Have you ever wondered what kind of first impression you give? And, are you good and quick at reading others right away? I mean, you know the old saying, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, blah blah blah. We all grew up with that somewhat depressing adage, more as it relates to landing a job than anything else, but obviously it applies to dating, too.

According to a survey by, more than half of all singles can tell within 15 MINUTES if a date isn’t going well.

Yikes. That’s fast. You know what I’m thinking within the first 15 minutes of meeting someone new?

Hmm, this is a nice place. (Or not.)

What am I ordering? I’m STARVING!

Should I go with appetizers and a meal? Or just one big meal? I’m hungry. (Did I mention I like eating?)

Am I asking enough questions?

Wow, whatever he ordered sounded good. Hmm…should I change my order?

Was that a pop culture reference? Crap, it sounds familiar. Do I pretend I got it or ask what that meant?

Now, granted I’ve mentioned before that I suck at conventional dating…the meet-today, date-tomorrow type of thing. So, if I only get 15 minutes, I’d better work on my first approach. (Or, my non-approach?)

Obviously everyone is looking for different things, not just in a potential mate but also the type of relationship they’re seeking at any given time. But with over 50% of singles saying they can tell where the date is headed within just a quarter of an hour (which isn’t even enough time for the appetizers to come out!), it begs the question: what does 15 minutes really tell you? Is that really all it takes? Maybe I should stop focusing so much on the food…


Do you ever take a step back and think about how far you’ve come in your dealings with the opposite sex and relationships since, say, high school? Heck, since college even? Er, since the last year? You should! You might be surprised.

Right now I’m in the middle of a very painful and the-end-is-nowhere-in-sight project: cleaning out my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house. There’s so much crap that I don’t know what to do with it! I’ve been selling stuff on Amazon for the last month like crazy. (The people at the post office recognize me now.) Still, I feel like I’ve barely made a dent. What stays, what goes?

In the process, I stumbled upon about two dozen journals that unabashedly chronicle (with the obvious angst and embarrassing detail) my journey from age 11 to 22. Middle school to college grad. Only a few will I keep, but before I shred (burn, destroy, ANNIHILATE) the ones that are just too loathsomely silly to make the cut, I’ve taken the time to peruse them. I’m glad I did. Because even though I’ve had to readjust myself from the perpetual cringe I found myself in, I’ve determined that there are definitely some gems of lessons I’ve learned since I was that self-conscious adolescent:

1. You Really CAN’T Hurry Love
Diana Ross, and then Phil Collins, were spot on.  I spent my high school and college years trying to start things that were never meant to be. I over-romanticized what was in front of me so I wasn’t looking at reality correctly. I rushed because–what? At 16, 19, 22, I thought I knew what love was? And I might as well pin down “The One” as soon as possible? Love comes on its own timing. And you know what? Getting to know someone, and taking things at a painstakingly slow pace really eliminates all that getting carried away with idealized fantasies thing.

2. Having the Last Word is Highly Overrated!
You do have to choose your battles. And if you’re gonna be any good at healthy relationships, you always need to look for the high road. Besides, the one who gets the last word is usually the one who gets eaten up inside waiting for a comeback…

3. Love Isn’t a System You Can “Hack” Into
A strong, lasting relationship is hard work. There will be plenty of non-communication, miscommunication, and totally wrong timing. You just have to deal with it. No matter how many relationship books I read or compatibility quizzes I fill out, I know now that you can’t take those things too seriously. Love is not a game you can win by reading some tricks and tips. You get better at it as you become a more real, authentic individual. Men and women might be quite different, but you eventually have to stop relying on the public wisdom and move beyond male/female stereotypes. Learn to read the other individual. (This goes for everyone in your life, not just romantic partners). Don’t rely on generalizations and never underestimate your gut!

4. Boys Will Be Boys
OK, so I just said not to generalize, but until I meet any guy who doesn’t fit this bill, here goes. A guy will try to get away with whatever you let him get away with. Sometimes he’s being a jerk, and sometimes he’s testing you to see how you take it. It might be intentional, or it might be just for fun. Learn to tell the difference and put your foot down (nicely) in either case–it will help you separate the bad ones from the keepers.

5. _____ Isn’t Everything
Looks, money, religious views, political alliance, whatever. One thing shouldn’t break an otherwise really awesome deal. You really have to be willing to be broad-minded and dig a little deeper. Chemistry, knowing how to manage whatever amount is on your paycheck, how he treats and speaks of others, whether he knows how to go vote–those things are much stronger indicators of romancibility and compatibility.

6. The Biggest Time Wasters? Asking Questions When You Already Know What Answers You Want AND Worrying About Things Out of Your Control
Never ask anyone for “brutal honesty”. They, especially guys, will give it to you.  The rule of thumb: unless it’s a facts-only question, anything with potential responses that you’ve already categorized as “acceptable” or “best answer” in your mind is a NO GO.
And as for worrying, well, if you can limit that to things you can reasonably put on a to-do list and NOT on the what-ifs, you’ll do yourself a huge favor.

It might not be pleasant, but your past can really be an eye opener. I think I’m finally getting into that more comfortable, wizened stage of knowing who I am and what I want. The who and the when and the how might still be grey and hazy, but that’s OK. One thing at a time!

It’s the simplest thing in the world to do – start a conversation – but when there’s attraction and potential rejection involved, apparently it becomes a MESS.

The October issue of Hampton Roads Magazine is out, and I feel like I’ve been thrown to the socially awkward wolves. The auction isn’t till Thursday, but we 20 Sensational Singles have already been friend-requested on Facebook, and getting messages and emails from ones (supposedly) interested. And I’ve been bombarded with the reality: The real reason there are so many singles out there? People suck at starting and/or maintaining conversation.

Yeah, I know I’m a total dating rookie. My one, long-term serious relationships developed ‘situationally’ i.e. with someone I saw on a regular basis. There’s a reason for that—it’s REALLY hard to pique my interest with a few lines of chitchat. But I said I’d be openminded, right? Slowly, as I’ve warily sent responses to would-be weirdos, I’ve realized that ‘tis true: no one has a decent intro AND a good follow-up, which is really what it comes down to.

A few days ago I asked friends on Facebook to leave me the worst/best pickup lines they’ve ever heard. I noticed an interesting breakdown among the 8 people who responded (yes, 8.  I’m a blogger, not a social scientist!)—4 guys responded with typical sleazy/cheesy one-liners, while all 4 gals knew exactly what I was talking about. The pickup line is an ongoing test. It does not include one-liners that are more or less meant to grab attention or laughs. It’s more than that, and one slight can UNDO all past prose. And my own opinion: you have to keep proving yourself through the second or third interaction.

Whether in person or online (or the odd circumstance of someone seeing you in a magazine), the anatomy is basically the same.

The Essentials of a Good Pickup Exchange

Keep It Simple
Why are you talking to me? Do you think I’m interesting? Is there something interesting going on around us, or do you have something to say about a shared pursuit? Whatever the reason is: don’t make keeping up my half of the conversation hard work! Be friendly, don’t use physical contact too soon, and (in the case of online communication) do mention a detail you know about me, but don’t get weird.

Keep It Interesting
OK, now tell me something about YOU. Saying hi and/or paying compliments do not earn you a prize. (Perfect example from a recent message: “You look familiar. Let’s meet for a drink and talk about why you look familiar. I’m awesome, just wait and see!” I KID YOU NOT!).

Keep It Specific – No Ambiguity, Please!
Ask for a phone number, if you want to. Or, if it’s an ongoing email exchange, make an effort to keep the conversation going. ‘“Hi, you seem like an interesting person. I just wanted to tell you that. Okay, bye.”’ doesn’t give me much to work with. Thanks for noticing! If you want a response, you’re gonna have to do better than that.

*special note for online communication*: Use Punctuation Marks! So many things can be taken so many ways:
“Let’s get together.” (Is that a suggestion, a passing thought? If I respond to this, does it make it my idea?)
“Let’s get together!” (If you’re really that enthusiastic, you shouldn’t be keeping me guessing. See above.)
“Let’s get together?” (Nice. Now I know I have only two possible responses.)

And most importantly, here’s how to stop any potential interest DEAD in its tracks:

Be Totally Off the Wall
A fumbling-idiot line can be kind of cute, because it indicates nervousness and sincerity. But eventually you have to pick up the ball and sprint to the goal line! Real life example: “Do you believe in ESP?” I’d like to think he was just awkward, but 10 minutes later we were still playing guessing games, and my eyes were glazing over. He should have started talking like a normal human being after a minute or two. As soon as I saw my friends come in the restaurant, I politely told him to get lost.

The point is, go ahead, act like a total idiot! Just convince me you’re not really an idiot…preferably as soon as possible.

Be Inappropriately Inappropriate
Flirting is OK. It’s even OK to be racy. But don’t sexify a neutral topic! This is a time to be tasteful and classy. I understand that guys think about sex pretty much all the time. Just pretend you don’t for at least the first few conversations, OK?

What do you think, am I too harsh? (It’s my opinion that if you’re not picky about the pickup, well…you deserve what you get!)
Is there ANYONE who can keep it interesting and clean until they’re past the awkward stage?

I’m definitely not ready for or wanting anything serious right now, but I also know that in the past I didn’t really KNOW how I felt about certain issues until I was committed to them. Which proves I can’t be completely objective while IN a relationship. Which is why I’ve started to think about some dealbreakers and dealmakers now. Not so much to take it from dating to matrimony, but at least to take it from First Person Singular to First Person Plural.

I read somewhere that there are 3 important levels of compatibility: Intellectual, physical, and emotional. So with those in mind, I’ve started a list of some of my make-it-or-break-it essentials.

Intellectual Compatibility
Enough is enough; no more explaining what I mean five times. Or vice versa. Conversations should flow relatively easily. (Exception: pop cultural references. And not just because it’s not a real reflection of intellect. Mainly because I have to use stealthily at least once a day while talking to friends. It’s just not a fair assessment!)

DEALmaker: Nerdy habits are attractive. So, have a nerdy quirk, like using physics laws and math equations to explain something. Even if I can’t understand you, I’ll find it fascinating!

dealBREAKER: I read a lot. So tell me what you’re reading, or even tell me you think I have bad taste in books. DO NOT say something like, “Wow. That’s so cool. I can’t remember the last time I read a book.” (Sadly, I did not dump him on the spot.)

Physical Compatibility
I’ve gotta WANT you, and not just for your incredibly intelligent and sexy-nerdy brain. I want to forget your mind once in awhile and just focus on your body. I grew up valuing intelligence, but I might have overromanticized it…because in a relationship, I’ve figured out I also want and need real chemistry. Hey, I’m not saying it’s gotta be a 50-50 split between brains and rip-your-clothes-off attraction. I’ll take 51-49.

DEALmaker: I’ve never been a fan of PDA but recently it occurred to me: hey, maybe it’s not me, it’s THEM! If you can make me want to just grab you (parts unmentioned) in public, no matter who might be watching, you’re in. If I don’t want you almost all the time, where’s the fun?

dealBREAKER: If I find myself completely, 100% engaged in conversation with you after the third or fourth time we’ve met, it’s probably not a good sign. My mind should be wandering already!

Emotional Compatibility
(I’m not completely sure what “emotional compatibility” is, so I’m gonna wing it.)


  • Be my age, or at least within 2-3 years: We need to have similar goals. I don’t want to be super career-driven while you’re just ready to start a family (or vice versa).
  • Compliment me: But not all the time, because that’s annoying.
  • Be very down-to-earth and practical: Because I am NOT! I need someone to tell me that my dreams are absurd and impossible but that you like me anyway—it means I’ll never have to rely on anyone but myself to find the way down my chosen path. It also keeps me motivated.


  • Being needy or smothersome: I don’t wanna talk to you ALL the time, and I don’t want a play-by-play of every thought that passes through your brain.
  • Not having lots of friends: I mean, I’m totally flattered if you consider me your best friend—until I find out I won that position by default.
  • Being really attached to TV or material goods: You won’t find me in front of a TV all that often. Plus, how will we chuck all our belongings and travel the world otherwise?

What’s on your list? Am I missing any big things? Keep in mind, this is a SHALLOW list!