First Date Turn-offs — GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 44)

For National Etiquette Week back in May (who knew there was such a thing?), the dating site HowAboutWe reported on the “Top 10 Worst First Date No-Nos,” and what they found was spot-on.  And as you’ll see in a recent News Channel 8 segment, I agree with all of them.

  1. Having your phone out or texting: It doesn’t get worse than this.  Nothing screams “I’m waiting for something better to come up” than a cell phone on the table waiting to be answered.  A corollary to this one is actually answering your phone on the date.  Try (as hard as it may be) to put your phone in your bag or your pocket for the entirety of the date.
  2. First date sex: For men, it makes you look like you only want one thing (and maybe you do).  For women, it makes you look easy.
  3. Talking about your ex:  If you say nice things about your ex, it looks like you’re still not over him/her.  And if you say bad things, it looks like you’re still not over him/her and you’re bitter.  Lose, lose.  Plus, people don’t want to feel like they are being compared to someone else on the first date (or ever, for that matter).
  4. Being late (more than 15 minutes): People run late – it happens.  But if it does, please call to let your date know before the start of the date.  Texting is insufficient.
  5. Being rude (to a server): No snapping your fingers, no yelling for the waiter or waitress, and no treating the servers like second-class citizens.  Red flag!
  6. Drinking too much: People have a tendency to divulge secrets or commit dating no-no #2 (or likely both) when too much alcohol is involved.  Don’t let it be you.
  7. Splitting the bill or letting the woman pay: You remember the game of “pick-up check.”  The guy should pay on a first date.  Whether you like each other or not, it’s still a date after all, and chivalry is not dead.
  8. Work talk: It’s certainly ok to discuss work, but not for the entire date, especially if you don’t like your job.
  9. Mother talk: Leave your mom out of the date.  Especially for men, it may make you look like a bit of a mama’s boy.
  10. Talking about marriage: Great – you like each other!  The last thing you want to do is to bring up marriage and scare the other person away.  (The same goes for talking about, or naming, your future children.)

A few others from the report were:

  • Bad breath
  • Not tipping well
  • Talking about yourself too much
  • Being “fake” or not being yourself
  • Smoking

Are there any others you’d add to the list?

Erika Ettin is, as the Washington Post has noted, a “modern day Cyrano.” She is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people with all aspects of online dating.  An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.

20 replies
  1. Stephen Richer
    Stephen Richer says:

    The video clip is hilarious. Well done Erika. I still think Steve is right about payment though: 1) Girl pays 2) Split 3) Guy pays.

  2. Elana
    Elana says:

    This is total garbage. The few things on this list that aren’t inane are patently offensive.

    I expect more from a “DC Jews” modern site. This is completely backwards, sexist and heteronormative. If I wanted to read this crap I’d go buy Seventeen magazine – as a young independent feminist woman I shouldn’t have to be bombarded with this patriarchal nonsense on a site that purportedly is for me and my demographic. Why would Gather the Jews repost this? How about critiquing it, instead?

      • Dani
        Dani says:

        Seventeen? I feel like I’m reading Cosmo… from the ’50s. I refuse to take advice from someone playing into rape culture and patriarchal “norms.”

  3. Lily
    Lily says:

    I completely agree with Elana and Dani. This line in particular got my gall:

    “First date sex: for men, it makes you look like you only want one thing (and maybe you do). For women, it makes you look easy.”

    Not only are you encouraging some seriously ass-backward stereotypes of women and men, you portray us as stuck, codified, one-dimensional figures out of a Twilight movie.

    This is garbage. I sincerely hope you recognize that the people who inhabit this city and this world have more dimensions, facets and angles than this insipid article suggests.

    I’m a little stunned that GTJ would publish this.

  4. Jesse
    Jesse says:

    “Heteronormative”? “Rape culture”? No. This is a practical list designed for people who inhabit the real world. I’m all for changing societal norms, but in the meantime men who sleep with someone on the first date will appear to their partners to be only out for one thing. And women who do so will appear to their partners to be easy. That’s not a judgment on character–obviously peoples’ sexual preferences and voluntary decisions are personal, private, and worthy of respect. But, right or wrong, people will judge, and there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with making people aware of those judgments–as Erika has done. People are smart enough to decide for themselves how they want to act.

    • Elana
      Elana says:

      I think that the point is that we hear this judgmental crap all the time. If someone thinks that I’m “easy” for sleeping with them on the first date then I shouldn’t be with them in the first place. This article buys into really reductive ideas about sexuality and relationships and gender differences. There are PLENTY of “people who inhabit the real world” who don’t buy into that crap, and in fact the vast majority of people have sexualities that are more complicated than this picture of boy-just-wants-sex-girl-just-wants-a-relationship that Erika reinforces here. If you don’t believe me, talk to the people around you – real talk, about what people really want. If you still don’t believe me, or you happen to surround yourself with people exactly like you, then listen to Dan Savage for a few weeks – tons of people calling in from all over the country and world to talk about real sex, real desires, real relationships, and guess what? All of them “inhabit the real world” too.

      Also, if you look up the definition of heteronormative I don’t think there can possibly be a debate about whether or not this article is heteronormative. It just is.

      • Bluegrass Picker of Afula
        Bluegrass Picker of Afula says:

        i got no moral heartburn with “rainbow”, but het ==is== “normal”. That’s not as judgement call….. that’s knowing how to count noses. Counting noses is what DC is all about. No one moves to DC because they imagine that there’s plenty of Ma Theresa types hanging out at the singles events.

  5. Dani
    Dani says:

    If you’re “all for changing societal norms,” then why are you buying into them so much? That doesn’t make sense to me. And yes, people are also smart enough not to judge based on whether someone wants to have sex on the first date or who pays. At least many of my friends are.

    • Bluegrass Picker of Afula
      Bluegrass Picker of Afula says:

      In the “rainbow” bars of TelAviv, they say:

      what do Lesbians do on a second date? Answer: Move in with each other.

      what do Gay guys do on a second date? Answer: what’s a second date?!?

  6. Stephen Richer
    Stephen Richer says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your interest in Gather the Jews and Erika E’s column. As Erika, said, this website is meant to encourage a healthy discussion; we just ask that you keep your tone civil and refrain from ad hominem attacks.

    In response to “I’m a little stunned that GTJ would publish this” and “I expect more from a ‘DC Jews’ modern site,” we at GTJ have published over 40 articles by Erika E. for a number of reasons:

    1) She is a clear and direct writer.
    2) She is an experienced professional on this subject.
    3) We receive many positive comments from people who enjoy her column.
    4) She is a consistent and reliable writer.
    5) She regularly receives high levels of readers.
    6) She is a community member who can often put a local spin on things.

    This does not mean that GTJ’s agrees or disagrees with the content of her articles. We take no position. We do, however, as Erika E. stated, encourage a cordial exchange of ideas, either through the comments section, or, if you wish, through a public response article.

    Should you have questions about this, please feel free to email me at

    Again, thanks for your interest in Erika’s E. regular column, and thanks for your support of GTJ.

    Gather the Jews

    • Noa Levanon
      Noa Levanon says:

      I’d like to piggy-back on Stephen’s comment about our support for a cordial exchange of ideas and remind our readers that we’re always happy to bring in more community members to be part of our online conversations on the blog.

      If the people who critiqued this article (or one of their friends) would be interested in writing a piece that addresses a different view on the complicated interaction between sexuality, gender norms, etc. and Judaism and/or the DC young professional Jewish community, they should definitely write to me at to discuss.


      Editor of the Blog
      Gather the Jews

  7. Bethany Mandel
    Bethany Mandel says:

    This was pretty par for the course as far as dating tips – useful and frankly quite common sense. The commenters who object are living in their own hairy legged fantasy world if they think these were 1950s standards. Go live on a commune if you don’t like how the world really works.

  8. Grant
    Grant says:

    I agree with the author on the somehow controversial tips.

    1. Sex on a first date is a big no. It sends the signal, for sexes but particularly for women, that you don’t value yourself very much. Sex is an unavoidably intimate act. You are giving someone else access to yourself. To give a stranger that kind of access, with all of the potential consequences that come with sex (again, for both genders, but felt more heavily by women), announces exactly how little value you are placing on your safety, on your emotional health, etc.

    2. As for paying, the reality is that if a guy does not pay on the first date, he looks like he is either unable or unwilling to cough up the small amount of money that it takes to cover the first date. That’s a signal of a guy who does not have his life in order – a man-child – or a guy who doesn’t particularly want to impress this girl – meaning that he isn’t particularly impressed be her. Why would a woman want to date a guy who is “just not that into her?” (This goes to the sex point, too; if a guy is unwilling to date a girl unless he gets laid in short order – he’s announcing to the world exactly how much he likes her – not a whole lot).

    There are exceptions to these, especially payment. Unique circumstances, or if a girl knows that she has no interest in seeing the guy again and doesn’t want to lead him on by accepting his gesture of paying for her. But, all in all, these are good rules, and so are the other ones.

  9. anon
    anon says:

    It is a huge turn off when the person is a bigot or makes a hatred remark towards an innocent that is just different than he or she is.


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  1. […] are some surefire ways to turn off a first date – having your cell phone out on the table, drinking excessively, or being rude to the wait staff […]

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