What do you usually talk about on a date?
I don’t know about you, but I am of the mind that a date should not feel like a job interview. When a well-meaning person asks, “Which famous person, living or dead, would you invite to dinner?” I want to say (as politely as possible), “Someone who wouldn’t ask questions like that.” Instead, here are a few topics I’ve found spark great conversation…
Find commonalities. Don’t let go.
If you have any acquaintances in common, bonus points for you. Otherwise, cover your bases — siblings, hobbies, pets, favorite travel destinations — until you hit common ground. Discussing your mutual love of surfing or Jonathan Franzen novels is the easiest way to bond early on.
What’s the worst/weirdest date you’ve ever been on?
While talking about exes is generally a no-no, this question has yielded some amazing responses. For me, it’s the story of the time I met two people named Rob in a very similar timeframe. One was a Rob I wanted to date. One was a Rob I did not. I made a date with Rob-I-liked, and when I arrived at the bar… it was the wrong Rob. I had no choice but to sit it out, cursing the ambiguity of text messages.
Did you have an irrational childhood fear?
I was afraid of wolves. I swore they hid in the closets, waiting to eat me. A date was afraid of stickers. (Yes, stickers.) These things can be surprisingly fun to talk about. While we’re at it… talking about youth is generally a good time. Did you have a favorite dinosaur? A quirky pet? If you’re similar ages, you can discuss your feelings about Full House or The Wonder Years or the frighteningly robust POG collection languishing in your parents’ basement.
Have you read anything good lately?
I’m always poking around to see what people are reading. Whether it’s a graphic novel, a magazine article or an interview with their favorite comedian, discussing things you’ve read is a great way to see what makes them tick.
What’s your secret talent?
It could be anything from yodeling to deep sea diving, but everyone loves to talk about times when they shine. As for me, I can hula hoop for hours at a time, while performing tricks like a trained seal. I never get to talk about this, but you know what? I’d like to. Asking your date to boast leads to them feeling great in your presence. Everybody wins.
If you had to be trapped inside one giant food, and the only way to escape was to eat your way out of it, which food would you choose?
Yes, this is essentially the same as asking someone what their favorite food is. But it’s a much more fun way to phrase it, and it typically yields a better response. Mine is a toss up between a large hunk of cheddar cheese and a peanut butter cup.
Finally, if you do find yourself in the midst of a quiet moment, remember that silence has its place in conversations, too. You know when Harry tells Sally, “It’s so nice when you can sit with someone and not have to talk”? That is true. The more at ease you are, the more at ease your company will feel.
Do you have any go-to conversation starters? Or any questions you love to be asked?
(Photo of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainbourg by Ian Berry, 1970)