Where is the obligatory meal. There must be a meal.
If a date doesn’t include at least one meal then your friend for the night, girlfriend/boyfriend, spouse, will wonder when you eat. If you eat. You must eat.
If we didn’t eat during our dates, we wouldn’t have anything to talk about: “How is your dinner?” “What were you thinking for dessert?” “Try the veal, it’s the best.” “Should we go for coffee after dinner?” Watching someone eat by themselves looks less comfortable than negotiating for hostages, and very few people have the skill to do either well.
Social convention dictates you break bread with another human to uncover their desirability as a mate. But I pose that there is a more telling crucible: Spin class.
No one looks good in workout clothes — bam, there’s your “comfortable in their own skin” test. How hard did they crank the resistance on their own bike? That’ll tell you plenty about the person’s honesty. Do they sing along with the pumping, bass-thumping cheerleader jock rock? They sing with the radio, in the car — all the time.
Do they hold on to the thin handlebars when they pedal? Is it a vise-like grip, clinging harder and holding tight with an unbreakable fury that scares you to watch? Do they wick beads of sweat away with a towel, or do they pour water on their face? Did they clean the bike after it was over? You get the picture, it’s a much more accurate representation of a human than sawing through veal Parmesan and feigning interest in wine selection. Through adversity comes perspiration, and sweat is sexy. Sweat is universally raw and appealing, unlike Riesling.
I went to the gym once with a college girlfriend. Unlike me, she was there to humor the machines, knowing full well that corporate chain gyms aren’t for serious conditioning — they’re only places for people like me to dream that an hour on a exercise bike would sink my BMI lower than my current GPA.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked me toward the end.
“The class isn’t over for 5 minutes,” I replied.
“This is boring,” she said.
“I didn’t realize you needed to be so entertained,” I quipped.
She dumped me shortly thereafter.
Exercise offers truth. It’s a inflexible yardstick to measure whether you’re both equally motivated or delightfully comfortable. Food just gives us indigestion. Then it’s worth wondering aloud: Why did we ever think that sandwiching an uncomfortable meal between two awkward moments (hello, goodbye) would ever give people viable data about each other?
So in the futile spirit of proposing that we change a centuries-old ritual of dining while dating, I’ll offer a well-researched argument that motion creates emotion — and that’s always good at the end of the night.
• Ice skating. Most people forget that balance is a muscle. Taken to its logical conclusion, it’s the difference between finding a klutz or Princess Grace of Monaco. Ice skating is the best part of winter mostly because it’s the workout that isn’t a workout. After the holidays, skating becomes a leisurely activity instead of a holiday “must-do” and the pressures and droves of people are gone.
If you haven’t been skating for a while, you’ll feel it in every bone below your knees the next morning. Prepare to wake up with two bags of concrete for legs. If you have been skating in a while, you’ll immediately be better than 90 percent of people on the ice that night.
I once went on a skating date where she was imminently more capable on the ice than I was. She was a princess, gliding and whipping across the ice and in the middle of the ice where us circular skaters would never dare to go — we needed the wall to hold on to. Children at the ice wanted to skate with her and after a while, I didn’t because I was only getting in her way.
If you have balance, you’re not necessarily graceful. But to be graceful, you definitely need balance.
I am a lump.
How to prepare: Anything on a Bosu ball. Standing squats and calf raises.
• Indoor climbing. Agility, flexibility and resolve. Surprisingly, very little strength is needed to be an adequate climber. You’ll notice this and other things about your date immediately.
Despite the obvious body-shaped revelations harnesses and ropes offer, climbing also reveals plenty about a person’s problem-solving skills. Are they reaching for finger holds, looking for the next opportunity to move higher on the wall? Are they willing to forgo one bad hold for two good holds? Or are they content with being lowered down on the rope with all the sad looks of a badly fit toupee.
There’s a lot you can learn about a man while rock climbing too. Men, notorious for trying to muscle up the wall, get exhausted and frustrated. Find someone who can adapt to holding tight to the wall with their arms and using their legs to walk up the wall and you’ve found a candidate for Mensa.
How to prepare: Legs, legs and more legs. Core exercises like squats with a twist and yoga help too.
• Spin class or hot yoga. Cardio, commitment and overall smell. It may not be a good candidate for a first date, but then again, nothing is a good idea for a first date. Both types of classes incorporate a serious amount sweat and heavy breathing.
Like climbing into the observation deck at the Sears Tower, yoga is the first stop in overcoming fears about your body image. Being comfortable in one’s own skin is sexy, and the movement, flexing and breathing all add to the experience.
Spin classes may be a tougher sell, as most of those are in the wee hours of the morning. Find a suitable high-impact class with enough bodies to cover up your own misery and you’re in luck. A good instructor will ebb and flow with the music, so it’s not an hour-long fury of cycling. Bring water and notice if your date wipes down the bike once their done. Do you really want to be with a person who doesn’t?
How to prepare: Take a class before agreeing to go with someone else. Both yoga and Spin classes can be extremely taxing and satisfying.
Just like dating.