If it's been 10 or 20 years since you last went on a first date, it's only natural to feel nervous. Whether you're getting back in the dating game via a site like Match.com or thinking about asking someone out, we've got some great ideas to help break the ice on a first meeting.
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See also: Dating in your 50s-plus? What NOT to ask on a first date
See also: Dating after divorce - dos and don'ts
1. Movies and music
Pretty much everyone watches films and listens to music, but asking "what music do you like?" can be a conversational dead end, since most people will reply "oh you know, all sorts".
Likewise asking "what is your favourite film?" is a reductive question – instead try asking "have you seen any good films lately?" which creates the opportunity to share opinions on a movie without appearing to criticise the other's taste.
If you're finding it hard to ask someone out, chatting about the latest movie releases can be a good idea for another reason. If there's something the other person would like to see, you can say that you'd love to go, but none of your friends are interested... which leads you to suggest you could go together.
Watching a movie takes the pressure off making conversation throughout the whole evening, and if you go for a drink afterwards, gives you something to talk about.
2. Share funny date stories
A first date can bring out nerves in even the most confident person, so why not acknowledge the fact by bringing up a weird or funny story from a previous date – and inviting your date to do the same.
Maybe it was the time the waitress had a quiet word in your ear that you were the third person your date had brought in that week, or the time you knocked a drink over your date in the first two minutes of meeting.
The key is to display your sense of humour and show you don't take yourself too seriously, while hopefully setting your date at ease and letting your own guard down.
3. Get active
If you know that you can get tongue-tied over a restaurant table, it's probably better to pick an activity date instead. This could be something like bowling, ice skating or archery – a fun activity that requires an element of skill and will give you both plenty to discuss.
Exercise also releases endorphins in the brain, meaning there is a scientifically proven likelihood that the date will be a happy experience.
Don't get too ambitious. You might be an adrenaline junky but your date may not like whizzing round a race track or abseiling. Pick something they can do at their own pace.
3. Customise it for your date
Chances are your date will have shared a few of their hobbies and interests on their profile, and this gives you the chance to show off your thoughtful side.
If they have declared themselves an art buff then why not suggest a visit to an interesting exhibition you have heard about? If they like history then maybe a walk around a National Trust property? If they describe themselves as a "foodie", a cookery class will be more memorable than just having a meal together.
As well as showing that you have paid attention to their profile and put a bit of effort in, this will also give you plenty to talk about and see if you enjoy each other's company.
4. Keep it short and sweet
As well as being an anxious experience, a first date also has a pretty high chance of being a dud if it's obvious right away that there is no attraction between you.
If you've gone out for a three-course meal and you know it's a non-starter before the starter has arrived, there are going to be a lot of awkward gaps to fill before dessert is done.
It's far better to meet for an afternoon coffee. If things go well, have some activities in mind for the rest of the day. Just be sure not to choose anything that requires pre-booking and could lead to disappointment.