The classic first date may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it doesn’t always create a successful encounter. Here’s why:
1. Starbucks has no atmosphere. The tables are too small, often occupied, and tucked away in weird arrangements because the bulk of the café floor is taken up by pop-up “standees” of cds, specialty teas, and cream, sugar and lid stations. The frantic climate created by long lines of java seekers is not one in which you want to be searching for a face you’ve never seen before in real life, either. While these places (and others like them) are popular choices for a first meeting simply because everyone knows where they are, it’s also jarring to enter a busy coffee shop with nothing but caffeine on your brain and encounter a person who stares at you intently upon arrival, with “Are you my date?” written all over them.
2. Not everyone drinks coffee. Or tea. Or hot chocolate. In fact, my own mother will not drink any beverage that is heated to a temperature above that of the average outdoor pool. That’s not to say she (or someone like her) couldn’t order a nice Orangina or something, but who decided that coffee was the ultimate no-pressure, easy escape beverage?
Why does the consumption of liquids at any temperature mean it’s a date?
3. Sit-down meetings feel like interviews. Particularly sit-down meetings with people you’ve never met before. You’re going to be more self-conscious about things like posture, whether your shirt is tucked in properly, whether your gut is hanging over your skinny jeans, what your hair is doing and – if you dare to order a snack – whether there’s something stuck in your teeth. You’re more likely to fidget, and you’re under a great deal more obligation to make and maintain eye contact. All of these factors add to your stress about the situation, and make you behave less like yourself. How is the conversation supposed to flow when you don’t even have anywhere else to look, except at the person sitting opposite you? (That’s if you’re lucky enough to get a table, of course.)
4. It requires no imagination. Seriously, from an evolutionary standpoint: as far as dating style goes, “Let’s meet for coffee” was probably the first great advancement that came along after grabbing your potential partner from behind and dragging her (or him) to your cave. Is that really all you can come up with?
5. There’s still only one exit. Just because coffee dates are traditionally short encounters – especially when there are no free refills on offer – it doesn’t mean beating a hasty retreat if you discover that you really don’t like your companion will be any easier. You’re going to have to meet your “cousin” somewhere in a half an hour no matter what – so why not do so after a walk by the busy waterfront, or a free mushroom identification lecture instead? And if things go well, and you decide to extend the date to another venue, well, you haven’t had coffee yet.