What’s dating in L.A. really like? Megan Sayers will shed some light on this question for us in her weekly L.A. Actually column. Read the first one here.
Whether you’ve met online, through mutual friends or in the middle of a crowded bar, first dates are always a bit nerve-wracking. What will you talk about? Who picks up the tab? What can you order at dinner that won’t get stuck in your teeth?
But there’s one crucial decision that any woman who lives in Los Angeles has to make well before it’s time to choose the appetizers:
Do you drive yourself or do you let him pick you up?*
In other cities, this dilemma doesn’t exist — or at least, it’s far less of a consideration. Thanks to the joys of public transportation, it’s standard protocol to hop on the subway or cab it to the restaurant.
Not here. L.A.’s car-and-only-car culture means that 99.9% of the time, at least one party on the date is driving. I’ve heard friends make some compelling arguments for riding shotgun:
“Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I think the guy should always pick you up.”
“I’m always interested in what music they have playing in the car. Like, if it’s Pantera, I know right off the bat it’s probably not going to work out.”
“Excellent opportunity to check for red flag bumper stickers.”
And my personal favorite…“That way even if the date is really terrible, at least I can get drunk.”
But I disagree. After five years of dating in this town, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s always better to BYOC (bring your own car). Here’s why I always take the wheel when it comes to first date transportation:
1. Safety First
We all know about stranger danger, but women in L.A. also have to be on guard for a little thing I call “driver danger.” This is what happens when you’re unlucky enough to get in the car with someone who views stop signs as suggestions and thinks the speed limit is for losers. There are certain men in this town who are laboring under the delusion women are impressed by reckless disregard for the rules of the road. We are not. I don’t want to see how many cars you can cut off on the 405, I just want to get to dinner and back in one piece.
2. Eliminate the “Getting Dressed” Stress
While it’s always incredibly romantic when a guy whisks you off for an evening of surprises, it’s always incredibly uncomfortable to be overdressed or underdressed for the occasion. Nothing makes me break out in hives faster than the phrase “you can wear whatever you want.” In Los Angeles, proper restaurant attire can range from stilettos and skinny jeans to boho chic complete with drawstring skirt.
If you drive yourself, the man in question HAS to tell you where you’re going — which gives you the chance to case the joint on Yelp and get a feel for the dress code. Plus, you don’t have to worry about him showing up at your house 10 minutes early, while you’re still wrapped in a towel and frantically searching for your favorite earrings.
3. Graceful Goodbye
But here’s the single best reason for taking your own car: you get to end the night on your terms. If you realize early on that no sparks are going to fly, you aren’t forced to resort to Houdini-inspired escape moves or lame excuses (“I think I left my stove on…”) to cut the date short. And if things go well, you avoid that awkward moment when you have to decide whether or not to invite him up for a nightcap. Instead, you get to sweep out with confidence and self-assurance, leaving him wanting more.
Forget about fairy tale tradition. Chivalry doesn’t require your potential suitor to sweep you away on his white horse (or white Prius). A real gentleman will respect you and show you a good time, no matter who’s holding the keys.
Besides, even Cinderella brought her own pumpkin to the ball.
*HowAboutWe note: In addition to all the great reasons Megan lists above, if you met your date online, for safety reasons your first date should always take place in a public place and you should meet your date there. Read more online dating safety tips here.