I nominate we declare death to the dinner first date. It’s not that it’s a bad idea. It’s just done to death. Two people sit down, eat food and have a conversation, but what do you really learn about someone from a dinner date that you couldn’t get out of a conversation over coffee in two-thirds less time and for only a fraction of the cost?

First dates should be kept simple — you shouldn’t commit hours upon hours of time and hundreds of dollars to someone you barely know when there is a greater than 50% chance you’re going to want to bail before they bring out the salads. Also, if your goal is to actually get to know someone and learn something about their character, you need to step away from the dining table and engage in some mutual activity. And by activity, I don’t mean sitting in silence for two hours in the safety of an air-conditioned movie theater.

You need to engage. Take a walk together. Go for a bike ride. Play Scrabble or some other two-person board game. Solve a puzzle together. Try out a game or sport that’s new to both of you in order to level the playing field. It’s important to do something that will get both your mouths talking and your minds and bodies moving.

We learn more about people by engaging in activity with them than we’ll ever learn over an overcooked filet mignon and over-priced merlot. Get out of your comfort zone and get into some real conversation starters that jolt both the mind and body. You don’t need a big dinner production to make a lasting first impression. And you don’t need to spend tons of money on a date or in preparation for a date.

Get to know each other before you move on to the fireworks and the fancy dinners and big productions. Just do something small together to get the juices flowing, then build from there. This way, no one feels cheated and no one feels used. You just enjoy each other’s company and have fun, without the pressure to perform that comes with a dinner date. Dating doesn’t have to be a make-or-break situation. It’s about getting to know each other. Thinking outside of the dinner date box can be rewarding — if you’re willing to change your notion of what a first date is.

What do you think? Should the first dinner date be banned or do you see value in it?

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