Fantastic, you’ve got a date! Good for you. Let’s face it, this is no small thing to a single parent who puts his offspring first, and yearns for some stimulating adult company outside of work. You’re entitled to your own feelings and needs, and to shut them out entirely closes off a part of your very soul.

Given how busy your life generally is, it may be that dates for you are as rare as hens teeth. In that case it’s natural to hope for the best, as heaven forbid she doesn’t turn out to tick all your boxes, and you have to go back to square one.

Be optimistic by all means, but resist the urge to attach excessive importance to this one episode in your life. Because if you go in with all your hopes of future bliss hanging on the outcome of a couple of hours interaction, then you put an unrealistic pressure upon yourself to get it right.

If nothing else, you’ll have a few hours break from the norm, hopefully enjoy someone else’s company, and remind yourself that you’re still an attractive son of a gun. So don’t over-think it, and try to have fun.

That said, don’t be the person who wrecks his chances with one of the following classic, yet all too common howlers. I canvassed my female friends, and they’ve all had the misfortune of going on a first date with ‘that’ guy. As one put it, “I wish I could say it was a one-off!”

So here we go in no particular order of importance, do not……….

Talk about your ex.
Come on guys this is flat out rude. You’re out with someone who likes you enough to put aside time to be with you. At least have the decency to be with her completely, and not waste her time by talking about the past. All you’ll succeed in doing, is demonstrate that you’re not over your ex, and certainly not emotionally available right now.

Talk disrespectfully about your ex.
What’s even worse than talking relentlessly about an ex, is talking trash about an ex. OK it didn’t work out, and maybe it was a car crash of a break-up, but that gives you no right to bitch about it to someone you hardly know.

In the back of her mind she’ll be thinking that this is how you’re going to talk about her one day if it doesn’t work out. It can come across as bitter and/or aggressive; neither of which are attractive qualities. If you’re not fully over it, then concentrate on being so before wasting someone else’s time.

Try too hard to please.
Of course you want your date to have a nice time, and it’s great when she discovers that chivalry isn’t dead. All I’m saying is that there are two of you on this date, and you both have an equal right to enjoy yourself.

Don’t make everything about trying to please her. It will not make her like you. The amount of effort you put into pleasing her will not be directly proportionate to how much she falls for you.

If anything she’ll be frustrated that she can’t experience the real you, or she’ll worry that this ‘is’ the real you, which she’s going to perceive as weak. Be fair to the both of you, and don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with, just to impress another person.

Present her with a list of wants.
Guys can be lazy. Let’s face it, all this flirty banter and trying reading between the lines feels like a waste of time when all you have to do is compare what you both want and see if you match.

Logical? Except it comes across as arrogant, as if you’re expecting your date to qualify herself for a role she’s not yet sure she wants. It’s perfectly fine to touch upon a vision of your future, where you see yourself being at some point, whether that’s more children or living abroad. These are big life issues that it’s only fair to bring out into the open early on. If your big pictures are poles apart, then the minutia is irrelevant.

Brag.
No-one likes this guy. In fact there’s rarely anything more annoying on a first date than someone who tries to constantly impress. It’s plain boring for starters, and is usually accompanied by an inability to listen to what others are saying.

This kind of bore always has a story that’s more exciting or more interesting (or so he thinks). It doesn’t matter what she comes out with, he’ll sure as hell find a way to steer the conversation back to him. If you really want to impress a date, then make an effort to listen, and really hear what she has to say. Take a genuine interest, and encourage her to expand upon the subjects she’s passionate about.

Chew with your mouth open.
Do I really need to expand on this one? When was it ever OK to expose anyone else to the sequential breakdown of every morsel you shovel into your cake-hole. You wouldn’t particularly want a front row seat to your mashing molars, and I bet you don’t stand in awe before your mirror admiring your own ability to masticate.

What I don’t get with people who do this, is what the hell were their mother’s thinking? Why has a child grown to adulthood without this being nipped in the bud? These people have actually had relationships as well. Honestly, the mind boggles.

Get hammered.
Now don’t get me wrong, a little Dutch courage isn’t the worst thing in this scenario if nerves are starting to get the better of you. Or perhaps a little alcohol just helps you overcome the pressure of the circumstances and allows you to relax enough to let your humour and personality shine through.

You’re both likely to be on the same page, so it won’t be anything out of the norm. Unless of course you’re on a daytime date and you turn up stinking of booze. Time and place people!

But let it get out of hand and you’ll blow it. I once had a woman pass out cold through drink right in front of me. You think that’s bad? It was speed dating, and I was only there for 3 minutes. Or perhaps that says more about me!!!

Swear too much.
I’ll confess I have a part-time ‘potty mouth’. It’s certainly not a default setting, and not every other word that leaves my mouth would have a sailor diving for cover. But in selective company I do tend to let fly.

The emphasis here is on the word ‘selective’. I wouldn’t dream of swearing in front of kids, or people whom I don’t know until it’s clear what’s acceptable. It’s a kind of pacing that allows you to find a mutual level that both find comfortable and respectful.

Don’t be the person who has so little to say that sentences must be padded out with expletives. Although it has to be said that sometimes the right amount of emphasis and gravitas can only really be achieved by a good old swear word.

Just be judicious about it and pick your moment. Then again, there are so many alternatives. Frickin’, freakin’, frackin’, flippin’, just to name a few that’ll do the job at a pinch, rather than dropping a full-on ‘F-bomb’. Show your date some respect until you know whether or not she minds. Also certain words are never appropriate, you know what they are, don’t go there.

Exaggerate.
This is such a slippery slope to head down, and once you start it’s incredibly difficult to backtrack and save face. You are who you are, and if she’s on a date with you then it’s a strong indication that she kinda likes you a little already.

So many people in these circumstances are so preoccupied about trying to impress a prospective partner, that they over-exaggerate about themselves or their lives. Apart from the fact that if you do start seeing her properly she’ll figure it out anyway, you’re also not being honest.

The other aspect to this is that you’ll know you’re embellishing, and that your life isn’t quite as awesome as you make it out to be. So now you feel crap about yourself, and what’s more it’s self-inflicted.

If you haven’t achieved everything you want out of life, say so. Be honest and tell her of your aspirations. Ambition is an attractive quality, especially when you have a game plan. Don’t lose site of the fact that some of your aspirations may have had to take second place to your responsibilities as single parent, which again is something to be extremely proud of.

Ask to split the bill.
For the record I’m all for equality. I’m drawn to strong women, and support equal opportunities for all. That said when it comes to dating, there is an established etiquette that kinda works.

On a first date I believe that a man should always expect to pay the bill. I know that this technically isn’t ‘fair’, but think of it all as a kind of dance; a mating ritual if you will. Some guys are just plain cheap, and if you can pick up the tab without breaking out in a sweat, she’ll see it as a good sign.

If she’s a decent person she’ll typically offer to contribute, and certainly wouldn’t expect a free ride. I always respect the offer and decline, while being quietly impressed. However keep in mind that if it really means that much to her to go halves, don’t argue the point and respect her wishes.

Keep checking your phone.
I hate this one. Is there anything more frustrating than having to wait for another person to finish checking their virtual status when they are actually present with you? Therefore, unless you have genuine reason, turn off your damn phone and give your date your full attention.

Being a single dad does mean that you’re never off duty, and so it may mean you have a valid reason to occasionally check to see if you’ve had any missed calls from your babysitter. Just apologise up-front and do it sparingly.

Belch.
Another pet hate! It may be a compliment in Japan, but it won’t fly here. If something you ate does repeat on you, for goodness sake keep your gob shut, and your hand over your mouth. I guarantee that nobody wants a pungent blast of your undigested, bile-soaked meal. This is right up there with eating with your mouth open. What did your mother teach you?

Lick your knife.
Now I’m going to make a confession. There is a certain guilty pleasure to be had from an unapologetic plate licking. There, I said it! I never did it as a kid. My mum would’ve killed me.

It was a pleasure I wouldn’t discover until my forties. It’s like, ‘why leave all that taste on the plate, maybe there’s another gram of protein I can hoover up’. What you do in the comfort of your own home, or in front of a partner who is well and truly resigned to your imperfection, is one thing. But out in public with someone new, you gotta be on your best behaviour, no ifs or buts.

I’m pretty sure she ain’t that posh herself, and you just know she’s going to have some hideous habit you’ll have to wrap your head around at some point. But neither of you want to unveil the horror just yet. As I said, no knife licking on a first date.

Check out the waitress.
Or maybe I should say ‘get caught checking out the waitress’. No, better safe than sorry, just avoid it. You may think you’re being subtle, but she’ll spot those micro-expressions and no mistake. Even if the date doesn’t go as planned, at least show her the respect of being attentive for the duration. It’s only a couple of hours, so behave.

Stare at her boobs.
Is she going to take a sneaky peak below your waste? Damn right she is! You’re both adults, and part of this date is the pair of you making a decision that this person is someone you may be prepared to get naked with at some point in the near future.

Now a quick, and I mean quick, scan up and down as you talk to her can be sexy. But staring at her cleavage all night when she’s talking is just creepy.

It may have been a while since you had a real live woman in front of you. But try at least to be cool about it. You’ve both dressed to impress, and she’ll appreciate you noticing how good she looks, but stay classy is all I’m saying.

Just to put it into perspective, you wouldn’t appreciate her spending the whole night talking at your crotch…. oh you would?…..freak!

Order food you have to eat with your fingers.
Unless she orders it too, in which case go for it and have fun you messy buggers. Imagine trying to maintain your decorum while stuffing your face with a plate of BBQ ribs. Impossible!

On a first date, try to show that you can eat like a big boy. But like I said, if you both want to get down and dirty with the finger food, then that’ll just be fun as you get messy together. Don’t forget to crab a toothpick before you leave though.

Fail to notice the warning signs.
OK so you’ve snagged a real life woman, and had a grown-up meal away from the kids. Hopefully you’ve had a great date and been reminded that it’s healthy for you to have some time for yourself once in a while.

With any luck you’ve also managed to avoid most if not all of the usual mistakes. Aren’t you doing well?

Last but not least, there’s one more thing I really must mention; and that’s to keep your eyes open and not be influenced by rose-tinted glasses, or beer-goggles. Just as you’ve been on your best behaviour, then so has she….probably. Nevertheless make sure to be on the lookout for any red-flags that tell you that all is not what it seems.

This deserves a list in it’s own right so I won’t go there now. Suffice to say that just because it would be convenient for her to be the girl of your dreams, wishful thinking won’t make it so.

Be honest with yourself, and do not settle for what doesn’t feel right. You may have done that before which could well be part of the reason you’re currently on the market again.

So enjoy your date and stay optimistic!