How to Avoid Awkward Silences on a First Date

Ah, the First Date, and its companion, the Awkward Silence—it was weird enough when we were 16, wasn’t it? And now? Though the first date has become a sort of rite of passage for us seniors who find ourselves alone, it still looms as a hurdle to be crossed. Is this the first date of several, or your very first date after a relationship has ended? It doesn’t matter-it’s still weird in any case. I know this because I have been there. After two years of being a widow, I began again at 63, feeling very odd indeed.

There I was looking into the mirror before the evening began. I’d picked out my clothes and my shoes, and I was giving myself the once-over before leaving the safety of my home. Suddenly I was aware of my every skin tag, every age spot, every wrinkle and bulge. Where did that extra chin come from?? Who WAS that woman looking back at me?

What on earth was I going to say to this man? I pulled away from the mirror in despair and began. It was the best thing I’d done for myself in a very long time.

There are several “most-feared moments” on a first date, one of which is the Awkward Silence. The Awkward Silence is a dreadful creature. It lurks about under chairs and behind curtains, waiting for its moment to leap out and place its bulk between you and your date. It is hungry and wants attention. Awkward Silence whispers to you of all your flaws, all your history that went wrong, any sense of failure you may have. What to do about it?

Here are some tips:

Knowledge is your best weapon. Some basic facts about the Awkward Silence: The Awkward Silence grows fat on fear and self-doubt. It wallows in how little you know of the other person, and it craves your lack of curiosity. Your best approach is to become its hunter, the one who tracks it first. Remember, as any good hunter will tell you, success is not to be found in filling the silence with chatter. Success is found by opening the door to the other person. Do this with questions and comments that bring about true conversation, something the Awkward Silence avoids.

Curiosity and conversation send it running. When the Awkward Silence tries to settle in between you and your First Date, simply acknowledge its presence in your mind, and begin the hunt. Seduce it with a little time as you remember your date. You can remember that this person you are with is about as old as you are, has spent the same frightening moment in front of a mirror, and fears Awkward Silence as much as you do. This man has lived a long time, has had many ups and downs, and has known loss and success. He has stories he’d like to tell. Now you can send Awkward Silence back under the chair!

First: Print this list and keep it in your purse. A woman can always excuse herself for a moment and do a quick review in the lady’s room! Then:

    • You can find out more about your First Date. Some questions you may ask (pick one and see what happens): When was the first time he realized he was a separate being from his birth family? How long was the longest truly happy time in his life and what was he doing then? How did he get himself through a really tough time in his life? Given means and opportunity, what would he do now, and why? (Long term or short term) Who were his heroes as a child and why? Who are his heroes now, and why? (If he’s retired) What were his thoughts on retiring? How has it affected his life? Has it changed the way he relates to his other family members? (If he is looking at retirement) what are his thoughts? How is he preparing for it?
    • You can tap into what you are doing on your first date and examine how you feel about it. Some questions you may ask: I’m really glad to be here because (….) how are you feeling about it? (Especially in an ethnic restaurant) What experiences has he had with this culture? How were those experiences different from what he’d know before? How did he find this restaurant?
    • You can remember what was said earlier in the evening, comment on it in order to pursue the topic: You mentioned earlier (….) and I was wondering (what that was like for you, what sorts of things did you have to know about to do that, when did you realize that it was about to change…etc)
  • You can let Awkward Silence turn its face to him for a while. See what he does. Who is he under a little pressure?

Second: (Maybe in the lady’s room) Listen to yourself. Is this Awkward Silence trying to tell you something? Is this a man you have any real interest in? If not-you can relax, have a nice evening and call it good. Perhaps it looms as a very unpleasant evening, in which case you can call it off right there. (I recommend separate cars for a true first date. The safety margin is very comforting.)

In any case, you are who you are, and he is who he is. We seniors are old enough to be clear and straightforward. We’ve earned the right. A relaxed and pleasant time is within reach for those of us who want to know about one another, and who are willing to be honest about ourselves. Happy times are easy to be had, so don’t be shy!