Try it without social lube

Take a moment to think back on your last five dates. How many of them were sober? Chances are, your answer is one—if any. That’s because the general consensus is that the ubiquitous “drinks” are the ideal first date. I’m here to tell you, they’re anything but.

A month ago, I went to Morocco. You might have even read my blog about my experience there. Aside from a horrific—albeit very memorable—night of food poisoning in the Sahara desert where I actually thought I was going to die, the trip was incredible and, revelatory. I came back rethinking a lot of the choices I’d been making about dating and took stock on what was working and what was not. As a result, I ended things with a number of guys I’d been casually dating but knew had no real future and, decided to experiment with a different sort of first date experience, namely one that didn’t involve drinking. So, with these new goals in mind, I decided to make December a month of sober dating. Here’s what I learned:

1. Too much social lubricant is a bad thing. While evaluating how I had been dating before my trip, I realized that often, I’d go on first dates and, as a notorious lightweight, have two drinks and start running my mouth. Now, if you know me, you might find this sort of over-sharing endearing. But, for complete strangers who didn’t know me or my sense of humor, I think that my overly candid drunken self was intimidating if not downright off putting. From date one, I wasn’t putting my best foot forward.

2. It’s easier to get to know someone sober. How many really great conversations have you had while drunk? Like really really good conversations. If you say a lot, you’re probably lying to yourself. Drunk conversations inevitably cause you to feel emotions that may not exist, and leave you with date takeaways that may not be honest. You’re more likely to have a solid, candid conversation with someone sober than drunk.

3. It’s good to be a little scared. People love having drinks on a first date because dating is hella nerve wracking and booze takes the edge off. I get it. But, nerves aren’t always a bad thing. It’s cute seeing your date a little nervous—it shows they’re human! Nervous anticipation is better than the sort of artificial confidence (cockiness?) that inevitably comes with alcohol. Lean into that discomfort a bit!

4. A sober date is worth a thousand drunken ones. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but think about it. In a three hour sober date, you’re likely to have far more of those vital ‘getting to know you’ conversations that help decide if you want a date number two. Whereas encounters of the drunken kind just don’t give you the type of compatability insight first dates are designed for. You’re kind of wasting your time if you’re too drunk on the first date to even take stock of the situation.

5. A sober first date makes a sober second date easier. How many times have you been out on a first date and you get all nice and comfy and drunk and think, well this is easy. And then, along comes the second date and you FREAK OUT. Because instead of getting out all those lovely pre date jitters on your first date, all you’ve done is spend a drunken night in someone’s company which means, the second date is not only pressure filled, it also now requires that either you drink as much as you did on the first one to seem as interesting and confident as you did then or, spend the whole night agonizing that you’re not living up to the expectations you think you set on the first date.

After a month of sober dating, I can unequivocally say that in the short span of this experiment, I have had more meaningful conversations, deeper connections and far fewer regrets than when my first dates consisted of drinks. So give it a shot. New Years is just around the corner. Make a resolution. See what it’s like to have a conversation sober. Or better yet, go for a walk around the holiday markets, grab a bite to eat (really, drinks can be just as expensive as dinner) or hell, go for a walk. You might just be surprised by what you discover.

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