moments

Lighten up

Picking Up the Check

Ending the Date Gracefully

Successful date

So-so date

Disaster date

The Contact Issue: Handshakes, Hugs, or Liplocks

Keeping your lips to yourself

It’s in his (or her) kiss

The signs

What about sex on the first date?


Gaining a little perspective

Chilling out

Chapter 12: Not Having a Way Cool Time

Your Date Hates You

Me, paranoid?

Reading the signs

Getting more info

No whining!

Ending on a positive note

Tuition for Dating 101

You Hate Your Date

Making it to the (not) bitter end

Avoiding blame

Being polite

Proclaiming truth: Honesty is a tricky policy

Handling hurt feelings

Chalking it up to experience

You Hate Each Other

Facing facts

Speed bumps

Total turnoffs

Acknowledging the moment of truth

Exiting with style

Reviewing expectations

Starting Over

Part IV: The Day After and Beyond

Chapter 13: The Next Day

Second Thoughts on First Impressions

After an Icky Date

Paying life’s tuition

Restoring your confidence

After a So-So Date

Valium for the soul

All the right moves

After the Perfect Date

Testosterone versus Estrogen Central

Nine hints for limbo and surviving the wait

Men’s ten-day morphing into two-week rule

Believe in fate

Nix the gossip

Chapter 14: The Second Date

Is It Really a Second Date?

Dates versus date-ettes

Anatomy of a true second date

In Between Dates One and Two

Date Expectations

Good places for a second date

Mind over what’s-the-matter

Old patterns, new people

The First Fifteen Minutes of a Second Date

Getting to Know You

Trust or Consequences

The Last Fifteen Minutes of a Second Date

Chapter 15: To Blab or Not to Blab: Sharing Personal Info

Volunteering Information

Things to tell immediately

Things to tell eventually

Things to tell before sex

Things to tell if asked or pushed

Sharing Feelings

Keeping Mum

Past sexual experiences

Past relationships

Showing Interest

Good questions to ask

The Spanish Inquisition phenomenon

Avoiding Pitfalls

Chapter 16: Speed Bumps on Life’s Highway

Scoping Out the Four Stages of Attachment: The Gospel According to Dr. Joy

Applying the Brakes

Putting Off Sex

Baring your soul

Trusting your emotions

Not Getting Ahead of Yourself

Being Patient: You Can’t Hurry Love

Chapter 17: Getting to Serious

Casual versus Serious versus Heavy Dating

Casual dating

Serious dating

Heavy dating

The Role of Sex in a Relationship

What sex isn’t

What sex is

The Thing about Sex

Identifying the right time

Saying yes

Saying no

Soul Mates: Fact or Fiction?

Fish or Cut Bait: Relationship Evaluation

Chapter 18: Breaking Up

Decoding Warning Signs

Dealing with Evidence of Problems

Understanding the Break Up



Hauntings by ghosts




Friends and family




Substance abuse

Lack of trust


Making Last-Ditch Efforts


Taking responsibility

Keeping your fantasies to yourself

Avoiding ship-sinking mistakes

Taking time out

Making a Clean Break

Avoiding blame

Don’t ask why

Beyond the Breakup

Looking for patterns

Accepting that things don’t last forever

Always looking forward

Scrutinizing the details

Spending time alone

Sidestepping emotional pitfalls

Chapter 19: Rebound

Loosening the Ties That Bind

Defining Rebound

Using the Time Productively

Waiting It Out

Avoiding the Still Married, Separated, and Newly Divorced

Part V: Playing It Safe and Keeping It Fresh

Chapter 20: Safety First

Telling Somebody Where You’re Going

Getting Your Date’s Name, Rank, and Serial Number

Finding a Safe Haven

Meeting there

Meeting at your workplace or school

Meeting in your ’hood

Taking Cash

Achieving Safety in Numbers

Paying Attention to Your Intuition

Intuition is . . .

Intuition versus paranoia

It’s okay to get the heck out

Date Rape

Myths and facts about date rape

How to protect yourself if you’re a man

How to protect yourself if you’re a woman

How to protect yourself from the date rape drug


Looking for signs of obsession

Profile of a stalker

How to protect yourself from a stalker

Chapter 21: Dating Sight Unseen

Online Connections

Personal Ads

Blind Dates

Chapter 22: Keeping It Fresh, Alive, and Healthy

Send Flowers for No Reason

Write a Love Note

Reminisce about Your First Mutual Date

Share Baby Pictures and Stories

Give a Massage

Shampoo and Bathe Your Love

Clean Your Love’s Place

Give a “Generous Soul” Gift Certificate

Plan a Mystery Date

Take a Hike to Someplace New

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Chapter 23: Ten+ Do’s and Don’ts of Internet Dating

The To-Do List of Online Dating

Be precise

Make your English teacher proud

Keep the fibs to a minimum

Use an appropriate photo

Provide only a cell phone number

Date within a 25-mile radius

Meet publicly and make sure someone knows where you are

The Never-Do List of Online Dating

Don’t stay online too long before a meeting

Never online date on an office computer

Don’t get seduced in online “shopping”

Don’t rely on humor or sexual innuendo

Chapter 24: Ten Ways to Know You’re in Love

You Actually Want to Meet the Parents

You’re Willing to Explain Why You Don’t Want to Date Others

You’ll Ditch Your Little Black Book

You Breathe Easier When He or She Is Around

You Hum Love Songs under Your Breath

You’re Full of Energy

You’re Willing to Go Somewhere You Hate

You’re Willing to Save If You’re a Spendthrift and Spend If You’re Chintzy

The Idea of Doing Nothing Together Sounds Terrific

You’re Willing to Risk Being Yourself

Chapter 25: Ten Sexual Commandments of Dating

Don’t Get Naked Too Soon

No House Calls until Sex

Slow Down

No Sleeping Together Until You’re Ready for Sex

Don’t Have Unprotected Sex

Don’t Assume Your Date Is Responsible Sexually

Beware of Back Rubs

Don’t Confess

Don’t Fake It

Don’t Compare

Chapter 26: Ten Ways to Make You and Your Date Miserable







Say “You Always . . .” or “You Never . . .”


Be Passive

Find Fault

Appendix: Catch Phrases

Cheat Sheet

Dating For Dummies®

by Dr. Joy Browne


About the Author

Dr. Joy Browne is not only a dating guru, but also a licensed clinical psychologist who has hosted her own nationally and internationally syndicated talk show since dirt was invented. She has won numerous awards, including back-to-back female “Talk Show Host of the Year”; was nominated for the Marconi award for best talk show host; was named one of USA Today’s 10 most influential broadcasters; and is a member of Vanity Fair’s Radio Hall of Fame. The American Psychological Association has awarded her the President’s Award, and she is number 10 on the list of the 25 Greatest Radio Talk Show Hosts of all Time. She is the author of 14 books and counting. In her spare time she has appeared on everyone’s television show, including her own on CBS and Discovery Health. Dr. Joy enjoys hot air ballooning, yoga, and helping people to improve their lives. She has appeared in two Broadway shows, as well as several well-reviewed documentaries, and has made her singing debut at the Friar Club. Can Hollywood be far behind?

She’s gotten her dating experience on the front lines, by watching, listening, and doing, and is always working on a book about relationships.


To everyone who’s out there giving it the old camper’s try — courage!

Author’s Acknowledgments

Writing is hard, lonely work, which is why this section is so often over the top in sentiment. People who were there when you were going through the labor, saw you sweaty and cranky, and still stuck by you are much to be valued, and this group certainly qualifies.

Tami Booth was the midwife, if ever there was one. From moment one, she stayed the course, even with elements that seemed part of a cruel joke. Kathy Welton backed the project, even if it meant taking on the gods of conformity and wrestling them to the ground. Tracy Barr kept the work feasible when the effort was literally dissolving before everyone’s horrified eyes, and I thank her husband and babies for sharing her with me for weeks of phone calls and faxes and really dedicated work. Mary Hogan slapped life into a project that seemed oxygen-deprived and calmed me with her willingness to help and set limits. Kevin Thornton rode in on his trusty white horse to shepherd the project to the final glory.

For this new edition, Tracy Boggier kept her eye on the project even when it gave her a headache, as is the nature of her commitment. Chrissy Guthrie made online editing fun and a whole lot less scary. Having a team that is smart and also makes you feel smart is a true blessing.

I also want to thank all my callers who’ve shared their tales of woe or wonder; friends and family members (you know who you are) who’ve called at 2 a.m. to cry or celebrate; and certainly all the guys who’ve made me part of the great dating experience.

If you see yourself in this book, think kindly of both of us, because, after all, when it comes to dating, we’re all dummies.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Christina Guthrie

Acquisitions Editor: Tracy Boggier

Assistant Editor: David Lutton

Technical Editor: April Braswell

Editorial Manager: Christine Meloy Beck

Editorial Assistants: Rachelle Amick, Jennette ElNaggar

Cover Photos: © / aleksandar velasevic

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Sheree Montgomery

Layout and Graphics: Stephanie D. Jumper

Proofreader: Toni Settle

Indexer: Cheryl Duksta

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Dating makes everybody feel like a dummy, whether you’re 15 or 115, going out on your first date or rejoining the dating scene after your grandkids have started dating. “It’s still the same old story” — as sung by Dooley Wilson (or as you probably know him, Sam) in Casablanca — “a search for love and glory,” and there really are some fundamental things that do apply. I lay them all out for you, not so that you can be a stud muffin or the hottest kid on the block, but so that you can understand a bit more about yourself, your date to be, and the whole process. Then maybe the old palms will sweat less, and believe it or not, you may actually have some fun.

After all, dating should be fun. It’s not like your whole life or livelihood depends on one date or several dates. The purpose of dating is simple: getting to know someone and letting that person get to know you so that you can decide whether you’re interested in spending any more time together. Nothing more, nothing less. Put aside the notion that you’re looking for a mate or a one-night stand or someone to please your mom. You’re just dating so that you can get to know somebody a bit and let him or her get to know you.

So what are the ironclad follow-these-steps-and-you’ll-never-fail, step-on-a-crack-and-you’ll-break-your-mother’s-back rules of dating? They don’t exist. There are some guidelines, suggestions, and observations, but this whole experience is a bit free form since you’re unique and so is everyone you’ll ever date. So this book is about helping you understand who you are and what you want — some commonly held assumptions, traits, and perils that will allow you to be exactly the person you are. That way, if you’re having fun and your date is having fun, you’re going to want to do it again.

So why such sweaty palms if this is supposed to be fun? Men and women have been getting together for thousands of years after all. No, it’s not because you’re the nerd of the universe and everybody else is way cool. It’s because the way people date — their expectations and assumptions and goals — have changed with the times.

Adam and Eve were the original blind date (and we know who fixed them up). It’s been a lot rockier ever since (ever wonder who Cain and Abel dated?). In the caves, dating was mostly about who had the biggest club (no, not that club) and could carry off the choice woman. I don’t think flowers and candy played a very big part. A few eons passed, and we moved from caves and plains to hamlets to villages to towns to cities, and our courting rituals evolved, but still dating really wasn’t allowed. Marriages were arranged by families for political and economic reasons. Not only did women have no say, but neither did the men.

Today, not only do we get to pick who we want to marry (at least in this country), but we get to audition them, which brings us to dating. In its purest form, dating is auditioning for mating (and auditioning means we may or may not get the part). Not only has dating gotten complicated (women can ask guys out), but mating has gotten really complicated as well. And then there’s romance, truly the plague of the 21st century. Romance has made expectations completely unrealistic.

With dating, we’re talking individual style — you and your little quirks, which are going to change over time and from person to person, at least a bit. You’re going to be a slightly different soul depending on whether you’re going out with somebody you met at a bus stop, your best friend’s little sister, or your mom’s law partner’s nephew. So don’t go for somebody else’s style. If you’re determined to mimic your incredibly cool friend, adapt the moves to your style and your partner. The key is to stay light on your feet, be willing to improvise, and believe down to the bottom of your shapely toes that your style is the one that’s right for you. (And if it hasn’t worked so well in the past, this book can help you figure out why and what you need to do to fine-tune your style so that you’re cookin’.)

Before you find yourself hyperventilating over the prospect of dating, remember that there is no single, right way to date or to ask somebody out. And there is no such thing as a perfect experience that will make someone fall madly and passionately in love with you. A date is a unicorn, an imaginary beast that is unique in every situation. But not to worry: This book helps you get it all sorted out so that you can feel like you know what you’re doing, have some sense of direction and some idea of what your date is doing and thinking, and even have some fun.

About This Book

Lots of books have been written about how to be the perfect date — how to mold yourself into a package that no one of the opposite sex will be able to resist. I want you to resist this notion strenuously. Think about it for a minute: If you pretend to be a stud muffin or a Barbie doll or a pretty woman or a man in black and that’s not the real you, and if your date likes what you’re pretending to be, you have to continue pretending endlessly or, when the real you emerges, the deal is blown. Even if you decide to be your best possible self, are you going to be able to maintain that posture endlessly? If not, when you let yourself unwind you may find your date hurt, angry, and confused about how you presented yourself initially and who you are now. The whole thing about dating is maintainability.

I wrote this book to be about real-life dating:

In this book, I tell you where to find members of the opposite sex, explain the difference between good and bad pick-up lines, give you pointers on what to wear and what to avoid, describe the perfect place to begin scouting for the perfect date and the perfect date place, and offer a lot of other information, including how much happier you’ll be if you don’t worry about the “perfect” anything. After all, a little imperfection makes the world go round.

The time frame of this book spans from the time you decide you want to date (or date smarter) until six to nine months after your first date, which is the watershed period: the time when most daters either break up, which means they go back to the beginning, or go on to couplehood. That’s a fair amount of leeway, and it depends on lots of factors that I discuss in the chapters that follow.

Dating stops when couplehood begins; relationships deal with commitment and the M word (marriage) and cheating and money and parents and babies and all that sort of stuff.

Remember: The nice thing about a date is that it’s just a date. It’s an opportunity, a time, a place, and a situation for one person to get to know another person. It’s not an invitation for sex or marriage or to meet Mom or to find someone to produce a child with or to impress your friends or to get your folks off your back or to prove that you’re not a loner. Dating is no big deal. But it can feel really, really scary because it has to do with big-ticket items: the opposite sex and rejection. Yikes! I don’t promise to take all the adrenaline out of dating ’cause that would also remove the fun, but at least I can try to smooth out some of the panic and show you why your palms are sweating and the origin of those tummy butterflies so you can enjoy the ride.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following conventions are used throughout the text to make things consistent and easy to understand:

All Web addresses appear in monofont.

New terms appear in italic and are closely followed by an easy-to-understand definition.

Bold is used to highlight the action parts of numbered steps.

What’s Not Required Reading

I’ve written this book so that you can 1) find information easily and 2) easily understand what you find. And although I’d like to believe that you want to pore over every last word between the two yellow and black covers, I actually make it easy for you to identify “skippable” material. This information is the stuff that, although interesting and related to the topic at hand, isn’t essential for you to know. (That means no pop quiz, but I did go to a lot of trouble to write it, so I hope you read every word. If you don’t, okay — sniff, sniff —whatever makes you happy.)

Text in sidebars: The sidebars are the shaded boxes that appear here and there. They share cool ideas, personal stories, and observations, but aren’t critical.

Text next to the biology icon: I went to medical school; I love mind-body connections. Realistically, technically you don’t have to read this stuff, but I love it and hope you will too.

The stuff on the copyright page: No kidding. You’ll find nothing here of interest unless you’re inexplicably enamored by legal language and Library of Congress numbers. Even I have been known to bypass this stuff after being sure my name is spelled correctly.

Assumptions about You

In writing this book, I made some assumptions about you:

You are straight, that is, heterosexual: Statistically, most people are heterosexual, and my goal is to reach the widest audience. Also, many of the issues between opposite-sex dating and same-sex dating are similar, and most are identical. If you find something that I’ve overlooked, write and tell me what works and what doesn’t for you at You can also see current pictures of me there, find out where and when to hear or see me on the radio and television, get my take on current movies and theatre, and see if I’ve written anything new that might interest you.

You are above the age of consent: This book is a grown-up look at a subject that involves us from childhood, so in reading it, remember that when it comes to the sexual parts, I want you over the age of consent — 18, in most cases. Sex is for adult, responsible folk. If you’re a minor, read the stuff about sex as something you’re going to do someday, but not now (and when you do, take it seriously and respectfully); the rest of the stuff should be pretty useful to you now.

You are dating in the United States: Because dating customs vary widely in different parts of the world, writing a book on dating worldwide is a whole different project. As an anthropologist (yeah, I have degrees in just about everything), I, too, am fascinated by cross-cultural stuff. This book focuses on what I know best: U.S. dating customs. If you are not from the United States, consider this book as a sort of insider’s guide to American dating practices, a kind of roundabout way to see how dating in the United States works.

You are not a predator: You genuinely care about yourself as well as others and getting to know another human being in an intimate and meaningful way.

You wish this book came in a plain brown wrapper: If anybody sees you with it, you say you’re buying it for a friend or you heard my radio program and bought it for a giggle. Even my daughter has been tempted to disown me when a date sees my book in her bookcase.

How This Book Is Organized

I organized this book so that you can find information easily, whether you’re using it like a reference or reading it front to back. I’ve divided it into six parts, each part containing chapters relevant to that specific topic. In addition, I’ve included an appendix of terms and meanings because I think they’re useful but not worth a whole chapter.

Part I: The Starring Roles: Who Am I and Whom Do I Want?

Any successful dating experience starts with you; that’s why the focus in Part I is you — getting you ready to begin the glorious adventure of dating. In this part, I give you pointers on being confident, even if confidence is the last thing you feel; getting yourself ready to venture forth into the dating world; and uncovering some of the less than helpful patterns you may have fallen into so that you can be aware and active and can take more control of your behavior. Also in this part, I help you figure out whether now is a good time to begin dating or not.

If you’re new to dating, have been away from the dating scene for a while, or aren’t happy with the way your dates have been turning out lately, this part is where you want to begin. Even if you read only this part, you’ll still find tons of good information about being a happier and emotionally healthier person.

After you figure yourself out, the next item on the agenda is figuring out who you want, where you can find that person, and how you can make your approach so that you two can get together. I give you the lowdown on great places to meet a potential date and pointers on how to approach Mr. or Ms. Intriguing once you do find them.

Making the initial approach is probably one of the toughest parts of meeting someone new — will he like me? Will she turn away? Will I make a fool of myself? I share tips on what works, what doesn’t work, and how you can maneuver gracefully through the encounter, no matter how it turns out.

Part II: Setting Up the Date

You’ve met someone, you think you two click, and now you’re at the next step: setting up a date. In Part II, you can find surefire tips on how to ask for a date so that you get the answer you want or, if the answer is no, so that you can bow out gracefully with your dignity intact. I also tell you how to deal with the potentially sticky situation of getting (or giving out) a phone number, and what to look for in the place you pick for the date.

Part III: The Big Day: Preparation and Action

It’s date day. You’re probably feeling anxious, excited, hopeful, giddy, and a little queasy. This part takes you through getting ready, from the outside to the inside to the last-minute things you do. In this part, I give pointers on everything from what to wear (and what not to wear) to the things you should carry out the door with you to how you can relax and prepare yourself mentally for a great time.

In this part, I also give you the information you need to make it over the first (generally awkward) minutes of a first date: things like what to talk about and what to avoid, how to flirt, how to listen, and how to gauge how things are going by being aware of body language.

Also in this part, you can find information dealing with just about every scenario you may encounter on a first date. I cover how you can turn an ordinary date into something extraordinary and how you can turn that great time into date number two. I also give pointers on how to navigate through potentially embarrassing or awkward moments, how to end the date, how to deal with the kiss questions (do you or don’t you and how can you tell whether your date wants to, and even how to), and how to step back after it’s over and gain a sense of perspective on the evening.

Since not all dates go wonderfully, I explain how to read the signs of a date going south, and how to handle those not-so-great dates so that you come out looking like the prince or princess you are.

Part IV: The Day After and Beyond

Every date — good, bad, or indifferent — has a day after, and in this part, you can find out how to handle the next day, the next date, and everything that can potentially come after. I also list what things you need to share (and what things you must keep quiet) if your date is turning into a relationship-to-be and when you should share them. I explain the differences between casual, serious, and heavy dating, and how sex can impact the budding relationship. There are also several emphatic words to the wise about silence being golden, especially when it comes to the Internet.

If your date has turned into a relationship and things don’t seem to be working out, I explain how to read the warning signs, what you can do to try to save the relationship, and, when all else fails, how to break up without either of you falling to pieces and how to move beyond the breakup. Finally, a real danger when you’re feeling vulnerable after a breakup is rebound, so I spend a whole chapter explaining what that is and why you must avoid it.

Part V: Playing It Safe and Keeping It Fresh

This part covers how you can safeguard yourself from potentially dangerous situations, from things as obvious as letting a friend know where you’re going to less obvious things like paying attention to your intuition. Also, in this day and age, when people meet online or through dating services or the personals, knowing how to protect yourself when your first date is the first time you meet face to face is especially important. Unfortunately, a book on dating isn’t complete without information about how you can protect yourself from the slight but real risks of dating’s dark side: date rape and stalkers. And I also cover how to protect yourself from yourself in terms of the blab factor, especially when it comes to Facebook and other social network sites.

And this part isn’t just about safety; it’s also about how to keep things fresh when your date turns out to be the first step in a long-term, committed relationship. From sending flowers for no good reason to offering to go someplace that isn’t high on your must-see list, I explain how to show your ongoing appreciation for this person who has become much more than just your date.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

This part contains lists including “Ten Do’s and Don’ts of Internet Dating,” “Ten Ways to Know You’re in Love,” and more. These lists give you good information in quick, snappy bursts.


At the end of Part VI, you find an appendix to help you translate common lines like “Can’t we just be friends?” or “You’re too good for me,” so that you can understand what is really being said.

Icons Used in This Book

I include some symbols to make it easier to whiz through the book at the speed of light or to peruse it at your leisure.

coolidea.eps You find this icon beside neat things you may want to try.

biology_dating.eps This icon appears beside information that explains the biological reasons for why things happen. Although you don’t technically need to know this stuff, reading it can give you a lot of insight into why humans do what they do. In the nature versus nurture debate, consider this icon the nature side.

girlstuff_dating.eps Whenever the information relates primarily to women, I indicate it with this icon. This doesn’t mean, however, that only women should read this material. In fact, you guys can get quite a bit of insight into female behavior by paying attention to this stuff.

guystuff_dating.eps If the information relates primarily to men, I use this icon. (Girls, if you want to understand men a little better, take a peek at this stuff.)

beware_dating.eps Some things just aren’t good ideas: They’re dangerous, hurtful, harmful, and to be avoided. I use this icon to flag any behavior or situation you need to steer clear of.

drjoysays.eps Of course, you could consider this whole book one giant Dr. Joy Says icon; after all, I wrote everything in here. But periodically, I make points that I think you need to pay special attention to, for your own well-being and best interest. Consider this icon roughly equivalent to your momma saying, “I’m talking to you,” when she wanted you to pay extra attention.

remember.eps This icon marks general information that is important enough for you to keep in mind.

Where to Go from Here

You can read this book from front to back or treat it like a reference and hop around, reading only those sections that apply to you. If you don’t want to read through the entire book, here is a brief guide on where you can find information specific to your situation (you can also use the Table of Contents or the Index to find specific topics):

If You Are


Young (13 to 17)

Whole book, but ignore Chapter 17 about sex.

Inexperienced (that is, have never dated, have done no serious dating, have dated fewer than three people, or have had fewer than three dates)

Whole book, but go slow. Almost everybody feels like a dummy to start.


During the year you are waiting to resume dating (and no dating until one full year has passed), read Part I carefully, especially Chapter 4 about figuring out who you are, what you want, what went wrong, and waiting. Also read Chapter 19 on rebound. (It’s also not a terrible idea to do some work on self, with or without a therapist.)


Don’t even think about dating. Follow the same advice for divorced (see the preceding), only more so, and memorize Chapter 19 on rebound.

Unhappily married or involved

Chapter 17, Chapter 18 on breaking up, and Chapter 19 on rebound. And don’t even think about thinking about dating yet. Work on your relationship; if it doesn’t work out, you still have to wait a year after the divorce or final breakup becomes final.


If you’re widowed at least a year, follow the advice for divorced (see earlier item). If you’re widowed less than a year, put the book aside, hang out with friends in groups, and look at the cover once a month, but no reading until the first-year anniversary.


If all you are is older and aren’t widowed or divorced or separated, start from the beginning and just read faster. When it comes to dating, everyone is in the same boat, regardless of age, so enjoy and be willing to feel inept and young and inexperienced all over again. Is that such a bad thing? Maybe not.

Remember, this is a reference book, not a bible. Write in the margins, underline passages, dog-ear pages, and put that cool contact paper on the front if you want.

No panicking, no whining, and no comparing. Okay. Let’s go!

Part I

The Starring Roles: Who Am I and Whom Do I Want?


In this part . . .

Dating is the emotional apex of who you are at this very moment in time. The way you feel, act, walk, talk, sashay, flirt, or dish the dirt all play a part in attracting or totally turning off the ideal date. So right out of the gate, you’ve gotta get clear on who you are because if you can’t figure out who you are, how are you going to figure out who you want in life?

Listen up: You, and you alone, are the beginning of any dating experience — not your prince or princess charming, not your fantasy or your blind date to be. You, little ole you. In this part, it’s time to take a look at your patterns, your tendencies, your needs, your desires, your past boo-boos, and your future hopes. Especially when talking about dating, self-awareness brings action and power and the potential for lots of fun — which is what truly great dates are all about. While how you date may shift, knowing thyself is always the beginning, so no short cuts or skipping through this part.

After you’ve done the appropriate homework on yourself, you’re ready to look for love in all the right places. This part also covers how to dip your toe gracefully into the dating waters without falling flat on your face — and how to use technology to test the waters rather than as a substitute for flesh and blood, sweaty palmed, face-to-face meet and greet.