For some, first dates can be quite terrifying and simply unpleasant. I am not one of those people. For me, they’re an experience, a time to find out more about myself and hone in on my preferences while visiting some fun spots in my city. 

Upon moving to Los Angeles, I had a steady job and a solid group of girlfriends. I was also single, so I figured, why not give online dating a try? Some friends and I set up my profile over a few bottles of wine and an impressive charcuterie board and waited for the magic to happen. Since I was already trying something new, I figured I’d go a step further: I vowed to choose men who I wouldn’t typically approach. I was worried that no one would match with me or, even worse, that I would get cold feet and quickly delete my profile. What happened was quite the opposite. I found three guys who piqued my interest, and I set up first dates with all three for one day.

Harry*, a law-school student, could easily earn a Yelp review as “no frills.” He wasn’t my normal type, but in the name of expanding my horizons, I decided to give him a chance. On paper, Adam* was beyond wholesome. He had a corporate nine-to-five and volunteered for various nonprofits on the weekends. I considered him a safe bet. Ben* was an aspiring actor, focused on social status, and not looking for anything too serious — pretty much the epitome of all things LA. Although each man was vastly different, I could genuinely see potential with all of them in one way or another.

Naturally, I had concerns about meeting all three men in a single day. I wondered whether my dates, with whom I was upfront about my schedule, would take me seriously or automatically categorize me as a serial dater. But to my surprise, the whole experience was quite exhilarating. I learned more about myself, my preferences, and why I should always follow my gut.

It’s best to be honest.

I had lined up three dates in a day because I genuinely wanted to learn more about each of these men. From the beginning, I was straight with them. I told Adam, Ben, and Harry that I was going on other dates on the same day. Yes, the conversations were a little awkward, but I wanted to be fully transparent — I was determined not to lead anyone on. Surprisingly, all the guys were appreciative of my honesty, and no one ran away.

This is a policy I have enforced, albeit in different ways, in my dating life since. Because I am fully transparent and encourage those I’m seeing to be the same, neither party leaves with unanswered questions, such as if we would see each other again or if we might be better off pursuing a friendship. I like knowing where I stand, and my dates seems to agree.  

I need to be present. 

Historically, I’ve found myself distracted on dates, and I developed a habit of checking social media here and there. However, due to the time constraints of these three dates, I realized that I needed to be fully present and to shift my attention to anything but the person across from me would be extremely inconsiderate. It was a chance to acknowledge that each date was equally worthy of my time and vice versa. They set aside part of their day for me, so I owed them the same courtesy. If neither of us were fully capable of being present, then neither of us should have been on the date or, better yet, we should be upfront about our feelings or lack thereof.

It doesn’t have to work to work out for you.

A first date does not necessarily warrant a second date. It’s OK if the fireworks and butterflies you imagined don’t emerge. Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there.

When I met Harry, I felt like I was looking at a brand-new man. His bio painted the picture of a gym-loving, 6’1” guy who adored the outdoors. The person I met was 5’7”, somewhat anti-social, and despised hiking. I felt he had been dishonest with me, and while we had a good time together, complete with some witty banter, I couldn’t get past the fact that he lied to me. So I told Harry that what he considered fibs were a big deal to me, and that because of that, I didn’t want to see him again. He understood. I’m sure he didn’t expect to get schooled over cocktails, but I can’t help but think I saved a few other women who may have been on his radar. Adam and I went on a handful more dates before we realized we were better off as friends. Ben, it turned out, wasn’t entirely over his ex and wasn’t ready for a relationship, whereas I was. He was unsure of his feelings about me and what he wanted, and an unsure partner was the last thing I wanted. After what felt like a 90-minute therapy session where I played therapist, I bid him adieu for good.

Although none of my dates sparked a long-term romance, I gained clarity and awareness that has empowered and benefited me in my romantic life and beyond. With each date, I became less timid and more vocal. I began to accept that there is something about me that drew these men to me, and that I am a catch worth getting to know. I started taking more chances and embraced being uncomfortable —  awkward silences, awkward conversations, and all. I forced myself to be vulnerable. I gained a better sense of what I want — good manners, moral standards, ambition, and clear intentions. Needless to say, I’d sign up for another dating marathon if given the chance. There is more work and play to be done.

*Names have been changed to protect innocent daters everywhere.