Nothing quite describes your early 20s like a chain of shitty first dates. You abruptly make plans two hours before because all of your friends have bailed on you and you think to yourself, why not?
It doesn’t take long before you’re looking up “affordable first date spots near me” on Google; you have to avoid the restaurants you love (can’t risk ruining a good place with bad memories), the places where your friends work (imagine ending up on their Snapchat stories), and all of your other regular places. No matter where you go, the date will surely end in the same awkward “I had fun tonight” and no follow-up text.
You’re sick and tired of beating a dead horse. How can a city filled with people leave you with no options?
But you’ve stumbled across this list of first dates, daring you to explore the possibilities and endure the bittersweetness.
1. A night out at the movies
Why not pull a page out of your playbook from when you were 14? This unoriginal idea has stood the test of time because it works.
The two of you end up finally deciding on the latest MCU movie even though you’ve missed a few (or five). You’re not sure who Captain Marvel is, but you did love Brie Larson in Room.
At least it’s simple and doesn’t give the wrong idea. Right? Right. Luckily, you two manage to pick the one that’s three hours long and involves way too many storylines and characters. You have to dash to the bathroom right after it ends and relieve yourself of the giant soda your date bought you (he insisted).
You walk out of the bathroom with slightly damp hands and pants (the hand dryer was broken).
“So, you liked the movie?”
“Yeah, I did! You?”
You can’t believe the conversation is drier than your hands. Spiderman could have left and come back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe before the thought of a second date even appeared in your head.
2. A night in his kitchen
It’s almost the end of the month, and your boss doesn’t pay you until next Wednesday. You can’t really risk spending more money without having to owe your roommates the utility bills this month.
You text your date about the pickle you’re in; luckily, he’s understanding about why you can’t afford to go to the Mexican-Asian fusion restaurant he saw on TripAdvisor tomorrow night.
“Why don’t you come over and we can cook something ourselves? Just bring some drinks. I’ll take care of the rest.”
You’re hesitant at first, not exactly keen on the idea of going to his apartment on the first date. What if he gets the wrong idea?
“Just cooking?” You ask.
“Just cooking.” He affirms.
He texts you his location, just four blocks away. The drink you pick up from the supermarket is a bottle of premixed mimosa because you hate the taste of alcohol and only tolerate it when it tastes like juice.
With one hand clenching the liter of mimosa, and the other texting your friends his name and address, you reach for his doorbell.
You want to believe it’s a good date—the two of you make chicken quesadillas and you meet his roommate’s cat, Chowder. The cherry on top? You’re able to leave his apartment in one piece and he keeps to his promise of “just cooking.”
Unfortunately, he also wouldn’t stop talking about his ex-girlfriend throughout the night. Don’t worry, he stops to remind you that he is “totally over her” and he “dumped her because she was crazy.”
Hello, red flag! You unfollow him on Instagram during your walk home.
3. A night out for drinks
Even though you’re not the biggest of beer, this beats sipping on grocery-bought mango champagne alone in your kitchen. It always seems like a good idea until your words are slurring and you drop your phone into the pint of beer between the two of you. You awkwardly fish it out and wipe it on your jeans.
“I’m just gonna clean this in the bathroom,” you say. “I’ll be right back.”
You stumble your way into the bar bathroom, pushing past groups of giggling girls downing their first tequila shots of the night. Thankfully, the bathroom is empty; you run your hands under cold water and splatter it across your face, hoping to bring some clarity to your eyes.
You return to the table. “I think I’m gonna head home. I don’t want to sleep too late tomorrow.” You quickly catch the eye of a waiter and gesture for the check, but before you can reach for your wallet, he stops you.
“Drinks are on me.”
You thank him, even though your share was only $8 you’d be fine paying for it. But hey, whatever floats his boat.
He walks you back, where you opt out of a goodnight kiss. By the time you wash off your makeup and climb into bed, he’s requested “beer money” for $10 dollars ($8 dollars plus tip) on Venmo.
4. A night of studying
The two of you have been talking for the longest time since you commiserated over a group project and shared occasional grins across lecture halls from time to time. With midterms just around the corner, it’s difficult to spare time for an awkward movie date or drinks in the shitty student bar. Thus, you opt to study together.
Between the librarian staring you down for coughing and the amount of coffee you managed to chug in such a short period of time, you begin to wonder if you’re still really writing that art history paper.
He isn’t paying much attention to you either, mainly because he’s too busy calculating what grade he needs on his final to not take this class again next semester.
The silence begins stressing you out. “I can’t wait for finals week to be over,” you say.
“Huh? Sorry, I didn’t hear that.”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter, it’s nothing.”
5. A night in after canceling the date
“I forgot I had plans tonight. Sorry, let’s reschedule.” You press send and throw your phone onto your bed.
The only plans you have tonight are to make yourself a big bowl of pasta and crawl into bed to catch up on The Good Place.
You don’t want to be that person and cancel, but honestly, it’s been a long day at school, and you don’t have the strength to put on a smile and endure another grotesque first date.
Let’s face it, dating is exhausting. We’re given more options than we can process; with Hinge, Tinder, and Bumble just a tap away, it’s difficult to give people a second chance. And so you end up going to the same places, having the same first dates, and even though they’re all with different people, the results are all the same.
Somewhere along the way, you ran out of first dates, and in truth, the drive to continue dating.