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The First Date

Sunday night, after driving back from Atlanta, I went over to a bar called Cheers (where, surprisingly, they do NOT know my name) for its weekly Open Mic night.

Cheers is not what I would call a warm and cozy place.  It’s relatively stark and bare bones, and while everyone there is friendly, it isn’t a place that provides a hearty welcome to newcomers.  The first time I was in there, it made me think of one of the fraternity houses at my undergrad, which was 98% Greek – it’s smoky and dark and has TVs and dartboards everywhere.  I’m comfortable there, and I like the place, but the emphasis is definitely not on the ambience.

While I was there, doing my set, I noticed a man and a woman sitting at a table that was quite close to the microphone and speaker setup.  The woman seemed completely mortified at all of the vulgar parts of my set, to the point where she was covering her face during most of my time on stage.

After my set, I walked over to them and said “I hope I didn’t scar you too badly – I could tell you were a bit embarrassed.”

She smiled and said “Well, we’re on a first date, and I didn’t think I was expecting that.”

After that, blah blah blah, we had meaningless conversation and I left them alone.  What struck me, though, was the following:

Who the fuck would go on a first date to a bar like this?

It’s loud.  Smoking is allowed.  It’s not intimate.

I don’t get it.

Now, I know that I may be an anomaly, because every first date I’ve been on in the last year and a half has cost me at least $100-200.  I usually choose high quality restaurants that provide good atmosphere and good food in addition to also making a good impression.

I’m also aware that some people out there would rather have a first date that’s less pressure or less commitment.  They would prefer to go out for drinks or coffee, so they can end the date easily and escape unscathed.  I think that’s a cynical way to look at dating and possibly sets the tone for the remainder of the relationship, if there is any.

But, even if someone was only interested in going out for drinks on a first date, there are high end restaurants in the area that have bars inside them, where you can relax, enjoy a drink, and talk to your date without some fat hairy idiot talking about anal bleaching in your ear.

The only conclusions I can make from my scant impression of this couple is either that the guy is high up on the scale of douchebaggery, that the girl was desperate and had absolutely zero standards, or both.

Am I completely wrong on this?  If you were dating, would you want a first date in a dark, atmosphere-free, smoke-filled, loud bar?

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87 Replies to “The First Date”

  1. Kate

    Seriously? You spend $100-200 on a first date? I’m just being real here, but I think you are probably one of the few, and, obviously, one of the awesome. Thank you for verbalizing a higher, less cynical (less anti-climactic) standard.

    Also, if she’s going to go out with a douche-y guy to a smokey bar, why bother being a priss? She should probably woman up and not be such a pansy about what is clearly amazing comedy. Just saying.

  2. Trish Smith

    Well, part of it could be the cost – even just going to the bar in a nice hotel can easily set you back $30-$50, if one or both of the parties is a drinker.

    However, there are surely some small coffeehouses or cozy local (inexpensive) restaurants in the area that would be better choices. I think you might be right (yeh, I’m as shocked as you) – you’re dealing with low standards and possible douchebaggery.

  3. Nancy

    Comedy clubs are totally acceptable for first dates. smoky bars? Not so much. I like your approach much better. Hopefully it pays some long-term dividends sooner than later.

  4. Ray Pihlajamäki

    He’s either a Douche Bag or Clueless Joe Jackson! If she was embarrassed by your set and had no idea what she was getting into, she should’ve kicked him to the curb at the front door!

  5. Lisa

    No, not personally, but I haven’t been on many first dates so I don’t know. I’d definitely prefer somewhere conversation-friendly, though. I’m going to go with clueless instead of intentional douchebaggery because I like to think positively.

  6. Blondefabulous

    A guy who spends $100 to $200 on the first day would be a little daunting for me, but I wouldn’t want to be in a smoky, dank bar either. Give me a middle of the road bistro where there isn’t loud background music or too many tables crammed on the floor and I do much better!

    One thing I don’t understand is people who go to the movies on a first date. You don’t know each other’s tastes in film yet obviously, and you spend one and a half to two hours saying absolutely NOTHING to each other! How is that getting to know someone??

  7. Employee No. 3699

    My husband and I actually had our first date at a dark and smoky comedy bar.

    Now before you start thinking he’s a douche bag or I’m some low class dame, let me set the record straight.

    We had already known each other for several years and had agreed to go out for dinner and a comedy show as friends. One of the comedians said he could tell if couples in the audience were married or on a date by where they were sitting. If you were next to each other you were on a date; if you sat across from one another you were married. After trying his hypothesis on a few couples he turned to us. We were sitting across from each other and told him his theory was wrong as we weren’t married. The assumption was then made that we were on a date and he told me to give Paul a kiss, so I leaned over and gave him a peck. The audience booed me, the comedian booed me and I’m pretty sure the wait staff and bartenders booed me too. He then told me to give him a ‘real’ kiss; so not only because I was put on the spot, but in the spot light as well, I did. As the story goes, our night out as friends turned into our first date.

  8. Clown

    I have so many problems with this post, with a lot of items we’ve even talked about before.

    On them:
    Your scant impression is just that. You know nothing about those people. Maybe they both like smokey places? I wouldn’t, but I hate bars and smoke. Lots of people don’t. Some people really enjoy bar atmosphere’s and it makes them more comfortable… Less pressure than an expensive restaurant. Maybe it wasn’t cheap, some people drink a lot. Even if it was, the context of how the date came about was lost unless you didn’t share it. Perhaps they had dinner separately that night, got to talking, and one of them was wanting to go there or somewhere for drinks and the other decided to tag along. I recall you having at least one or two last minute first dates with somebody you started talking to a few hours prior. ACTUALLY – Didn’t you also go on a first date in a dark, atmosphere-free, loud bar/lounge? (Red Fox-There’s even Facebook proof!) I bet you hate my memory right now. 🙂

    Next, You:
    As we’ve talked about, I think it’s silly spending at least $100-200 on a first date. There may be a situation where it fits, but more often than not I think it’s a bad idea. Why do the same thing for each first date when everybody is different? For a lot of people that kind of first date could be daunting and put somebody’s guards up. It can also give the totally wrong impression with somebody. It’s like meeting somebody at church and later being surprised when you see them out at a bar doing shots and swearing at a tv. You’re dating somebody for their normal self, not the version that gets ready for a special evening. I think it may also make some women weary of ulterior motives or feel like the guys expects something. The people and their situation should dictate a first date, not silly rules about how fancy or expensive it should be. I think the only requirement to a first date is that both people are comfortable and able to be themselves. I don’t even think the place HAS to be intimate. As long as you’re able to talk (it obviously wasn’t too loud last night that you weren’t able to talk to the couple) and enjoy each others company, the environment or number of people there shouldn’t matter.

    So… Yes, you’re completely wrong on this.

    • Avitable

      @Clown, first of all, are you trying to lecture me about judging someone based on a scant impression? Nice try. I didn’t say this, but the guy looked like a douchebag, too. And the Red Fox is only a good place because of its atmosphere and ambience. Otherwise, it would be the same caliber.

      Secondly, it’s not silly spending $100 on a first date. It’s not like you have to dress formally to go out to Ruth’s Chris or Fleming’s for dinner. And if a girl is going to think that a guy expects something for spending money on a nice meal, they’ll learn otherwise at the end of the night.

      This girl was NOT comfortable, it was too loud to talk (I had to shout over the speaker that they were sitting under), and they ordered food, so this wasn’t a second location after meeting for dinner after. The guy’s a douchebag.

      • Clown

        @Avitable, That’s exactly what I’m doing!

        Also, I didn’t say I think it’s silly to spend $100 on a first date. I think it’s silly to spend “at least $100-200 on every first date”, and I also said there are exceptions. It’s actually less about the amount than it is the amount at a nice restaurant. $30-$40 entrees, drinks, blah blah blah. That’s a nice date, I think it’s silly as a first date for every woman. I was giving reasons why it might not be right for some.

        Personally, out of the first dates of yours that I heard about, the Red Fox lounge sounded like the best. A lot of that had to do with it not being exactly like the others. You could have spent $200 on drinks and it wouldn’t be the same as going to Houstons or wherever each time.

        Maybe I’m the crazy one here (I’m not!), but without more information, there’s no way to convince me that just taking somebody to a crappy bar on a first date makes them a douche. The guy may be a douchebag, but not only because of the location. You could go bowling somewhere loud and smokey and it could be a good first date.

  9. Kirsty

    I’m not sure I’ve ever actually been on a “first date” (things tended to happen “at home” when I was young, including with my now ex) but I can say this: a) I’d be seriously unimpressed to be taken to that kind of bar UNLESS there were a comic like you performing, in which case it would be awesome; b) I’d be thrilled (and blown away) if someone spent more than $100 on a first date with me (can you tell I have low self-esteem? and little experience of dating? and little likelihood of ever dating again?).
    Depending on the age of the couple, I’d have to say douchebaggery (for the “over 25” age range) or broke (for the young ones), or possibly just total lack of “how to impress” on the guy’s part…

  10. SciFi Dad

    For what it’s worth, I would have thought the same thing you did had I seen that.

    That being said, there’s a huge gap between a smoky bar and $200 dinners, and I fall in the middle, not at the extreme where you are.

  11. Grant

    Maybe one was a smoker and just HAD to go someplace they could light up. Or they were trying to set the tone for the relationship. Your way sounds like a recipe for disappointment. His way should create no expectations whatsoever.

  12. gingermandy

    I’d actually probably like that more than a date somewhere super nice or overly intimate, it seems like there would be less pressure and they would open up because they’re both laughing and having fun. However, if one of them finds anal bleaching awesome and hilarious and the other is like “omg how awkward and embarrassing I hate this so much,” then it could be bad news bears.

    I prefer dive bars over most places though, it’s easier to be relaxed, at least for me.

    • Avitable

      @gingermandy, the problem is that you couldn’t even talk – you had to shout to even be heard. And overly intimate is different than a relaxing, intimate environment where you can have a normal, nice conversation.

  13. Maria

    lmaooooo I read the post and the only thing that caught my attention is that you did a bit on anal bleaching, now that i would have loved to have heard. The guy was trying to get her drunk so he could get laid, they do it in cheap places and in expensive places too. Adam please continue to be YOU there are more than enough douchy guys out there 🙂

  14. Nenette

    I would’ve loved to go on a first date with you, Adam! You’re so sweet and considerate.
    I’m all for the nice restaurant and a place where we could talk and get to know one another. Maybe not too expensive and not too formal, just comfortable and classy. Definitely no smoking. Maybe where the decor separates us from other tables enough for some privacy and intimacy. (Or maybe that’s for Second or Third Dates.)
    To really impress me, take me to a place where they serve ethnic food, where we can both try something new.
    I’m totally a “modern woman” (whatever the hell that means), but I still swoon over real gentlemen who would treat me like a lady. And you’re one of those gentlemen, Adam, darling.

  15. Jay

    Spending that kind of money on a first date is okay if it’s who you really are. But, if you go someplace fancy and spend nearly $200 on the first date and then the next five are at Der Wienershnitzel it might not work out to well.

    A comedy club seems like a bad first date though. No real opportunity for conversation or anything like that.

  16. Headless Mom

    That would have actually been my first choice for a first date back in the day. You know, in my early-mid 20’s. I don’t ever plan on having another first date, but if I did I’m still not sure that I would mind. Start with low expectations and there’s nowhere to go but up, right?

    • Avitable

      @Headless Mom, or there’s no reason to improve those expectations, either. And no, you wouldn’t have wanted to go here. There wasn’t any redeeming factor for a first date. Another bar, maybe, yeah.

  17. Sybil Law

    I wouldn’t mind going to a place like that on a first date, but it depends on the guy, too, and a whole host of other situations. But honestly, I’d think any guy who took me to a place to impress and spent $200 on a first date was trying WAY too hard, and I’d think you’d have the same motives that you’re assuming this guy has – trying to get some action. Really. Finding a happy medium there would be my ideal first date. (Also, don’t talk to me about drinks and entrees and how that’s not that crazy, because $200 on a first date is fucking nuts.)

    • Avitable

      @Sybil Law, I think you’d mind this specific place just because it’s pretty much a void of anything worthwhile.

      Who said that you’d have to be trying hard to impress someone to spend $200 on a first date? I’ve had dinner out, which cost around $100, and then we went out to a bar or club later, and that cost another $100. That adds up easily.

      Going out to a normal restaurant like Ruth’s Chris isn’t trying to impress anyone. I eat there normally when I’m not dating someone.

  18. muskrat

    Sounds like where I took Deb!
    Rustic and real doesn’t bother me as far as atmosphere goes, but ain’t no way we’re going to hear a foul-mouthed comedian. I’m not sure I’d take a girl to such an event now.

  19. B.E. Earl

    Different folks for different strokes, dude.

    Here’s how my first date with Gia went. Went to dinner at a fantastic seafood restaurant in NYC called Pompano that specialized in different types of ceviche. It wasn’t cheap. Then we headed to the Whiskey Blue in the W Hotel for a couple of more cocktails and conversation. Fancy joint, and it wasn’t cheap. It was a Sunday night and we were both off on Monday, so we decided after that to hit up another bar because it was 1AM and the Whiskey was closing. So we wound up at Ruby’s Bar & Grill in Hell’s Kitchen. A famous and glorious dive bar with free hot dogs, cheap beer, crazy characters, warped floorboards and booths held together by red duct tape. Closed that joint at 4AM. It was gloriously cheap.

    Now, if you had run into us between 1-4AM, you would have undoubtedly heard us say that it was our first date. And you probably would have thought the same thing that you thought about this particular couple at Cheers, because Ruby’s, for all its charms, is not nice.

    C’mon dude! No way you can make a snap judgment like that! So, yeah…what Clown said.

    • B.E. Earl

      @B.E. Earl, Oh, and having a “standard” first date isn’t a good idea. A friend of mine took every first date of his to a restaurant called “One if by Land, Two if by Sea”. Generally regarded as NYC most romantic restaurant. Never worked out for him. The first date with his now wife was at a dive bar in Atlanta. It all depends upon the people involved.

    • Avitable

      @B.E. Earl, well, we already know that Gia has low standards. And I can absolutely make that snap judgment:

      1. It was 8:30 PM. This wasn’t the final stop of a first date. That, I understand.
      2. They ordered dinner. This was their first stop.
      3. This is not a famous nor a glorious location. This isn’t a dive bar you go to for any reason unless you know the people there.

  20. Jen

    My first date with one guy was to see the movie Liar Liar and then we went to Dennys so clearly I have no class but this bar sounds like a pretty bad first date even to me. I usually prefer to have the background noise of an anal bleaching based comedy routine blasting in my ear on the third date.

  21. David

    Long time reader, first time commenter…be gentle.

    I’m giving the guy the benefit of the doubt on this one. Perhaps they had already done dinner, where he unloaded his wallet appropriately and found that his date really wasn’t what he was looking for. People always assume that it is the woman that is ready to hatch an escape plan from a first date, but there are times when a man needs to grab his parachute and bail out of a perfectly functioning plane as well.

    Maybe Cheers was his plan. Maybe she didn’t realize the date was going horribly and in an effort to ensure that she never wanted to see him again, he took her to a dive bar that would leave her with a lasting impression.

    I’ve found this about women: The overall date quality is generally 5% of the first date. It’s that last mini-date at the end of the night that they judge the evening by. Where you take them after the whole churned out dinner/movie debacle is what they’re talking about to their friends the next morning.

    But, who knows? Maybe the guy was just a doucher that had a buddy threatening to play an accoustic version of Stairway to Heaven at open mic night and he thought it would impress his date into dropping her knickers….

      • David

        Thanks for being gentle, I barely felt that.

        Meh… I agree with your assesment of the situation then. Guy was a tool. And despite the multitude of comments otherwise, I agree with your observations regarding a first date. $100-200 should be the minimum.

  22. Karen

    I am the kind of person who’d rather hang out at a sports bar or go to comedy club or see a live band than do the fancy fine dining. I’d like the first date to reflect the kind of person I am and the kind of person my date is (hopefully). For me first dates should be low key, fun, and offer the opportunity to let our personalities shine.

  23. Anna Marie

    While I get what you are saying about the guy being a douchebag, my 1st thought was that he planned the whole thing and she was too nice to say anything…which actually circles back to him being a douche. Hm.

    Hopefully there was no second date.

  24. Allyson

    I know I’m late to the party and all, but – What I look for on a first date is creativity. If I feel like I’m on a date that has a routine, or schedule, I’m immediately put off. So a first date to a dank bar could be fine. I see a scenario where the couple leaves and spends the rest of the evening talking about what a horrible place it was, and how the comedian was good, but anal bleaching really? and then they laugh, and agree that next time they should go to a place they’re more familiar with. My best first date, for the record – I was taken to a small beach town in New Jersey, where we walked to a local grocery, bought a loaf of bread, a bag of peanuts and 2 bottles of water. Then we walked to a park bench and fed squirrels, birds, chipmunks, and a turtle. Then we hit a coffee shop for sandwiches and coffee, and the date ended at my front door.

  25. Gina

    A comedy club would make a great date, but not a great first date.

    Unfortunately not all people are willing to invest as much financially into a first date as you are. I think it is so awesome that you are willing to spend up to a $100 on even a first date. Any girl would be lucky to have you, for this and many, many reasons.

    You really are an amazing person, Adam.

  26. usedtobeme

    I met The Man on a blind date. We went to a country barwhere he dissappeared into the pool room and I hooked up with friends for the next two hours. We then hooked up with each other for the next two hours. Then we went to some shitty diner at 2 am and he took me home. We’ve been together 17 years this year. If he’d have taken me to a high end place on the first date I’d have wondered what he was really like. Now if he took me to a S&M club I probably wouldn’t have said yes to a second date.

    • Avitable

      @usedtobeme, why do so many people think that going out to a high end place means that they’re pretending to be someone other than who they are? I’m not blaming you, but it seems like I’ve heard that a lot and it makes no sense to me. Do people really act differently because the steak in front of them cost $40?

      • usedtobeme

        @Avitable, I don’t think they’re pretending to be something else, I think they’re trying to impress and I don’t want to be just impressed on a first, second or third date by how much money a guy is willing to spend. I want to be comfortable with the person and then he can impress me – after we know each other in a much more relaxed setting. That sounds weird I’m sure but speaking from experience, if you aren’t comfortable and relaxed with a person, the setting isn’t going to matter but a more elegant setting, for me anyway, would seem awkward and forced.

        For The Man and I, we eat at nice restaurants for special occasions, like anniversaries, birthdays, etc. That is not our norm. Our norm is Olive Garden and greasy spoon burger/fries joints.

  27. ChopperPapa

    Dude it’s a first date…being your profession, you clearly understand precedent. How’s that dropping $200 on a first working for you? He’s probably a freaking genius, he takes her to a dive bar, if she goes ape-shit then he knows she’s high-maintenance or gold-digger and takes her butt home, then unloads the Hyundai, grabs the Ferrari and hits the club…

    First dates should be simple, to the point, and above all down to earth. Setting the bar too high on day one paints you in a corner and makes you look desperate. If you enjoy $200 meals save ’em for your mom or a dame that will actually be around when the credit card bill comes in.

    • Avitable

      @ChopperPapa, it’s working fine for me. I have no problem spending $50-60 on myself for dinner, so why would I slum it for a date? That’s fucking stupid.

      And first dates at a nice restaurant can also be simple and down to earth. Those are the types of places I like to eat on a regular basis, so I don’t feel like it paints me in a corner at all or makes me look desperate. I’m just a guy that likes to eat at places with cloth napkins.

  28. PottyMouthMommy

    only if I were a shit-faced crack-ho…

    But then, I’m told I’m a bit of a princess…

    Truth be told, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at hanging out at a place like that- with some friends, but if a guy took me there as a first date- there’s not enough alcohol in the WORLD that could get me drunk enough to date him again.

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