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Dating Thu Nov 03 2011

Chicago Dating 2.011: The Second Date

Previous Entry: Match in the Midwest: The Art of Polite Judgement
Next Entry: The First Kiss

Ahh, the glorious second date or, as I like to call it, the Match first date.

The literal Match first date, the one that occurs on a humble and hasty Tuesday night, the one which involves consuming one to two and a half drinks that are possibly paid for on separate checks, that date that resembles a multiple choice exam of match this date with that occupation, family structure and weird phobia (really, you can't use wire hangers?), the one that usually ends in a slightly awkward hug, handshake or high five, you know that one, that date is not really the first date.

That date is the recreating of a "normal" meeting, it is the date on which you pretend, at least subconsciously, to have met organically. As you walk into that bar, for your first meet and greet, you opportunistically forget that you know this man or woman's pet preference, religious background and top five songs. You pretend you are seeing this person for the first time, that you catch their smoldering eyes through the masses at a classy but understated bar, engage in some witty but unassuming banter and perhaps tickle each other's fancies a bit as the first step in the totally normal, socially acceptable ritual called DUI, dating under the influence.

Of course dating online isn't really like that. There is no serendipitous aligning of stars. There is no magic. There is no fate in the world. You already know your date's height (which is what he listed minus two inches), that he is spiritual but not religious, and that he loves ninjas and narwhals. But, still on that "first" date, you conveniently forget these 2D facts in order to see if perhaps you can create a bit of spark, even if it wasn't fate but algorithms that brought you here. That "first" quasi-date is meant for one purpose: to see if you can stand the presence of the other person; to see if there is that zing, or at least the potential for zing.

But the second date, the Match first date, now that is what I call a date. That date is about seeing if someone's presence has the potential to make your life better, or at least more tolerable or at least a good distraction for the next few months. (You can see how my standards have been worn down after two months of online dating.)

It is also the date of effort. It is the date where you feel out if this other human being has the capability and will to put any sort of sweat into a potential relationship. The second date means showing someone that you are into them. This could be through making a reservation, scoping Metromix or the Reader for a cool free event, planning a multi-day date involving an itinerary and mandatory eye protection equipment (circa 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You.). Personally, for me, it means flossing even though I'm not going to the dentist tomorrow and possibly allowing my date the privilege of being right once or maybe even twice (oh, and putting out of course).

The second date is vital not just to get to know someone but to see if they are worth knowing beyond the biblical sense. It is great if at the first meet you wanted to hump those bones (literally or metaphorically) but if those bones don't want to make reservations, hold open a door or walk you home, they aren't really worth their girth.

Clearly the second date is also where I begin to see my feminist sensibilities erode away in favor of 1950s gender dynamics, aka I shave and you pick up the bill. I'm not sure why but, for some gender-role-loving, Friedan-hating reason, my perfect second date would be a trip to the ice cream shop, a ride up to lover's lane and a ceremonious pinning.

I've read a lot of feministy things, including this fantastic Salon article about Feministing Executive Editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay, who believes American dating is "outdated." The lady's got a point. The traditional dating structure, which is about the only dating paradigm in the online world, relies heavily the "archaic notion of romance," the idea of "man make reservation," "man open door," "man pay for dinner."

And this is what I personally have come to identify, in the second date, as effort, the willingness to try, to invest, to show you kind of like me a little bit. But I have to say this is a new development in my dating world. In my world B.O.D., Before Online Dating, I didn't rely so heavily on the logistics of a second date.

B.O.D., men have shown me their "investment" numerous ways without the "man do" mentality. They have called me on a Wednesday night to see how my job interview went, they have sent me cheesy but sincere e-poems, they have held my hand with fingers intertwined, they have listened to me sympathetically while on one of my crazy work rants, they have understood and encouraged my dreams, they have gone down on me without reciprocation, they have met my parents, they have sent me YouTube videos in the middle of the day, they have walked me home and not tried to come inside. (Side note and totally not gender-neutral, you always walk a lady home, folks, or at least to her mode of transportation. Dudes, it's Chicago.)

But P.O.D., (Post Online Dating), I'm finding things are becoming more rigid, more 1950s, and it is not exactly a world I'm comfortable in. In the world of so many first dates, I find myself looking for tangible proof of some effort by the second date and the easiest proof to find are the tangible monetary ones. This is where a sad feminist frowny face goes.

It is a trap I think many of us fall into, whether online dating or not. We want to know a potential partner is invested with us, we want to be on the same page, we want to know we are not attempting to tango alone... because we don't want to get hurt. Perhaps scarier than online dating is the potential to date and be hurt in a real relationship. So we try to rationalize our way to feeling safe and secure through justifications of a romantic, if not archaically romantic, second date.

Of course, this doesn't work. People who have demonstrated a willingness to tango with us and pay for the lessons, still break our hearts. That is the reality dating both on and off line.

That said I still want a little elbow grease and late 1990s rom-com in my second date. I want a little proof of effort even if it is a 1950s guise of romance.

Luckily by the third date, all proprieties from the 1950s are thrown off along with the girdle. But that is a story for another article...

Any qualms or quips feel free to comment below or email If anyone else has problems rationalizing feminism with dating I would love to here about it!

I will be writing of "Best of Worst" column soon about the worst dates ever. If you have a particularly worthy story, please email it to me at Make sure to include whether you would like it to be anonymous or not.


I've been told I don't talk enough about my actual dates in this column. This was partially because I didn't want to be an asshole but since a) I've gone out with enough peeps that I don't think it is obvious who I am talking about and b) none of my dates seem to notice I'm writing a dating column despite the fact that I've told them all I write for Gapers Block, I'm going to disclose three of my second dates from best to worst.

1) First Stop: Dinner at Café 28 (you must get a mojito) Followed by: An attempt at bowling at Timber Lanes (Note: Thursday nights are a men's league night. Upon entering women will get this response, "You don't see many ladies in these parts." This is oddly charming.) Finish off with: a beer at a bar.

2) First Stop: "I Saw You" performance at Town Hall Pub on Wednesday night Followed by: A spontaneous dive bar pub crawl Ending at: Four Moons, where the waitress calls everyone honey in a completely non-patronizing way

3) Watching reruns of "The Wire," sans popcorn or adult beverages. Fail.

Previous Entry: Match in the Midwest: The Art of Polite Judgement
Next Entry: The First Kiss

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S / November 3, 2011 2:59 PM

The Wire, that is lame. I would chose something like The Wonder Years or Growing Pains.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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