So you finally meet a guy, work up the courage to ask him out, and he says "yes", but when you finally meet up for dinner at that expensive restaurant you've been saving for all week, you realize half-way through trying to decide what to eat that there just isn't a connection between you and the guy. How often has this happened to you? Given the ease of online dating apps like Grindr, Scruff, and Tinder I'm going to guess that it's happened to most gay men at least once. But there's nothing to be done once you're seated there. Sure, the more brave and insensitive of us might use the sneak-out-the-bathroom-window ploy or just flat out leave if the chemistry isn't right. But for the rest of us--you know; the people with, like, feelings and stuff--we're stuck sitting across the table struggling for conversation topics and praying that somebody tips over a candle and sets the entire place ablaze, just so the night ends.
Even if you do, by some luck, manage to score a date with someone you actually want to spend your time with--for which we all now despise you--the dinner date should be your last first-date option. First date dinners are essentially interviews; everyone is on their best behavior because they have a clear set of goals in mind (...sex, the goals are sex) and you're terrified to slouch in your chair. Not to mention, if the combination of him plus you starts to produce some chemical reactions the last thing anyone wants is a full stomach of paste penne when they're about to show off their birthday suit. And the breath! Look, I don't care how many pieces of Orbitz gum you've chewed in the last ten minutes; I can still taste that hipster IPA you were trying to impress with and it's not cute. Dinner for first dates is the absolute worst!
I present three alternative date options to a bloated evening across from someone who think's that "nerd" on their Grindr profile means "I wear glasses".
Laser Tag/ Paintball
Definitely a more fun option than sitting at a dinner table. For those of us who are more active minded, are on restrictive diets, or generally just hate sitting down, shooting lasers or small paint filled pellets at your date is so much more fun. Or, if you're wanting to see how well you work as a team, partner up and wreck the competition. Let me be honest though; those damn paint balls hurt. So don't shoot your date anywhere vital if you get what I'm saying. High energy dates like these are great because they can allow for some playful competition and reveal a lot about your date. Does he freak out every time he gets shot? How does he handle his anger? Does he try to argue and pout when he doesn't get his way. In the laser-tag arena, all shall be made clear.
I'm talking places like Chicago's Replay or Headquarters, or even a Dave and Busters, not like a Chucky Cheese (are those places even still around?). These places are meant for adults even if they do often get overrun by children. I recommend going on "off" nights (unless you want to walk around laughing at the desperate faces of parents and guardians who have lost ALL control, I don't recommend a Friday or Saturday night at a Dave and Busters, like, ever) to avoid larger crowds of children. This is a "classic" date night and takes a lot of pressure off both parties. If things start to go south its easy to either move on to another game or call it an early night. Really, that's the entire appeal of going to a game arcade on a first date; it's so entirely casual that organic conversations can bloom free from the vines of propriety (e.g. you can usually drink at these places). My most successful dates--yes, I've managed a successful date here and there--have usually started out at a game arcade.
Adventure/ Escape Rooms
I can feel you shaking your head "no". But wait! This is actually my go-to for a first date because it will tell you absolutely everything you need to know about the guy in about an hour. Trust me, things become clear pretty quickly when you have a starving-college-student-slash-aspiring-actor-playing-zombie and your date tries to hide behind and/or throw you in the way of said zombie to save their own skin. I recently went on a zombie escape room date and personally had a great time. You're essentially trying to solve puzzles and riddles to escape a locked room before the time runs out and the zombie "eats" you. I learned that my investigative style is quiet; I'm a very tactile and observant person so I was okay sitting quietly in a corner and pressing my hands against the wall like some sort of genius savant with no interpersonal skills. My date was the complete opposite. Where I was quiet and kept touching stuff (seriously, I needed a serious Purell bath by the time I was done), he wouldn't have shut up if his life had depended on it. He screamed and ran from station-to-station trying to solve every clue in the room at once. It was like someone had set loose a sugared-up-toddler, weighing 210lbs, on the room. Admittedly, he was an effective leader and managed to get a room full of semi-terrified-mostly-embarrassed adults to work somewhat in tandem with one another. By the end of the evening I knew everything I needed to know; where I'd thought we shared similar interests and demeanors I fond that we were quite opposite. All-in-all escape rooms are like having your nosy mother around to tell you whether or not you're wasting you're time.
Dating is hard enough but, being gay, afford a lot of freedom from traditional standards. If the gay community can do away with monogamy and welcome BDSM with open arms, I think we can shelve the dinners for the fourth or fifth date and actually enjoy our first ones.