When you are a single among a sea of couples, it is inevitable that one of your friends (usually a female friend or the girlfriend of a friend) is going to want to set you up. Why is this? Singles can only surmise. Perhaps it is the fact that they are in love and they want everyone to share the experience. It seems to be a common trait among couples that, if possible, they would like to hang out with other couples, so perhaps they are trying to make you a better “fit” in their social lives. Or there is always the old adage that misery loves company.
Whatever their motivations, you must tread carefully when considering if you want to go, if you trust the person who is choosing the date for you, and have an exit plan in case things go horribly awry. The first question you must ask yourself is whether or not you feel comfortable going on a blind date. If that doesn’t appeal to you, maybe you can arrange some other way of “screening” the potential date.
One option: your friends can have a gathering where they can introduce the two of you. In my experience the least uncomfortable way to accomplish this is to run a single-blind meeting. That means that one of you knows there is a potential set up and the meeting is your chance to give the green light to introduce the idea to the other. The single-blind meeting will give you a chance to see her, talk to her a bit, and find out for yourself if she strikes your fancy. If you guys really hit it off, you can eliminate the third party meddling altogether by just asking her out then and there.
If you are talking about a full-on blind date situation, there are some other factors that you must take into consideration. First, find out some details about the person: what they do, how your friend sees them, if they are cute. Find out a little bit about their dating history, but don’t go too far into details. If there are glaring red flags in her past relationships, the friend will hopefully tell you. Otherwise, it’s really the date’s life to share with you as she pleases. Second, ask the person setting you up why it is they think that you two would hit it off. Some people think that just because two people are single, they might as well hook up if only for the sole purpose of not being alone. This is not a good sign.
It is also important for you to be honest with the cupid setting you up. If looks are really important to you, tell her. If dating a professional is important to you, share that. One of the good things about having a friend set you up is that, if they think you’re a good guy, they are not going to set you up with some dog-faced emotional train wreck. Unless you like that kind of thing. One of the bad things about the set up is that the friend responsible for setting you up can feel that they are a little more entitled to details or explanations that they would be if you just picked the girl yourself.
Once you decide to go ahead with the date, the most mature way to proceed is to get the girl’s phone number from the cupid and initiate contact yourself. Some people are tempted to go on a double date as the first date, thinking that it will take some of the pressure off to have another couple there. In some ways, this works in terms of eliminating the awkwardness that comes with a bind date, as conversation will flow a little more freely with the buffer couple. In some ways this is like the large group first contact, except that everyone present knows that there is a certain expectation and judgment hanging in the air. But this can also add the pressure of feeling like your every move is being judged, scrutinized and weighed by the couple watching the spectacle.
If you choose to go on a date alone with this potential new love, just treat it like any other dating situation. At first pick a neutral, low-stress activity, like going for gelati or coffee. You may be tempted to go out for dinner or something a little more spectacular, but the danger of planning a whole evening together is, if she is painfully boring or obnoxious, you are going to have a more difficult time disengaging and ditching than if you chose to do something simple and low key. If she doesn’t drive you crazy on the short date, then you can plan a longer one.
The burning question, however, is what happens if she does drive you crazy on that first date? If your usual modus operandi is to say, “Let’s do this again. I’ll call you,” with no intention of doing so, you might want to reconsider this strategy in the set-up situation. Chances are, if she irritated you, then there was probably some sign of it during the evening, and it was likely mutual. Simply saying, “Thanks, I had a good time” without any commitment of calling will hopefully get the point across if she felt the nothing as well. A good measure of how not to be insensitive is to treat your date as you would like to see a good friend of yours treated on a date: just show a little respect and leave opportunities for both of you to exit with dignity.
If she requires further explanation as to “what happened,” you can be certain that she will go to the mutual friend about it and you will be questioned eventually. It is up to you to be as honest or withholding as you like. It’s your business what went on during the date, not that of the friend who was responsible for setting it up. If you didn’t do anything incredibly stupid like sleep with her friend and then sneak out with no intention of calling, then the cupid should respect your privacy and your right to feel however you want about whomever you want. The outcome of the date has nothing to do with the cupid past the initial idea, and anything that happens (aside from blatant lack of respect for a friend’s friend) should not be seen as a reflection on your friendship with her.
Much like dates you pick for yourself, not all of them are going to be winners. Set-ups through friends you trust, however, can be a good opportunity for you to try out what someone who knows you thinks would work for you in a relationship. If you trust that friend and have found in the past that the people they hang out with are good people, then it might be worth a shot to date outside your usual “type.” You may find out that maybe the reason your love life isn’t successful is that your type isn’t actually working for you.