DATING 101

Week 3: Getting to Date #2

Congratulations. You've passed the first date hurdle and are now running down the field (as opposed to playing the field) with the ball, hoping to score ... well, more than a touchdown. The period between a first date and the first intimations that you're inching toward commitment is a precarious one. You want to play ''the game'' just right but not necessarily follow The Rules.

There are three popular post-first date states of mind. Most likely, you are experiencing one of them. Find your present mindset below and follow my recommended game plan. Remember, I'm here to help you reach your goal: date #2.

State of Mind #1: Desperate for a Second Chance
You did something on the first date that you regret (maybe you couldn't shake off a bad day at work, had a really bad case of PMS or went too far sexually) and now you fear that that misstep will put the kibosh on a potential relationship.
Game Plan: Fear not, there are actions you can take in these and other instances that operate along the lines of an emotional morning-after pill. If your first-date personality was anything but congenial, how can you now let him know that the witchy, weird woman he met bears little resemblance to the real you? You have little to lose by calling, but don't touch that dial until you are in the mellow zone. When you call, proceed swiftly into semi-grovel mode -- ''Hi, it's Cindy from the other night. I'm not calling to ask you to get together again, although it would be my pleasure to treat you to make up for my bad behavior, but I wanted to apologize and explain why I was so awful ...'' Then you can offer a brief reason for your crabbiness (nothing too detailed) and hope that he chimes in with protestations like, ''Oh, you weren't that bad'' or, better yet, an invitation to try again. If his reaction is less promising, gracefully end the conversation. Don't slam down the receiver or you'll be back at square one. Will he call if the phone conversation ends with no definite plans to get together? I'd place the odds at 50-50, but at least you've behaved with class and calm. And unlike after the date, you'll be able to respect yourself in the morning.

Speaking of which, if things went too far too fast in the sex arena, it doesn't automatically spell disaster -- or a required repeat on date #2. Although you can't simply hit ''rewind'' and erase the evening from his mind, you can try to fix things with a phone call. Tell him you don't know what got into you -- sex on the first date isn't your usual modus operandi (you just couldn't resist his charms!) and that you'd love to see him again, but only on the condition that you slow down on the sexual front. If it turns out that he's not interested in getting to know the clothed you, at least you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you set the record straight.

Next page: How not to appear overeager, and more.

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State of Mind #2: Waiting by the Phone
You had a fabulous time, and he said he did, too, and that he'd be counting the hours until the two of you got together again. He's obviously too busy counting to pick up the phone, since it's been over a week since the date and your phone is still cruelly silent. Now you face the age-old dilemma: Should you call him?
Game Plan: For the male species, saying ''I'll call'' is typically akin to mouthing ''achoo'' after a sneeze -- a meaningless reflex. Add to that my (admittedly retro) belief that most men aren't wired to respond well to women making the first post-date call (with the exception of the calls recommended above) and you're in a bit of a bind. So what can you do? I encourage you to exercise restraint and not call him. But if you must make contact or you'll die, I suggest you use (but don't abuse) email. Technology has been both a boon and a curse to modern daters. The comforting blankness of cyberspace, like happy gas, seems to render many people's otherwise impeccably good judgment invalid. Thoughts single women wouldn't dream of voicing in a phone call (''Were you being honest when you said I'm pretty, or do you really think I'm too heavy?'') they'll carelessly plant inside the body of an email. In this case, a casual ''Thanks so much for a fun time the other night. Dinner was great. So was the company'' will get your true intent across without putting too much on the line in both a literal and figurative sense. Whatever you do, don't sit by the phone or computer waiting for a response. Go on with your life and try your best not to think of him (at least not every waking moment). If you don't hear back, write him off and move on.

State of Mind #3: Eager Not to Appear Overeager
You had an amazing time, you're pretty sure he did too, and now you're simply hoping this infatuation you're experiencing (and hoping he's experiencing) can flower into love. The danger here? You don't want to appear overeager. Nothing turns a guy off faster than evidence that someone finds him magnetically irresistible. The correct post-first-date persona to strive for lies between acting cool and constantly throwing yourself at him. The idea is to let him know you like him, that he's a fun part of your life but not your entire life -- the icing, not the cake, so to speak. Act friendly, affectionate (within reason for the early stages of a relationship), happy to hear from him, but not desperate for his call. How can you not throw yourself at him when it really seems like he could be The One? Remind yourself (often and with feeling) that he is not the last man in the universe. In short, lighten up. Stay busy with work and friends and -- this is important -- continue to try to meet other men. Until you and your new man reach the C-word stage, date away.

Next step: How can you get him closer to commitment?

Talk about this workshop on the Dating Doyenne message board.

How do you know when you and your man are definitely headed for date number two? Share your secrets with other iVillagers here -- and pick up a few clues, too!

Adapted with permission from The Q&A Dating Book by Sherry Amatenstein. Published by Adams Media Corporation. Copyright 2000.

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