It was a sumptuous meal. Rich Italian wine. Cute little appetizers that looked like exotic blooms. Tablecloth. Classical guitarist in the corner...
We were on our second date and our conversation flowed smoothly.
Right before dessert came, she plucked a business card from her purse and started picking her teeth.
And talking while she did it.
Here's what went through my mind:
1. Wow, that's unattractive.
2. Wow, I could never take her out to a meal with my business associates because she would instantly lower my status.
Yes, gender roles are changing, but when a man is dating a woman, he is generally not only assessing whether you'd be a good fit at home, but also in public.
And, as we all know, body language speaks before any words come out and we all make judgments, right or wrong, in the first few seconds. The right body language makes you more likeable... the wrong body language turns people off entirely.
Classic dating tomes tell women to smile and tilt their head and laugh at a man's jokes, feeble as they may be, in order to create attraction. But there has been little talk of what body language messages unconsciously - and sometimes irreversibly - turn a man off.
Here are 5 that came up in a recent survey I conducted amongst my male clients:
Turn Off #1: Finger Pointing
Most successful, happy men today appreciate a strong woman. We don't want arm candy, we want someone we can count on in life. A partner. A wise counsel. As well as a lover and the breath of the feminine.
But, as smart politicians know (Clinton is the most obvious), when you make a point, it's best to do with your thumb pointed upward from a loose fist, rather than pointing your forefinger.
A forefinger point feels, on the subconscious level, aggressive and worse, accusatory.
Turn Off #2: Grooming
Early dates, I suppose are like politics and sausage. You don't want to see what goes into it behind the scenes. You just want to experience the wonder of the finished product.
So any kind of picking - including of the teeth, ears and nose - and any grooming of the nails or hair is best left to private areas.
Turn Off #3: Confrontational or Closed Body Language
Most women don't realize that men are nervous on early dates, too. They want to make a good impression, they just cover it up better, often with boisterousness, or over-attentiveness.
So if you like a guy, let him know with your body language. Smile as you listen. Touch his hand briefly if he says something that touches your heart.
And avoid leaning back with your arms crossed in a protective posture if you like him. Keep your body open and your eyes soft. Sometimes, when we are concentrating, we narrow our eyes and it feels doubting or judgmental.
Turn Off #4: Taking Control
Even though gender roles are changing, men generally like to feel useful on a date and in their relationships. Being able to pass you the salt, or change your light bulbs, or carry heavy boxes for you are small but important modern ways of being your hero.
So allow him to be useful in any ways possible - especially if he offers.
If he offers to pull back a chair for you, accept it. And give him a moment to do so, rather than just charging in and taking a seat for yourself.
Reaching far across the table to take what you need strips him of his opportunity to feel helpful. Give a guy the chance to feel as if you both desire and need his attentiveness and assistance. It goes a long way to creating an ongoing bond.
Turn Off #5: Focus on Him
Men are often accused of having "roving eyes" because men are indeed hard wired to look at sexually appealing women. A woman once asked me, "If a guy checks out another woman, is that a sign he doesn't like you?"
It's not, but all the same, men need to learn, on dates, to keep their eyes on their partners and bring genuine presence and attention to her.
Women may not stare at every attractive butt that wanders by, but men often complain that women are incessant phone checkers. That they get distracted by dings and pings and buzzes and the affect is the same: the date feels unimportant and dismissed.
Dating today is a delicate business. People move quickly, swipe quickly and dismiss each other quickly.
If you want to get rid of a guy - reverse everything above.
But if you want to attract him more deeply, make sure you use your body. In the end, few things are more influential on a man's psyche than the subtle gestures, invitations, openings and closings of the female body.