What NOT To Ask When You Have First Date Jitters

No, I don't want to see your tattoo.



First date magic does happen. So do trainwrecks, unfortunately, and usually more often. 

“I was once on a date with this guy,” my co-worker told me, “who seemed alright, but the moment we sat down with a drink he asked, 'do you want to see my lion tattoo?' to which I cautiously replied, 'okay..' and he began to unbutton his shirt, lift up his vest and there, in the center of his chest, was the wonky face of a lion. Think Ed Sheeran but weedier.” Yeah. Deal breaker. 
“Do you want to see my lion tattoo?”
Where did my coworkers draw the line in the conversational minefield that is dating small-talk? Even a great date is exhausting; you’re basically cracked out on pheromones, doing a personality tap dance for two hours and taking a breather with basic questions (i.e. hobbies, hometowns) in the ultimate goal of painting yourself as this unique, smart, sexy snowflake of a woman. So what do you never bring up? 
 
“Talking about ex-girlfriends,” according to one editor and “asking about your number of sexual partners” for another; probing about your income, doing rapid-fire questions, or using the especially gross line, “So, how many kids do you want?” for others. A woman from our business team was even asked if she had any physical criteria for a guy, which is the worst, because it feels low-key discriminatory and isn’t something you want to bond over. You either end up describing a carbon-copy of your date (so creepy-cheesy), or, inversely, someone who looks nothing like them (just as awkward). Physical criteria? I don’t know. Opposable thumbs. Eyes.
 "How many kids do you want?”
Questions loaded with sexist and racist undertones were also cited as cues to peace out. Politics? Touchy. Abortion? Especially, because a date is basically a job interview for someone to discover your naked body. “It [almost] dips into the sex category” one of our editors explained, “[You think] oh…because like, are we going to have sex? And do we have the same views? Do you think you have the right to have an opinion on my body if something were to happen?’” 
 
It’s too personal, too soon. Which brings me to my biggest deal-breaker. 
 
A few years ago I found myself on a date with one of those dudes who desperately looks for ins to a “deep” conversation. He was your standard, middle class white guy who loves Steve Aoki and searches for Crossfit tips on Youtube. We’ll call him Greg. “I mean, I’ve been through a lot for a ____ year old,” he said after a few drinks, “but you don’t want to hear about all that, right?” 
 
No, Greg. I don’t want to hear about your aunt’s health problems. I don’t want to know about the time your card was declined at Chipotle and you cried in the bathroom, because that was money you should’ve spent on glucosamine supplements for your cat. I’m sorry your cat has arthritis. I’m sorry this date is happening. 
 I’m sorry your cat has arthritis. I’m sorry this date is happening. 
Sometimes, you do find that rare chemistry where the over-sharing comes naturally. The same editor I spoke with about abortion once went on a date that got knee-deep in politics, but it was fine. Great, actually – he’s now her live-in boyfriend. 
 
But you can’t force a connection by spilling the story of your life, and sometimes it’s hard to locate yourself on the spectrum of appropriateness when our expectations fall somewhere between the impossible perfection of a Nora Ephron movie and an episode of MTV's Flava of Love (RIP 2006). That’s ok. This is the informational-foreplay stage in which we’re not yet fully fleshed-out people to one another, and in the best way; we’re both sitting here with our metaphorical popcorn, watching as we do or don’t live up to being the cool people we’ve projected onto the other. 
 
So the rules aren’t written in stone. But if you’re wondering if you should ask, well, you probably shouldn’t.  

Cover image: Mtv.com