So, you finally took the plunge. You changed your Tinder settings to “women,” and you’re swiping away on artists in leather jackets, cooler-than-you artsy hipsters, femme fatale Instagram models, and all kinds of queer babes. I’m sure you’re getting plenty of matches, and while that can be exciting, there’s a solid chance that you’re also low-key panicking — especially if this all leads to your very first queer date.
That’s where I come in. I’m a seasoned lesbian who has been on a whole lot of same-sex dates. Ten years ago, when I went on my first date with a woman, it was awkward, exhilarating, and imperfect. Now that I’ve been dating women for a decade, many of whom I met on Tinder, I’ve had dozens of wildly successful (and wildly unsuccessful) dates. Ahead are nine tips that I and other seasoned queer daters have learned along the way.
1. Make moves.
I don’t care if it’s as simple as writing “hey.” Don’t waste time obsessing over who is going to message who. This is queer world, and there are no rules here. Welcome! From there, try asking your date out sooner than you normally would. I know that sounds intimidating as hell, but you’re better off getting to the date before you have time to be (any more) anxious. It seems forward, but I’ve had success with, “I think you seem [complimentary adjective] and would love to grab a drink.”
2. Be decisive about your first-date location.
Your nerves might get you caught in an endless stream of where-do-you-want-to-go-I-don’t-know-what-do-you-think. But that will only make you more anxious — plus, it’s not cute. Pick a trendy cocktail bar and stick to it. Drinks might be an obvious first date, but a cocktail bar will give you time and space to talk in a pleasant setting.
3. Have a pre-date plan.
It is totally normal to be anxious before any date — this one even more so. I find that going out with a close friend beforehand is the perfect way to forget about nerves, loosen up, and get some support and advice. If you are still a nervous wreck after a cocktail and a pep talk, your friend can even walk you to your date.
If you’re more likely to take comfort in solitude, arrive at your date spot early, grab a table, and have a drink by yourself. This eliminates the awkward finding each other dance — just text your date that you have a table — enjoy one drink (there is nothing wrong with a small date pregame), and remember: we’re rooting for you.
4. Be ready for an open conversation.
Just mention “The L Word.” Lesbians love talking about that show. Okay, I’m kidding, but only sort of. No topic is off limits, and I’ve found that queer dates tend to dive deep more quickly than straight ones. That is to say, I have covered my deepest childhood trauma before my martini even arrived.
5. Part with gender expectations.
For the love of Lana Del Rey, pay the damn bill. I mean, I’m sure you have manners and already know this, but the custom is as follows: You asked her out, you pay. You are free from heteronormative rules surrounding gender. Bask in it.
“Toss expectations for roles out the window,” says Katharine, 25. “Let things just happen, and have fun figuring out what you’re comfortable with and enjoy. There is nothing to dictate who opens doors, pulls out a chair, or gets the drinks.”
6. Kiss the girl.
Like so many things in this cruel world, first-date-kissing can be an anxiety-provoking experience, especially for two women free from those weird heteronormative rules about who should make the first move. I say, as long as you both consent, anything goes. If it feels right, compliment your date, touch her arm, and make eye contact. And if the vibe is right, consider a kiss. There’s something so vulnerable, respectful, flattering, and honest (not to mention reassuring) in asking, “Can I kiss you?”
“I think the most important thing with dating women is picking up on body language,” says Corinne, 27. “Is she leaning her body toward you at the bar? Is her body language open and inviting? If so, I’d say you can ask to kiss her toward the end of the night, or even in the middle of drinks (that’s sexy!).”
7. If you’re nervous, just say so.
Trying to be cool all the time is officially cancelled. Being honest about your nerves can even be kind of cute and endearing, and saying, “This is my first queer date, I’m kind of nervous,” is refreshingly honest. Plus, after your admit your nerves, I guarantee you’ll relax. On dates, I frequently think back to a piece of job interview advice I once got. “They want you to be the right person for the job — it solves their problem just as much as yours.” Apply that to dating, and it’ll change your whole perspective.
8. Be yourself.
OK, it sounds like corny kindergarten advice, but it’s cliché for a reason. You’re out now, and there’s no need to hide. If you want to wear a bralette, a leather jacket, and bold red lipstick, do it. If you feel more comfortable in a maxi dress, messy bun, and mascara, go for it. If you’re passionate about reality TV and cheeseburgers, talk about that. If your eyes light up when you mention your niece, tell your date about your favorite memory with her. When you are comfortable, you are most yourself. And when you’re most yourself, you are the sexiest.
“Dating is a way to find out more about yourself and what you want from a potential partner, so masking your authenticity will only hinder you from finding your match,” says Corey, 25. “Use the experience to weed out the ones who just aren’t right for you. Be polite but then when the time is right, get up and say thank you, next.”
9. Keep going.
Did you have fun? Excellent. Did it not go perfectly? Well, most dates don’t. “Try not to take it so damn seriously,” says Zara, 31. “And if she ghosts you after one date, it happens. A date is not a wedding proposal. It’s a chance to catch a buzz on a Tuesday. So relax, dive in, and try again.”