Monday, November 24, 2008

The Eco-First Date

Well, since my post about engagement rings was so popular, I figured that I'd leap to the other end of the dating spectrum and spend some time discussing the first date today.

First dates are tricky enough as it is, but when you're a little eco-nutty they are even harder. You want to be yourself, but you don't want to seem too nutty on the first date. Best to gradually let the crazy come out. Hopefully by the time your sig o finds out that you don't use paper toilet paper, they will already be so smitten with you that they won't care.

On the other hand, you do want someone who will be reasonably tolerant of your green escapades, so if your date spends all his time mocking polar bears, they might not be the one for you. So, you definitely don't want to hide too much. For example, many many years ago, I went out on a date with a guy, and I let him pick the restaurant. Which isn't a big deal, except that I specifically told him that I didn't eat red meat, as at the time I was only eating chicken and fish. Now, I would imagine that as dietary restrictions go, no red meat is a fairly minor one, right? Well, guess where the guy took me. To a steak house. Yes, a steak house. In the Midwest. Know what was on the menu? Red meat. Know what was NOT on the menu? Things that didn't involve red meat. I ended up eating an extremely sad garden salad that literally consisted of iceberg lettuce, croutons, and ranch dressing. As you can probably guess, there was no second date.

So, you definitely want to be upfront about your environmentalism, if not entirely upfront about your specific enviro kooks. A date who is intolerant of said environmentalism is not a person you really want to be with anyway. BUT, this is not to say that you shouldn't say ... date someone who drives an SUV, or someone who eats factory farmed meat, or someone who doesn't recycle. Because the truth is, people change. Remember, most of us weren't born environmentally conscious. It took us time to become so. So if your date isn't Mr. or Ms. Eco, don't let that necessarily be a deal breaker. If you both really like each other, you'll probably adapt.

All right, so in sum, be honest about yourself, but not too nutty, and don't date environmentally intolerant people, but don't make their lack of environmentalism a total deal breaker. Everyone got that? Ok, good.

Now that we've got that out of the way, where are you going to go?

Some first date locales are definitely trickier than others. A coffee date, for example, is a pretty easy date. It's low key, it doesn't have to be too long, and it's not that hard to find local independent coffee shops that brew organic fair trade coffee. Even if you go to that non-independent behemoth, Starbucks, they do have fair trade coffee available. On the other hand, if you really like a person, coffee might not be your first choice in terms of first dates....

Then there's the ever popular drinks option. It's fun, having a drink can alleviate first date nerves, and here in London, it's surprisingly easy to find organic, locally brewed beer on tap. If you can't find organic locally brewed beer on tap, just do your best. I tend to give preference to what's on tap, both because it generally tastes better, and then you're not stuck with a bottle which may or may not be recycled. Then you might go for a local beer, unless your local beer choice is Bud Light, in which case, absolutely DO NOT GO FOR THE LOCAL BEER. If there is no good local beer choice, you might live in a region like California that has excellent local wines, so that's always an option. If you can't find anything local or organic that sounds appealing, don't sweat it too much. It's your first date, you're freaking out a little inside, and really, your choice of drink should be the least stressful part of the evening.

Dinner dates are probably the most difficult first dates to deal with. They involve a longer time commitment than coffee or drinks, and dealing with food is complicated even when you're not an eco-nut! If you're a girl, there's a lot of pressure not to be The Girl Who Eats Half A Salad, but there's also a lot of pressure not to be The Girl Who Eats Like A Pig. Similarly, if you're a guy, there's all this weird pressure to be masculine. Like, if you order a vegetarian entree, then maybe she'll think you're some super sensitive girly boy who likes to take baths while listening to Peter Gabriel. (Not that there's anything wrong with baths or Peter Gabriel per se.)

The point is, we all subscribe, at least a little, to the idea that you are what you eat. Thus, we can see what the other person orders as an indicator of sorts as to what kind of person they are. Not very fair, but thems the breaks on a first date.

So what to do? Well, clearly restaurant choice is important as illustrated in my sad steak house first date story. Many of us eco-nuts would probably prefer to go to the cute place downtown with really good food that sources their ingredients locally. But, your date might have other ideas, which, remember, doesn't necessitate that that person is a bad fit for you. Also, there's the added question of who is going to be paying for said date. Now, I'm not going to go into that little issue, as we all could probably write books about it, but what I'm saying is, if there's a good chance you won't be paying, then don't suggest a place which costs $50 per head.

So here's what I would suggest. Ethnic food, if you both are somewhat adventurous can be a really good option. One, because you can often find good ethnic food inexpensively, and when you're eating at an ethnic restaurant, all those steak/salad issues tend to disappear. What does ordering saag paneer or kung pao chicken say about a person? Nothing really, that I can think of.

Another good option is pizza. I know what you're thinking. Really, pizza? But your local pizza place is a really nice option because almost everyone likes pizza, it's reasonably inexpensive, and there are likely to be plenty of veggie and non-veggie options. Also, then you can throw in that funny story about how you tried to make mozarella, and ended up setting off the smoke alarm, and half the building had to be evacuated.

And that wraps up this week in first dates. Anyone else have some first date advice they'd like to offer?

21 comments:

Dasha said...

OMG I am so glad that I am getting married in five weeks and never, ever have to worry about this again...

Good luck to the rest of you out there!

Burbanmom said...

Wow, makes me glad I'm an old married hag who doesn't even worry about farting in front of the man.

Jennifer said...

I agree with Dasha and Burbanmom... sometimes I look at my husband and think "Thank GOD I never have to date again! I get to fart as much as I want whenever I want."

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

So, is there something you're not telling us Ruchi?!

Vancouver is full of outdoorsy types who go on active first dates - I've heard of everything from extreme mountain hiking to rollerblading around the park. That could be a good alternative to the dinner dilemma!

Sherri said...

I was never much of a casual dater, perhaps because I could tell pretty quickly when someone wasn't for me. The only people I've dated (barely a handful) were people I knew somewhat before going out with them. My current boyfriend asked me out after we'd known each other as acquaintances for about a year. It was definitely long enough for him to hear me talk about my organic vegetarian sandwiches and for him to see me coming back from marathon training runs. (I didn't lay it on thick or anything.) Part of the reason he waited so long to ask me out was that he thought he wasn't "eco" enough for me and I wouldn't consider dating him! Our first date turned out to be us taking my friend's large dog (long story) to a dog beach and a restaurant. It was a great first date because there was always the dog as a distraction! He also proposed the date as going to a dog beach and then we *could* do something else, so I had plenty of opportunities to bail. I didn't though, and the date was 9 hours long! =) 2.5 years later we are still together. We bonded over our love of animals (he had his own dog + cats) and yes people do change, both people. I've loosened up a lot (yes I can eat dessert sometimes!) and he's gotten more into organic fruits and vegetables. Bottom line though, is that he clearly respects all my choices and is not dismissive, something I could tell from the start, and I don't force my views on him. So, if you're an animal person, particularly a dog person and your potential suitor is also, taking one of the dogs on your first date may be a very good thing!

Crunchy Chicken said...

It's been almost 20 years since I went out on a first date, and the thought of it strikes great fear in me.

Let's hope that my husband's cancer stays away and I don't ever have to deal with that again.

BTW, Green as a Thistle recently mentioned a dating website for greenies. It might be worthwhile for some of you...

CindyW said...

I am with Cath when it comes to first date. Go for a walk somewhere, on a beach, in a park, or just around. That way if the date does not go anywhere, at least you've got a nice walk in.

Plus when you walk side by side, there is no embarrassing moments of staring at each other without anything to say :)

On the other hand, if it goes really well, you will be hungry enough to have a beer, coffee, or meal afterward.

There is a dating service above the floor where I used to work - Just for lunch. How about "Just a walk"?

ruchi aka arduous said...

Yes, married people, you are very lucky. We KNOW! ;) Just Kidding....

Aw, sheesh, Cath, apparently I can't win. I talk about diamonds, and everyone thinks I'm getting engaged. I talk about first dates and ... everyone thinks I'm going on a first date.

Sherri, that's a cute story. Glad it worked out so well!!

Crunchy, oh I forgot about that site Vanessa mentioned. Thanks for bringing it up!! And yes, Amen to cancer staying far far away.

Cindy, yes a walk is great if it is you know ... WARM. Right now, I definitely would not recommend anyone take a walking date. Unless they wanted the date to last all of 15 minutes!!

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

British saying: "There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes".

Will said...

Maggie and I went to a local restaurant for dessert. A bit cheaper and lower-key than dinner and there's less anxiety about the food (if I get the spaghetti, will I be able to eat it without getting sauce on me?). You also generally don't have to worry about dietary restrictions.

Drinks probably would have worked as well, but I'm not much of a drinker (neither is Maggie, so that worked out).

Rosa said...

I miss dating. Though food seems like it's full of potential pitfalls.

There are always museums, conservatories, study dates, art openings, CD release parties (though that's another loaded topic, music), biking, hiking, sweatshop bingo (uh, that's a game where you go to a mall and the first person who finds an article made in the USA wins, and the first person who gets kicked out of a store has to buy everyone drinks), bridge jumping, swimming, going to the theater, co-activism (I met my bf cooking with Food Not Bombs, we went ballroom dancing for our first date.) Dancing, theater - the best thing about dating "professional" men is that they'll shell out big bucks for theater tickets.

I miss doing something new all the time...one time, a young banker picked me up in a park and invited me to dinner. But then his mother-in-law was on the same train we were on and he made me hide in the walkway so she wouldn't see me, and when she was gone he tried to kiss me.

Another time I went out with a guy who called me on accident when trying to call someone else. We went to an anti-police-brutality protest and he taught me how to tell if dumpstered orange juice is going bad.

Nothing interesting happens to me anymore. Going out requires hiring a babysitter, so it's never spontaneous, plus there's no joy in getting the boy to buy concert tickets, because it comes out of the joint budget anyway.

crstn85 said...

Yes, sadly walks are really out this time of year. We found that out the hard way this weekend (30 degrees plus lots of wind)! Coffee, museums, food and random local events are all good ways to support the local community and get to know someone.

Anonymous said...

Well, Thankfully I don't have first dates anymore. But when I did date, I didn't go out to eat on first dates. I would do my best to do an activity... like hiking when the weather was good or a museum when it wasn't. That way, you can find out if you like to do the same things easy and when I go out to eat, I usually end up with food on my face or on my shirt anyhow. No good. But if said activity goes well... there is always time for a spontaneous meal afterwards.

Fix said...

LOL you are so funny - Peter Gabriel baths...! As opposed to...Iron Maiden sledgehammering?

Megan

Joyce said...

After watching three sons navigate the dating world, I've got to come to the defense of the guys. Give 'em at least a second chance, unless they show really bad character. None of us should be judged by one outing, don't you think? If we all did that, it would take a lot of the nervousness out of that first date.

Carla said...

Wow, this makes me glad I am already with someone. : ) That seems like a lot of work, LOL. Food has been the hardest part of dating for me since I can’t eat half the food most people eat like soy, sugar, dairy, gluten, legumes and most grains. So dating someone who is into SAD is out, dating a veg*an is out, and so on. I don’t know what I would do if I had to start over!

Maria said...

you tried to make mozzerella without me? I feel like I don't even know you.

Honda

Maria said...

augh! Blogger learned my name!

ruchi aka arduous said...

I did not try to make mozarella without you. I just made up a story for comic effect. Actually I was thinking about the time we set the kitchen on fire and you called your mom instead of the fire department.

Green Me said...

I once had a first date laugh at me for ordering a dish with tofu in it...he thought I was joking when I said I was a vegetarian. I don't think we had a second date, but I can't remember!

Oddly enough, I think you hit the nail on the head when you consider not worrying about it too much nor immediately dismissing a date for driving an SUV. I married a guy with potential (who drove a Lexus SUV), because he was the most thoughtful and naturally zen person I'd ever met. He never judged nor questioned my quirks and I never tried to convince him "my way" was better.

Now he eats quorn loaf "turkey" sandwiches for lunch and commutes in a Corolla. Tonight he served as the techie at my Urban Chicken Coalition meeting and he put the word "crunchy" on our Christmas cards.

I guess it doesn't come down to what a person does or doesn't do, but who they are...if you jive with their core person, you are probably a good fit.

Bech Babe said...

not about destroying the fun .hi found statistic over how weel people like it firstdate anmeldelser . hope you like it ;-)