12 Things Smart Men Do Before Big Dates

Tips for preparing your mind—and your body—for maximum charm.

12 Things Smart Men Do Before Big Dates

Tips for preparing your mind—and your body—for maximum charm.

You’ve laid the groundwork with that cute woman at the coffee shop—or the one you met on Hinge or Bumble—and feel pretty excited about it. You asked her out; she was clearly excited. You’ve planned a pretty awesome date. But even if you’ve played every card right so far, now is not the time to go into autopilot. The day of a big date, there are a few rituals every guy should be sure he does to make sure he is ready in mind, body, and spirit to show his date a great time, and ensure she’ll look forward to the next date. And while you’re going through these rituals, it can’t hurt to brush up on The 10 Sexiest Things You Can Say to Her On a First Date.

Workout strength

1
Work Out

This is not the day to skip your regular workout routine. Few things instill as much natural calm and relieve stress as does exercise. Whether that’s a full weightlifting session or a quick jog on the treadmill, you should work up a sweat and release all that nervous energy that’s no doubt built up over the last day or so as you’ve looked forward to this night. But be sure you leave plenty of time to take fully prepare for the evening. Speaking of…

2
Clean Under Your Fingernails

You know to shower, comb your hair, brush your teeth, and shave off any Unabomber beard. “But don’t forget to clean under those fingernails,” advises professional matchmaker Gina Marciniak, who runs It’s Just Lunch Cleveland. “Women are impressed by a man who looks like he has it together. It also shows your date that you’ve made an effort. It’s a compliment and that’s a great way to make a great first impression.”

If you fail to clean off the grime from under your fingernails, trust us: she’ll notice. And she won’t like it. And while you’re at it, consider The Best New Grooming Technology.

Suit rules belts

3
Wear Something Brand New

In the same way that you want to elevate your grooming routine, do something a little classier with your wardrobe. Nothing feels quite as good as it does the first time you wear it. So use that to your advantage by adding something new to your wardrobe before the date. That may be a perfectly crisp shirt, a brand-new belt, or even a fresh pair of socks you just picked up. Whatever it is, wearing an item you just tore the tag off of is going to give you that so-fresh-and-so-clean feeling like little else can. “For guys, no matter what age they are, is to always dress to impress,” says Marciniak. “Old jeans and a ratty t-shirt won’t do.” And for more advice on how to dress your best, here are The 25 Ways to Look Your Best Now.

4
But Don’t Just Wear Anything

“Ask yourself what message you want your clothes to project about who you are,” advises Joseph Rosenfeld, a “personal style strategist” and the cofounder of ModeDNA. “Just by asking this very crucial question, you orient yourself to the experience you’re about to have, and to the kind of outcome you’d like to have.”

Depending on the woman or the date, that may mean projecting the look of a professional who’s successful and satisfied with where he’s at. Or it might mean a more fun-loving, energetic guy up for a memorable night. Whatever impression you are aiming for, that should be top of mind as you select your clothes and accessories.

“When you put intention into your clothes, you can still look laid-back and relaxed, but the casualness of leaving the outcome to chance is now essentially removed,” adds Rosenfeld. With that in mind, it might be time to brush up on the 20 Definitive Style Rules for Men Over 40.

5
Do a Mental Walk-Through of the Date

Whether it’s an important job interview or professional test, studies have shown that imagining yourself succeeding in a high-pressure situation makes it more likely that you will succeed when actually in the high-pressure situation. The same logic applies to a date: Do a mental walk-through of how things will go, from the moment you step out of your place to picking her up at hers, from dinner to dessert, dancing to returning home (hopefully together).

Imagine the most charming, charismatic version of yourself throughout, and how the conversation will naturally flow from light jokes and occasional teasing to more romantic topics, from a few incidental touches to more intimate contact. Do all that three times, and it’s going to be hard for the evening to go any way but great, even if you tried to tank. And for more great dating advice, here are 15 Ways to Impress Any Woman.

6
Plan Every Single Detail

Confirm you have her address and the address of the restaurant, double-check your reservation and any tickets you’ve got for a show or movie. It’s easy to get so caught up in the excitement of the date that you don’t realize until it’s too late that you actually booked dinner for a different night or thought she was on “Fifth Street” instead of “Fifth Avenue.” Go over this stuff now to make sure you’re not stressing it when you’re in the middle of the date.

7
Spruce Up Your Dojo

Make sure your place doesn’t look like a grubby bachelor pad: tidy everything up, clean your bathroom, and make sure your sheets are freshly washed.

Also, make sure everything projects what you want it to project and your personality comes across, whether that’s framed photos of your family or friends, a guitar in the corner, or a book you are reading set on the coffee table. Your place is not just somewhere you bring your date back for sex (though be sure you’ve got condoms and a romantic playlist ready to go), it’s a destination in its own right, with plenty of attractions outside the bedroom to make it feel like a natural next chapter in an already fun night. And if you really want to knock her socks off, you should learn how to make the 10 Best Nightcaps That Will Impress Her Every Time.

8
Due Your Due Diligence

“Get to know as much as you can about your date—from their profile if you’ve met online, or from the person who set you up if it is a setup, as well as from any interactions you’ve had leading up to the date,” says Allison Abrams, a New York City–based psychotherapist who specializes in relationships. “This way you go into the date with things to talk about.”

She gives the example of a favorite wine bar the date may have mentioned in your previous conversations, or an inside joke you shared. This does not mean cyberstalking them or sifting through Google search results to learn things about them that they may not have mentioned. The goal is to be sure you are refreshed on what she’s already shared with you. And if it’s a coworker you plan on seeing, make sure you know The 12 Rules for Dating a Colleague.

9
Get Emotional

Come up with questions and topics you can bring up on the date itself. This doesn’t mean creating a script or a crib sheet to consult (though if your mind tends to go blank in the presence of a beautiful woman, that might not be a bad idea), so much as making sure you don’t remember the next day all the things you were thinking of asking her.

Keep in mind: these should be questions and topics that evoke emotion, rather than boring factual questions like “how long have you been a lawyer?” and “where’d you go to school?” Instead, think of questions that get her to use her heart, rather than head: “What is your favorite place to travel?” “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?” “Where would you live if money didn’t matter?” Think of open-ended questions that will get her feeling excited or romantic, and have these ready to go for any moment the conversation slows.

Reading date

10
Read Some Dostoyevsky

Researchers at the New School for Social Research have found that reading literary fiction—that means Chekov or DeLillo, not Baldacci—has been shown to improve social skills, like empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, in the short-term. The researchers, David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, had participants read selections of literary fiction, commercial fiction, and reported journalism before testing their ability to pick up on nonverbal cues. The literary fiction group scored the highest across the board. In essence, reading books makes you a pro at reading the most important thing of all: the subtle cues of a beautiful woman.

Texting date

11
Make Sure the Date’s Still On

This might be a no-brainer—especially after all of the hard work you’ve put in getting ready—but check in with her, make sure you guys are still going out. A little text will do the trick: “8:30 still good for you?” Not only does this serve the practical purpose of hammering up your schedule for the night, it also makes you look good. By inquiring, you come across as considerate, showing that you respect and value her time as much, if not more than, your own. Absolute worst case scenario? She bails, giving you an excuse to ask her out again—and really impress how much you care about seeing her.

12
Give Yourself a Final Once-Over

Even if you’ve been looking regularly into the mirror as you’ve prepared for the date, don’t underestimate the value of that final review. Take a look at yourself in the full-length mirror, examining your outfit, posture, and facial expression one last time before you step out the door. This is the time to spot that bit of lint on your jacket or pant leg tucked into a sock. But most importantly, it’s a time to get a look at the man your date is about to see, making sure your first impression will be on point. If you like what you see, you’ll be exuding confidence. “If you can leave the mirror feeling like you’ve done your best to put yourself together, the person you’re meeting is going to get that vibe about you, too,” says Rosenfeld. Now, for some surefire ways to land that first date, here are The Best Dating Apps if You’re Over 40.

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