First, a couple addendums raised in part one’s comments:
A. As mentioned by an anonymous commenter after the first posting, if you’re picking your date up, do not call her and tell her to be outside. Do not honk. Do not wait in the car. Go the hell in and get her. Yes, it’s nice to bring flowers if you want to, but try to avoid the clichéd dozen roses, and do not bring carnations. A single rose, or gerbera, or orchid, whatever, is always a nice touch. I could be wrong on this, but I feel corsages are dated and behind the times, and often plain unpractical. I’d stick with flowers for the table. What’s more, if it’s a nice date, she’ll enjoy the flowers more the next day.
B. It’s totally cool and actually good to help a date with a coat. Help take it off, help her get it on. It’s just a nice touch. Unnecessary, but certainly nice. Hand it to the waiter or give it to her to put on the back of her chair, if coatcheck isn’t an option.
Back to bizness. You’ve got wine, you’ve got food, and now you’re dining.
1. How you eat is important. Eat small bites. Use cutlery as much as possible. Cut your food precisely and delicately while being relatively strong and assertive about it. (Press harder with your knife, do controlled movements.) Try to not make noises with the cutlery or against the china. If you’re responding to her question or statement as you cut, make sure you at least glance up to make eye-contact as you’re talking. Always, always show you’re aware she’s present when you’re speaking. And hello? Small bites, please? Chew? With your mouth closed. Do not speak with food in your mouth. Remember in grade two when they said to chew every bite 17 times? Please do that on dates. BONUS: It will reduce the chance you’ll get gas later!
2. If you want a refill of coffee or something, inch the drinking vessel nearer to the edge of the table closest to where the waiting staff will pass it by. An industry professional knows this is the sign for a refill, so you shouldn’t need to shout for them.
3. Never take the last roll, butter, or bit of wine without asking her if she’d like it first. She’ll almost always say no (it’s a date thing) and give it to you, but give her the chance to do so. If she offers to split it with you, say no if you just can’t handle more, & say something like “I’d love to, but I’m set to burst.” Sharing’s nice though. It’s sexy and intimate, and feel free to take her up on the offer.
4. Tear off bits of bread as opposed to gnoshing on an entire piece. Tear it over the plate, so the crumbs don’t pile up on the tablecloth. Butter it as you go to prevent yourself from getting thumbs into greasy badness. If you’re dipping in oil and vinegar, please, don’t double dip, tear bite-size pieces for dipping.
5. If you’re still eating your meal, you rest your knife and fork at 4:00 and 8:00 on your plate, respectively, between bites. Don’t hold your cutlery through the whole meal. Keeping it in your hand all the time – especially for women – tends to look aggressive. Take moments where you focus on your companion. (Goes for both sexes.) When you’re finished and want them to take it away, you set your knives, forks, and spoons used thus far at the 5:00 position.
6. If your server is stupid and tries to take your plate before your companion has finished, then they have clearly missed the basic training course. Tell them you’re not through, and gesture at your companion’s plate. If they succeed and take the plate away, she’ll be left feeling awkward eating in front of you. This goes both ways, so be a man and say something.
7. If she’s getting up to go to the bathroom – it’s not necessary, but it’s extra special classy and will probably get a small grin from her as she walks away from you – you can always push your chair back and stand as she leaves the table. When she returns, you can stand upon her arrival, wait for her to sit, then give her the napkin, or better yet, lay it on her lap. (You can be sexy about it and “accidentally” brush a finger down her thigh as you return to your seat, departing-like.) As I say, this is a real throwback, and is probably a little over the top for most evenings, but if you’re having a more special dinner experience in celebration of something, then yes, go ahead. It’s quite formal.
8. After dinner, your napkin gets folded (casually, in a tidy bunch, whatever, just not tossed down in a heap) and placed BESIDE the plate, not on it.
9. Paying! All the guys want to know this. Going Dutch is fine, but really, if you make more than her – she’s a student, you’re working in an office – then it ought to be on you. If you asked her out and chose the location, then it ought to be on you. If she asked you out, then it should rightly be dutch, unless she’s making your salary look comical. But if you want to feel like your balls are intact at the evening’s end, you probably shouldn’t let her pay, not entirely, but that’s your call. Some women will judge you for not paying. You know I’m right, as much as it galls you. A good move is always to pay, especially if you like her, and playfully ask if she takes trades for a home cooked meal, or tell her she can get coffees later or something. (If she balks at paying anything ever, then she’s a money-hungry minx and you need to be wary, in my humble opinion. Anytime a woman or man feels entitled to something, it’s time to be wary. Me, I like a man to pay, but I’ll always insist next time I do some cooking, and the way I cook, it’s a win.)
10. If it’s old-school car locks and we’re driving for the night and we let you into the car first, lean over and open our lock and let us in. Women, if a guy lets you in first, you don’t have to lean over and let him in, but it’s the kind of small gesture a guy really digs. Ever seen that old Cameron Crowe film Singles, when Keira Sedgwick lets Cameron Scott into his car? He’s bowled right over and is in love from then on. It shows you can not only graciously accept his chivalry, but that you’re woman enough to not feel threatened by reciprocating. Me, I’d always let the guy in. It’s just the right way to act. [Ed. Note: Do people even have these locks anymore? Lots has changed in the four years since this first was posted!]
11. When you’re dropping her off, and this is for anyone dropping a woman off – date or not – always, always wait until she’s gotten inside before you drive away. It’s a sign that you’re concerned about her safety, and honestly, our entrances aren’t always as safe as we’d like.
12. Not related to restaurants, but time to be said. Can we, for once and for all, move past the “don’t call the next day” bullshit? Call. Tell us it was a good time. Even easier and just as good, in the age of email, send her a quick note. “Wow. I had a great time. I’ll call you later in the week. Looking forwards to more with you.” That’s it. “Ooh,” we’ll think, “a guy who doesn’t play games.” You’ll get laid sooner, you know. Drop the bullshit head games. Keep it casual, light, and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Call her later in the week, don’t mention a specific day, but you’ve bought yourself time now. Just a note! A text! A quick email! It’s a lovely way to play.
If there are other dating scenarios you want the etiquette for, let me know via comments or emails. Happy dining this weekend, kids.