Pick a place, any place

The asker did the difficult part (correct) of asking for the date (bravo) and feels it's up to the gorgeous creature of his/her dreams to decide on the place and time. Wrong!

The askee, the one asked out, has agreed (yay) to go willingly (bravo) and figures it's up to the asker to decide when and where. Wrong!

All singles must have already assessed certain vital criteria, to be ready with suggestions in such situations. Basic singles' survival requires first dates take place in public, on neutral ground, to which both parties arrive separately.

I swear by such rules. Guidelines - to keep it short, with not much planned, in case conversation flags or the thought of parting becomes painful - depend on personal inclination.

As a serious single, I have my favorite sites already preselected, just in case.


NO. 5 - DESSERT FIRST

A date once invited me out for banana splits, and the innocent decadence of it momentarily blinded me to his serious psychological issues - but only until I slurped the last dribble of ice cream from my spoon.

This location does require discipline. First dates are not the time for free-for-all exhibitions of uninhibited self-indulgence.

Also, if the date doesn't go well, leave! Flee! Escape! Sweets are tempting antidotes for bad-date blues.


NO. 4 - THE TRUSTY BAR

Most bars have diversions aplenty, including darts, pool or video games that can be played by teams of two, and games are great for generating conversation.

I resist karaoke, however. I don't need to know he thinks himself the next American Idol - yet.

Also, I prefer bars with food service. I'm eternally optimistic, and if the date goes well, we may desire something to nosh.


NO. 3 - STROLL THE 'HOOD

Many Seattle neighborhood shopping districts provide wonderful strolls. Phinney Ridge, for example, has many interesting little stores, coffee shops and caf├ęs to meet at and stroll amongst. These provide shelter if the weather turns ugly, and nearby Woodland Park provides diversion if the weather remains friendly.

Nothing breaks the ice like a race on the swings!


NO. 2 - THE ALWAYS-RELIABLE COFFEESHOP

At most, it takes 15 minutes for a warm drink to cool enough to safely chug-a-lug, if my date turns out to be entirely psychotic. However, I hope to sit and nurse my drink along. This is why I depend upon paper cups with lids that disguise how much (or little) remains inside.

My favorite coffee shops for first dates are those that ring Green Lake. Get the drink to go and walk. One circuit around the lake is perfect for separating winners from losers.

Granted, I've been halfway around and discovered, too often, that I'd have been better off walking alone. But at least I got a drink and physical exercise.


NO. 1 - AQUA THEATER AT GREEN LAKE

The stadium seating at the southern end of the lake is my ideal meeting place. It's got everything, except drinks and food and diversions.... OK, so it's got nothing, but I love it.

I can sit and watch the lake while we chat, or kick off a stroll (and pick up food or drink on the way) if needed.

If really desperate, the theater stands alongside a golf course.


Whereever we go, a first date is the most gut-wrenching, thrilling, traumatic, exhilarating, nauseating and wonderful experience of being single. As long as I don't have to engage in conversations like:

"Where do you want to go?"

"I dunno. Where do you want to go?"

"I'm fine with whatever. Where do you want to go?"

When this starts, I contemplate current events and the eternal quest for an exit strategy.

Sofia lives in North Seattle and can be reached at needitor@nwlink.com.

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