Dating Etiquette for Women
I take a long drag of my cigarette and look down on the sea of lights of Hollywood. To my right, a man has just exited the restaurant. He inquires of a woman sitting on a bench by the doors whether she has seen his date. She points to the gardens and says his date's gone on a tour with a group of people and he may catch up with them if he follows the steps down.
The man stands in place awkwardly, assessing the situation. I look away with mild embarrassment.
I've written before about the proper way to go about dating for men, but they're not the only ones who date, and as such, it would be an abrogation of my responsibility for the general well-being of our relationships if I were to ignore that we women do also have a certain code to which we should adhere.
Frankly, leaving your date without letting him know where you are going (or taking a tour without inviting him to come along) so he is forced to inquire after you (and chase after you in the dark) is simply appalling behavior. Particularly at a formal event.
I don't think of etiquette as stifling -- I think it's the hallmark of civilized living. Boil down all the rules you can think of and you will find one simple truth that unites them: etiquette is about being considerate of other people. That's what it comes down to -– and it goes for women as much as it does for men.
A few months ago I attended an awards show after which several friends and colleagues in attendance got together for dinner. It wasn't a formal dinner, just a bunch people in the same industry decompressing from the travails of a red carpet event.
I was seated at the head of the long table, which gave me a vantage point over the rest of the group. Over the course of dinner, I couldn't help but notice my friend James trying to remain composed as his date, Jessica, a woman he'd recently started seeing and whom he had invited to the awards show, animatedly discussed something with the man beside her.
Noting James' discomfort, I tried my best to avoid looking at the interaction on that side of the table, but found it increasingly difficult, as the evening progressed, to ignore the fact that Jessica seemed to be making very, very good friends with another friend of mine, Ken.
Nothing unpalatable happened –- this is Hollywood, after all. But James was furious with Ken for infringing on his evening out with Jessica. Now, while I understand that Ken should have exercised some degree of restraint in public with regard to his intentions, I was more indignant about the manner that Jessica had handled herself in the situation.
The person doing the inviting, conventionally speaking, is responsible for the comfort and well-being of the invitee, but the invitee also has a responsibility to the person who invited him or her to give them the bulk of their attention. Anyone who is invited to attend an event -- whether or not they are in a monogamous situation with their date or still testing the water -- should refrain from testing other waters during the course of the date.
As a date, you should pay attention to the person who invited you. You should respect the person enough not to subject him or her to the embarrassment of being absent or showering someone else with your attention. If someone should approach you with an overture during the course of the evening, it is your responsibility to let them know that you are there with someone else. There is no reason to be rude about it, simply turn the conversation to your date and casually mention you are there with that person before soliciting their opinion on a subject.
If you should be approached by someone you find interesting, you are not obliged to turn them down, but do proceed with caution.
I was on a date once with a man who was not my type in any sense of the word. The date itself had been a train wreck from the moment he asked me out and I knew it would be our last, but I did my best to remain engaged and have a good time. (I also ordered only a single coffee that entire evening to prevent him from having pay an excessive amount for someone who was not remotely interested in him. Common decency -- it matters.)
During the course of the date, an incredibly attractive man approached our table and asked whether I was AV Flox and told me he enjoyed my writing and thought I was brilliant. He apologized profusely to the man in whose company I found myself and wrote his number on the menu.
I thanked him and got back to the conversation with my date as casually as possible considering the nature of the intrusion. Just because I wasn't interested in the man with whom I found myself did not mean I was free to behave in a way that may hurt or embarrass him. I ended up taking the menu with the phone number discreetly when my date went to the restroom and our table was cleared. But I wouldn't have taken it had no opportunity arisen.
Call me old-fashioned, but I just don't think that would have been appropriate. Likewise, it wouldn't have been very considerate to entertain the other man in conversation for longer than one or two minutes. Regardless of how much more interesting I find someone, if I am at a venue with someone else, then that is who I am with, whether or not I plan to see him again.
This also applies to leaving an event. Unless discussed otherwise before an evening out, one really should depart with the same person they arrived. Leaving with someone else is humiliating at best and deeply hurtful at worst. Even if you have no intention of spending more time with the person later, and you're having a great time at the event to which you were invited, you really ought to call it a night when the person who invited you is through with the evening.
This goes both ways, actually. If you invited someone to an event and they're exhausted and ready to leave, as the person who invited them, it is your responsibility to ensure they're comfortable and having a good time and keeping them somewhere longer than they wish to be is not very considerate.
All of this can really be summarized with a couple of fundamental tenets: be considerate to the person with whom you've agreed to spend time, be present, communicate your needs and whereabouts to them, and be aware of the people around you -- especially if they're friends or colleagues of the person you're with. As their date, you are an extension of that person and your behavior and the amount of respect you project will in a lot of cases reflect on them as a person.
AV Flox is the editor of Sex and the 405 -- what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.