Courting protocol

We're meeting face to face after months of tele-dating: Should I do more than buy her a cup of coffee?

By Cary Tennis
Published March 16, 2004 8:18PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I have been e-mailing and tele-dating a woman for a couple of months now. We live hundreds of miles apart, but I have suggested that we meet for a date, in her area. She enthusiastically agreed to this, to my delight.

However, I'm not sure how to execute this date. My usual modus operandi is to buy a woman a cup of coffee and use the time to get an idea of whether we're compatible. I think the more casual the first date is, the better, but does a long-distance courting require something more elaborate?

What Is the Protocol?

Dear What Is the Protocol,

I'm not sure what the protocol is, either. But I think that here, as in all voluntary human relationships, you should assess your feelings and act on them. Ask yourself: Does this upcoming date feel special? Is there a certain air of excitement about it that other dates didn't have? If so, what comes to mind as something you might do to make it special? Trust your feelings. That's what they're for: Feelings are a form of intelligence.

Of course, it's easier to see how intelligent your feelings are if you look at the facts they're based on. If you're traveling a couple of hundred miles to meet her, that adds to the significance of the occasion. It makes it out of the ordinary. And thus it's realistic to respond to it as a special occasion. Time, as well as distance, can signal that it's a special occasion. You've been tele-dating for a couple of months. That's not an inordinately long time, but it is enough to build up a sense of anticipation.

So if you feel that this calls for something more elaborate than a cup of coffee, I think your intuition is correct.

Gifts are nice, but try to come up with something that shows you're interested in who she is. Flowers and wine are always nice, and it wouldn't hurt to pick some up, but you can buy flowers and wine for anyone. It doesn't show that you've been paying attention in your conversations, that you've noted her interests and want to share them.

I wish to caution you about one thing. Your language tipped me off to this: You said you have a modus operandi; you said you "use the time to get an idea of whether we're compatible"; and you asked for a protocol. Those are all reasonable statements, but taken together they signal that you may be concentrating on your method to the exclusion of your subject. So I want to caution you against giving her the impression that she is a participant in your own personal star-search program. No one likes to feel that she's auditioning. Try to focus on her as a person rather than a contestant. She'll appreciate it, it will put her at ease, and you'll be more likely to have a good time.

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Cary Tennis

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