Q: I have agreed to go on my first blind date and I’m super nervous. What should I know? I need to be prepared!

A: Oh, the dreaded blind date. It’s almost a rite of passage. I know a small percentage of people find their soul mate through blind dates, but honestly I’m not a fan. Of course, I still agree to them occasionally. It’s the romantic in me. Here are a couple of tips whether it’s your first blind date or seventieth (not that I’m counting).

First, make sure you ask the mutual friend some key questions. Find out the person’s age, name, what they do for a living, and, maybe most importantly, why your friend wants to set up the two of you in the first place. Is it because you have similar interests and opinions? Or are they going off of the “opposites attract” premise? It’s nice to know so that you can mentally, realistically, prepare for what you’re about to step into. If items like married before, kids, stability, and looks are important don’t be afraid to ask before you agree! After all, if you’re not close enough to ask your friend candid questions then why are you letting them set you up?

Prearranging an “out” is just good sense. This is cynical talk, I know, but nevertheless it’s still a sound practice. In case you’re not jiving with your blind date, it’s nice to know there’s a finite end coming. When the “out” happens then it is up to you to decide if you want to stay or leave. You’re in control. Even better—mixing the setup into a group function or double date. Then you have a built-in wingman or buffer!

Lastly, keep it casual. You’re meeting someone for the first time and you are both aware of the reason and it can be awkward. Think of your night as meeting a possible new friend. It might go against your natural urge, but try not to constantly judge their answers against the perfect ones you already have in your head from your imaginary soul mate. Be nice and give your date the benefit of the doubt. Going on a blind date isn’t easy—for anyone. They may be nervous and it may take a little while for their true personality to emerge. (Yours too!) Go into your date with a good, anything is possible attitude. After all, anything is possible.

Helpful reminders: don’t order more than one alcoholic drink, don’t talk about your exes, and for the love of everything holy in the world, don’t order lobster. Okay, yes, I’m kidding about the last one. But, realistically, keep it simple. Meet for a drink or in a place that you can choose to have dinner if the vibe is good. Stick to your gut and enjoy yourself. You may be meeting your soul mate.

Dana Volney, author of Paradise Point and Holiday Hoopla

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