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(S)he Likes Me For Me – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 94)

followIt’s kind of scary to stare at a blank profile box, whether it’s on JDate, OkCupid, or J-Swipe, and imagine that in a minute, an hour, a day, or a week, your online dating profile will be “live,” isn’t it?  Even if you write for a living, when it comes to putting pen to paper about yourself (or fingers to keyboard or screen), that’s where things get a bit hairier.

Many people, when they sit down to write their profile, immediately think one thing: “I want to write what I think everyone will want to hear.  That way, I’m not limiting the pool at all.”  While at first glance, this may seem like a good strategy, I want to share why it’s not.

It’s, of course, nice to be liked, but you don’t want to lose yourself in the process of trying to fit into some arbitrary mold that you think others want to see.  Take for example the lines, “I’m just as comfortable in a little black dress and heels as I am in a t-shirt and flip flops,” or “I’m just as happy out on the town as I am at home with a movie and a glass of wine.”  Besides being really boring, do these lines actually tell us anything about the person writing them?  Nope.  They simply cover all the bases.  To me, they read, “I am trying to show you that I’m versatile so you don’t pass me by.”

While it may seem counterintuitive, I’ll come right out and say it: It’s okay to turn people off in your profile!  It’s more important to be the real you… not the version of yourself you think people want to see, and certainly not the version of yourself who attempts to appeal to everyone.  Just be yourself, quirks and all.  That way, you know when someone shows interest, it’s because he or she likes the actual things you said, not just that fact that you were being inclusive.

A sample profile for me on a dating app, where you want to keep things on the short side, might read something like this:

Things I love: Dogs (especially mine), Scotch and bourbon, “That’s what she said” jokes, puns, karaoke, grammar, silliness, board games, and push-ups (I’m a weirdo ;)).

It’s more than okay that I don’t run marathons, read War & Peace for giggles, or go from sweatpants to a ball gown in t-minus two minutes.  Instead, people will get a sense of the real me.  As another example, a client of mine recently wrote about her odd obsession with Post-its and Sharpies.  And you know what?  Men loved her uniqueness and confidence to share it!

I have a challenge for you: If you’re currently on an online dating site, and your profile contains one of the “all-inclusive” lines, change it into something that better represents who you really are.  And if you’re thinking about joining an online dating site, remember that it’s okay to share your interests in bird-watching, chess-playing, wine-making, and whatever else you do for fun.  Yes, you will probably turn some people off.  But you may also turn just exactly the right people on.

erika e-1405-4Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people navigate the world of online dating, and author of Love at First SiteWant to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

Erika E. is releasing her first book!

erika ettin-49253-3 NewResident GTJ dating blogger, who just celebrated her 3rd year of blogging for us, is now celebrating releasing her first book!

Her book, Love at First Site, gives “tips and tales for online dating success from a modern-day matchmaker.”

Join Erika (and bring a friend…or 10!) as she celebrates at the Book Release Party!

Here is the event on Facebook as well.

Kol HaKavod, Erika!

 

 

 

 

How Deal Breakers Hinder Dating Success – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 93)

How many deal breakers is it appropriate to have when searching online for a partner?  One, five, fifteen?  There is no magic number, of course, and Patti Stanger of The Millionaire Matchmaker says that five is a good choice… I tend to agree.  If there’s one thing I know from both my own dating experience and from being a dating coach, though, it’s that 125 is too many!  Where did I get that crazy number, you ask?

A woman recently posted on Tumblr a section of a guy’s profile on OkCupid that I’ll just say was pretty limiting.  And when I say “pretty limiting,” I actually mean ridiculously and obsessively rude and off-putting.  Below is just a small sample of his “do not message me if…” section.  (For the record, OkCupid actually has a section called “You should message me if…”  This means that he actually added this new section to his profile.  Classy.)

tumblr_inline_mrnocicB0M1qz4rgp

After reading the entire list, I counted, and I have 20 of his 125 “don’t message me if” qualities.  Most notable were:

  • You consider yourself a happy person.  (Umm… guilty as charged.)
  • You wear uncomfortable clothing and/or shoes for the sake of feminine style.  (We all know that women dress for other women!)
  • You use the term “foodie.”  (I’m a foodie, all right, and I’m not sorry about it.  I’m just well fed.)

Even if I did fit everything (which I’m pretty sure no one possibly could), I would be so turned off by the negativity that I wouldn’t want to date him anyway!  A question I would pose to him is, “Why do some of these things even matter?”

In talking with Sarah Gooding, the resident Dating Coach at PlentyOfFish, she and I agreed that one should create and live by a few key dating deal breakers.  Most singles have established certain rules when it comes to dating, but they don’t know that they may have too many unnecessary deal breakers that are preventing them from finding a great relationship.  To ensure the right person isn’t being overlooked, let’s look at these five dating deal breaker rules, courtesy of Sarah and elaborated on by yours truly:

1. Deal breakers should be qualities, values, or beliefs that won’t change.

A lot of clients have said things to me like, “I can’t date him.  He’s between jobs.”  Does this mean he can’t get a job in the future?  Of course not!  Income can change; employment status can change; ambition probably can’t.

2. Create no more than five deal breakers/must haves.

Sit down and really think about what’s important to you.  Maybe it’s religious beliefs or level of education.  Stick to your guns on those things, but beyond that, explore.  As an exercise, picture that perfect person with or without each “deal breaker” and see if it matters.  If not, then it’s time to reevaluate your list.

3. Do not mention your deal breakers in the text of your online dating profile.

Most online dating sites have many check-box questions, such as age, religion, children, etc.  This is where the deal breakers will come out.  If you want kids, then check that box accurately.  No need to then state, “Don’t write to me if you don’t want to have children.”

4. Don’t use your previous relationship to create future deal breakers.

It’s easy after a relationship ends to want to find the exact opposite type of person, isn’t it?  We go through all of the things we loathed about our ex and list those as our new deal breakers.  I encourage everyone not to do this because 1) it comes off as fairly bitter and 2) there must have been some good quality in that person if you dated in the first place.  Using what you learned from your last relationship, make your list, but don’t make it solely based on what didn’t work the last time.

Also, as a side note, everything that may be a trait that you don’t want in a partner can likely be turned into a trait that you do want.  For example:

Negative: I’m not looking for players or serial daters.
Positive: I’m looking for someone who is ready for a committed relationship.

5. Be open-minded if someone meets all of your criteria.  However, if he or she doesn’t, decide if it’s worth giving it a shot.

If someone meets all of the criteria you’ve set for yourself, then it can’t hurt to give it a try.  On the one hand, perfect on paper doesn’t equal perfect in real life, so you’ll still have to assess chemistry, but at least you’ll know that you’re off to a good start.  On the other hand, if you know that someone has one of your deal breakers (let’s say religion), then perhaps it’s best not to “try that person on” if you know in the long run it’s not something you can live with.

Remember that in the end, what’s often the most important is how someone treats you.  Is he or she kind, generous, and giving?  How about trustworthy and honest?  That’s what matters in life.

A final note to the guy on OkCupid: I wear yoga pants when I’m not engaging in yoga, and I have participated in a flash mob. We are obviously not meant to be.

In other exciting news, our very own resident GTJ dating columnist has written a book!  Turns out we’re not the only ones she writes for!  Here is the info for the release party if you’d like to join: https://www.facebook.com/events/795227383861189

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 89)

trashIn my work, I get daily emails from clients, friends, and acquaintances with any and all questions they have related to dating.  This long question below is one I got not too long ago, and I wanted to share it with my GTJ readers since it also may have happened to some of us.

Question

“I have my own personal question based on the whole dichotomous nature of online dating:  What if you are fond of someone you met online, but only platonically? Is there any way, realistically, to transition that to a friendship?  Also, here’s a specific variation: Is it super rude to suggest that one of your OKCupid dates might be perfect for a friend?  I actually think it’s a really good idea because I like and respect my friends, and I share common values with them, but we have different tastes and like somewhat different guys.  Moreover, I know this can work in practice because I have a friend who met her husband as a follow-up to his online date with her friend.  However, I mentioned this option to a date last week, obviously in a nice way, and he got pretty offended.  (And, btw, it was because we were wholly incompatible politically/ideologically, so it’s not even like I said, ‘Oh, I’m not feeling physical chemistry so why don’t you try my friend, instead?’)  I thought I was making a perfectly reasonable suggestion, but apparently it may be a huge faux pas.”

Erika’s Answer

As for setting up dates that don’t work out, I actually think it’s wonderful, but I do have some caveats.  If you think highly enough of someone to want to set him or her up with someone else, it’s a huge compliment.  That said, give it some time (at least a few weeks) before making this gesture.  I would be offended if, on a date or even the next day, the guy said to me that he wanted to set me up with a friend.  Even if I agreed that we weren’t a good fit for each other (and I would only recommend doing this if it’s agreed that there’s a mutual mismatch, lest someone get upset), I’d rather have the suggestion come to me after some space/time.  It’s all about the timing and the framing of it.

I went out with someone once on two dates.  After those dates, I concluded that, while he was very nice, he wasn’t for me.  (I have too strong of a personality for some people.  If you know me at all, you know what I mean!)  Anyway, when I kindly declined a third date, saying that I wasn’t feeling the spark, he got defensive and said some things that I didn’t appreciate.  Again, you want to make sure to handle things nicely and maturely with everyone… especially with me since I have a big database of single people waiting to be set up!

For this simple reason, in addition to, you know, the possibility of love, it’s important to make sure you’re at your best on every date.  Avoid being rude, having your cell phone out, drinking too much, talking about yourself the entire time, and generally being a poor sport about the date not going well.  And, I look forward to the flak I’ll take for this comment, but even if that date doesn’t go well, for opposite sex couples, I still recommend that the gentleman pays.  This way, he still comes off as generous, and he’s showing that chivalry is not completely dead.  And given that the first date should only be for coffee or a drink, it shouldn’t break the bank.

Now, go forth, date, be nice, and, after ample time, make those set-ups.

erika ettin-49253-3 NewErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

 

The Digital Age of Dating – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 88)

It’s no secret that times are a-changing.  The term “gluten free” is now featured on many menus around town, a flattering (or not-so-flattering) selfie is now the norm for picture-taking (my parents have just adopted this, and it’s honestly hilarious), and the dating game has been turned sideways and upside down.  I’m here to set the record straight on not only how things have changed in the dating world but also how some things should remain the same.

The Past The Present
Boy meets girl at a party.  Boy asks girl for number, and she writes it down for him.  Boy calls girl in three days and asks her out to dinner. Boy meets girl at a party.  Boy hands girl phone and tells her to put her number in it.  Boy then texts girl immediately so she has his number.  Boy maybe texts girl in the next few days to ask her out for a drink.

 

Comments on the past: It’s simple and straight-forward, but if the boy loses her number, then we have a problem on our hands.

Comments on the present: It’s certainly efficient, but it’s much less personal and endearing.

Erika’s recommendations: It’s more than okay to put someone’s number in your phone when you meet, but I don’t recommend contacting him or her immediately.  Wait until the next day, and follow up with a text saying, “It was great to meet you last night!  I’ll give you a ring tomorrow so we can set up some plans.”  And then actually call!

The Past The Present
SWM seeks SWF for long walks on the beach, strawberry daiquiris, and a lifetime of intellectual conversation. I like to laugh and have fun.  I’m just as comfortable in a tux as I am in jeans and flip flops.  Sometimes I love a night out on the town, but other times I’m just as happy on the couch with a movie.  My family and friends are very important to me.

 

Comments on the past: It’s simple and easy.  No picture = no expectations.  You have no idea who might respond, though, and it’s hard to weed through the muck.

Comments on the present: First of all, this profile is terrible!  I learned nothing about this person.  Besides that, though, in this day and age, online dating is here to stay, so you might as well use it… and use it well.

Erika’s recommendations: Use online dating, but make your profile and photos stand out from the crowd.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like to laugh and have fun!  (If you don’t, well, I’m very sorry.  Hang out with me – I’ll make you laugh.)  For more profile tips, click here.

The Past The Present
If you wanted to know about someone, you asked your friends. If you want to know about someone, you Facebook stalk, Google, follow, and Instagram.

 

Comments on the past: Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing!  But it’s hard to know whether this person is who he says he is.

Comments on the present: TMI!  While a little online stalking… ahem… researching is good (and normal), some people take it too far.  No need to know the year your date had her wisdom teeth pulled out (2008 for me) or his mileage breakdown on the last six marathons he ran.  Leave something to talk about on the date!

Erika’s recommendations: It’s fine to do some due diligence.  Just don’t overdo it and start obsessing or making assumptions that you don’t know to be true.

What’s the point of dissecting how things have changed?  It’s to show that each time period has its merits.  I love that we live in the digital age, and as long as we use that to our advantage, then we can only benefit.  Happy dating!

erika ettin-49253-3 NewErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

Catch a Date with “Email Bait” – – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 86)

heartbaitDo you ever come across a profile that you like, you want to send a message, and then you have a strong bout of writer’s block?  It turns out you’re not alone.

Many people have no idea what to say in an initial online dating email (or text, if we’re talking about apps) to show someone that they have an interest in communicating and potentially meeting.  For this reason, it’s best to give these potential suitors (or suitoresses?) one more thing to comment about.  In other words, provide them with some “email bait.”

In my old JDate profile (LovesLifeDC), I had a photo of myself singing the National Anthem.  I got almost daily emails asking where I was singing and how I got the gig.  (Answers: A Washington Nationals game.  A good demo and a lot of persistence.  It was one of the best nights of my life… until I almost ran out of gas on the way home.  I’ll save that story for a rainy day.)  This picture alone gave men the “in” they needed to strike up a conversation with me.

Other examples of some of my clients’ interesting pictures have been:

  • A woman playing ice hockey in full gear
  • A guy dressed as a clown since he performs for children every Sunday
  • A woman climbing a tree at a winery
  • A guy singing with a mariachi band
  • A woman posing next to a sign saying “Completely Nuts” (Oh wait – that was me again!)

As a side note, I think I can speak for most of my fair gender when I say that we don’t care how big the fish you caught was.  Compensating for something, perhaps? 🙂

To show a real-life example, I’m going to use a photo of yours truly:

erika1

This picture, while fine, is not really showing anything special.

Now, let’s look at this one:

erika2

This picture instead shows me performing with Story League, something I like to do to get my creative juices flowing.  (I’m actually performing tomorrow night in the “Sticky” contest.)  It could easily generate questions like:

  • Where are you speaking? (Busboys & Poets)
  • Do you do that often? (Every month or two)
  • What was that particular story about? (A text message gone awfully wrong)
  • Do you always wear glasses? (If you want me to see you from far away!)

These two pictures were taken the exact same night, but one would do much better online.

The moral: Many people have no idea what to say in the initial email, so give them something easy to comment about, or “email bait.”

erika ettin-49381 Cropped (1)Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

How Not to Catch Someone’s Eye – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 85)

eyesAccording to the handy dandy GTJ calendar, there are quite a few events coming up, aren’t there?  I know I’ll be at the Sixth in the City Shabbat and the Purim Bash in the next couple of weeks, and I have no doubt that many people reading this are also planning to shake their tuchuses at an event or two.

If you’re single, these events can not only serve to give you a taste of Judaism and the Shabbat or holiday spirit, but they might also serve to give you a taste of the finest kosher meat in town… and I’m not talking about your bubbe’s brisket!  It’s important, though, when trying to meet people at religious events (or large parties in general, regardless of the affiliation), not to creep someone out when your real intention is to do just the opposite: turn that person on.

Here are a few examples of people not to be:

The Tiger

This person waits silently until you take a breath in the middle of a conversation about your dog or take a swig of your Cabernet Sauvignon to pounce on you and go in for the kill, in the form of dominating your attention.

The Elephant

This person, oblivious to the surroundings and the discussion already in progress, will simply charge into the conversation, not worrying who or what is in his or her path.

The Shark

This person “swims” around the event, talking to no one and silently stalking everyone.

The Lizard

Much like the shark, this person doesn’t talk to anyone all night.  Instead, he or she simply sticks to the wall, observing but not actually entering any conversations.

Let’s say someone catches your eye.  We’ll call her a 5’1 woman with curly brown hair, hazel eyes, and freckles.  You really want to talk to her, but she’s engaged in a pretty in-depth conversation.  (You know this because her hands are flailing around.)  Rather than taking your social cues from Sea World or the zoo, your best bet is to simply be social with everyone.

If the brunette beauty is all the way across the room, it’s no big deal.  Simply chat with someone who looks interesting near you, male or female.  This gesture does two things: 1) Makes you look friendly and inclusive (and perhaps you might really enjoy the conversation) and 2) Warms you up before you get to talk to your new crush.  Before long, you will have made your way across the room without pouncing, charging, stalking, or cowering.  Instead, you will have been that nice, normal person who knows how to converse with anyone.  And when your time comes to talk with the target of your affection, you will have already talked to so many people that you won’t appear to be trying too hard.  This sounds much better than creepily watching her for two hours until she finally disengaged from her conversation to use the restroom, doesn’t it?

As a side note, if you’re looking to end a conversation for some reason, don’t simply walk away when you’re done.  Politely say something like, “I see someone over there I want to say hi to.”  And assuming you’re taking this article’s advice, that “someone” could be anyone!

So relax, be social, have a great time, and when you’re ready to talk to someone of interest, act like you grew up in a normal household and not the zoo.

erika ettin-49334smallErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

Catfish Isn’t Just What You Ate For Dinner – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 83)

fishWhen people hear the term “online dating,” they don’t always know what it means.  Here’s what it doesn’t mean:

  • Having a virtual girlfriend or boyfriend
  • Dating in your pajamas for the rest of eternity while eating a pint of Chunky Monkey
  • Sitting behind your computer and assuming that you just had a “hot date”

In many ways, “online dating” is a misnomer.  It could instead be called “online introductions” because the actual “dating” part should still be in person.  Period.

It’s easy to fall in love with someone’s online dating profile, isn’t it?  In fact, a client who lives in MD just told me this morning that she “really likes everything about” this guy in NY based on his JDate profile.  I reminded her that this person is not real until she’s had a face-to-face interaction with him.  It’s just words on a page and a picture until then.

People join online dating sites for many reasons: To find an activity partner, a friend, a date, a one-night stand, a long-term relationship, or marriage. All it takes is the click of a button to list what we’d like to find in our online dating adventure.  Curiously enough, “pen pal” is not an option.  Why?  Because people do not join online dating sites to simply email back and forth with no end in sight.  People are looking to form a real relationship, not an “e-lationship.”

It’s not too forward to ask someone out for a drink or coffee after one or two emails back and forth.  (And I generally recommend that the guy does the asking.)  If a woman responds to your email or reaches out to you on her own (which I strongly encourage women to do), she’s probably interested enough to meet in person.

Of course, some people don’t know when it’s appropriate to move from the email to the date and err on the side of caution (aka waiting too long), so in this case, I recommend saying something like, “I’m really enjoying these emails.  Should we meet for a drink next week?  I’m free Monday or Wednesday if either works for you.”  If they take the bait or suggest a different day, then that’s great!  If the answer is simply no (or there’s no answer), then it’s time to move on.  If someone is perpetually busy, either he or she is secretly the President of the Universe or is trying to get out of meeting in person for some reason.  Don’t dwell on it.  It wasn’t meant to be.

If meeting in person is not feasible for some reason (perhaps you don’t live close enough to meet in a timely fashion), then the best thing to do is to suggest that you Skype or FaceTime.  It takes just as long to dial someone’s number and chat for a few minutes as it does to sit down and email each other, so if someone declines this offer, that is a major red flag.

My advice?  Meet offline as soon as you can.  If you like each other, you’ll be glad you didn’t waste all that time emailing.  And if you don’t, you can move on and also be glad you didn’t waste all that time emailing.  Win-win!  Don’t be the next story on Catfish: The TV Show.

erika ettin-49381 Cropped (1)Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

Tips for Dating Bliss in 2014 – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 81)

snow heartTime sure does fly, doesn’t it?  It’s a new year, and with that comes a new outlook, maybe some new clothes, and, of course, some new people on all of the online dating sites.  (And don’t forget about all of the new single people after the turkey drop and holiday season break-ups.)

As we enter a new year of dating, with first dates abounding, it’s important to remember some helpful tips for achieving dating bliss in 2014:

1. Remain optimistic and happy.

Have you ever been on a date where your date walks in, and he or she just looks miserable?  Or maybe you were the one on your fourth JDate in a week, and you’re just jaded by the whole process.  That aura of negativity really sucks the life out of a date.  If you’re not ready to be dating, say after a break-up, that’s A-ok.  But when you are ready, it’s best to go in with a smile.

2. Focus on the big picture, not the small stuff.

Your date tells you that he’s into some obscure indie band that you heard once and hated.  Is your potential relationship doomed?  Of course not, but sadly, a lot of people take tastes and hobbies more into account than what’s really important – values.  I’d rather know whether someone is close to his family than whether he reads only historical fiction.  It’s obviously nice to have hobbies in common (though I’m glad no one I ever dated played Mahjong like I do!), but in the end, small differences in tastes likely don’t amount to the demise of a relationship.

3. Ask questions.

No one wants to go on a date where one person is talking the entire time.  In order to encourage a healthy back-and-forth, the best thing you can do is to ask your date some questions.  (Hopefully he or she will do the same in return and not take that as a cue to ramble on for an hour straight!)  The questions that have the most luck require more than a simple one-word answer.  You want to get the person thinking.  For example, rather than asking, “What do you do?” (perhaps the most boring question in the book), you could ask, “What made you decide to get into medicine?” or “How do you enjoy your job as a pediatrician?  I imagine it must be very rewarding.”  The first question allows your date to simply say, “I’m a doctor,” but the other two require a bit of introspection, leading to a more thoughtful conversation… and perhaps a second date.

4. Have confidence.

A little confidence goes a long way.  Be decisive, be proud of who you are, have the courage of your convictions, and tell someone how you feel.  These pointers can carry over into other aspects of life as well.  Sometimes you have to talk the talk and walk the walk of confidence for a while, but eventually it’ll catch up to you.

So go out there and have some fun in 2014, and remember these pointers to give your dating life a boost.  Happy New Year!

erika ettin-49334smallErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

 

 

 

DC Winter Date Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 80)

i-give-you-my-heart-winter-wallpaperCatch Erika tonight at Adas Israel! Finding Your Beshert… Online Dating with founder of “A Little Nudge,” Erika Ettin

We’re in the thick of the holiday season.  There are Christmas trees adorning pretty much every office building in town, too many excuses to eat that extra slice of cake at the holiday party (dark chocolate is healthy, right?), and threats of snow that finally came to fruition this past weekend.

But the holiday season also brings with it a strain on our wallets.  We took advantage of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals (I was way too excited about the 50% off at Wet Seal that I got!), and now we’ll likely do the same with the day-after-Christmas sales.  How about all the presents we have to get for our co-workers, family, and friends?  And then there are these prix fixe menus at many restaurants on major holidays.  And don’t forget all the gas money you’ll be spending if you’re driving out of town and the exorbitant flight prices at this time of year.

My goal here is certainly not to get you depressed.  It’s instead to share some cost-effective (and often free!) date ideas in the DC area that won’t break the bank this holiday season.

For the Dorothy Hamill or Brian Boitano types:
Take your date ice skating.  There are more ice skating rinks in the area than you would have guessed, including the ones at the Sculpture Garden, the Georgetown Waterfront, Pentagon City, Navy Yard, and Shaw, which I believe is opening later this month.  More information can be found here: http://redtri.com/ice-skating-rinks-in-dc/.

For the Padma Lakshmi or Tom Sietsema types:
One food-centric idea that one of my clients recently did with her new boyfriend (yay) was to go to the supermarket with only $20 in an attempt to make the best gourmet meal on a budget.  (They did a surprisingly good job!)  You could also enjoy a winter drink to keep you warm, like the salted caramel hot chocolate at Co Co. Sala in Chinatown.  Even better, if you’re a bourbon drinker like I am, they have a drink called the Wild Winter that has bourbon and spiked apple cider in it.  Yum.  (Maybe it’s a little more expensive, but I think it’s worth it.)  Poste also has a special winter cocktail menu that you can ask for at the bar.  Or, if you’re feeling like Derek Brown, one of DC’s best mixologists, then you can attempt to make some of these winter cocktail recipes together.  Even if they don’t come out as planned, at least you’ll have fun making them… or you’ll be too drunk to notice.

For the Angelina Jolie or George Clooney types:
No, I’m not telling you to write and direct your own screenplay!  I’m talking about volunteering together.  Many organizations have volunteer activities in the winter to help people in need, such as throwing holiday parties, wrapping gifts, or packing meals.  The DC JCC is a great place to start.  You can show each other your caring side.

For the Bill Nye or Bob Ross types:
We are so lucky to live in a place where so many museums are free.  Explore the planets at the Air & Space Museum, walk through the live butterfly room at the Museum of Natural History, or check out some work by the photographer Charles Marville at the National Gallery of Art.  (The National Gallery has a surprisingly nice food court, too.)  To make it even more exciting, you could design your own scavenger hunt before heading to the museum and then do it together.  I even found an app that thinks of the challenges for you!

For the Steve Urkel or Ben Stein types:
Go to Board Room or Thomas Foolery and get to know each other over a game of Don’t Break the Ice (remember that one?) or Battleship.  Go to Continental in Rosslyn and play a game of pool or their giant version of Connect Four.  Challenge each other to a game of ping pong at Comet in Van Ness.  Attend a trivia night to show off your Jeopardy-esque prowess.

For the Shaun White or Indiana Jones types:
While I’m not necessarily one to spend too much time out in the cold, I know there there are people who are, so I want to make sure we cover all of our bases.  You could take a walk along the Mall to see the monuments all lit up, go hiking in Great Falls, walk to a dog park and pet some of the pups, or take a ride out to Gravelly Point Park, bring a blanket and a picnic lunch, and watch the planes take off and land.  While you don’t necessarily have to spend any time outside for this one, take a drive (or a walk) through different neighborhoods to find the best, worst, and gaudiest Christmas lights/decorations.  Don’t forget to take pictures!

Just because you can’t bask in the sun at a Nats game or sit on the roof of El Centro, it doesn’t mean you can’t go out and have fun with your date… winter style.  Plus, who doesn’t like a pair of tall boots, right?  Enjoy… and button up.

erika ettin-49334smallErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.