Dating etiquette advise for my son?

Mrs. Flat and I just took my son and and his girlfriend out for his 16th birthday. I could tell he needed some basics on dating etiquette. He got some humorous ribbing from the wife and I for not opening the door for his date.(We’re in the back seat.) This was his first time out with this girl while driving (just got his drivers license that afternoon. No pressure there!) I had to really bite my tounge so as to not embarass him for his skills with dating manners, but I definately need to have a few discussions with him soon on the merits of dating etiquette.

Since my son is 16, by default, I am one of the dumbest people on the planet. Therefore, I thought that advice from the teeming millions might have a better effect than just Dad droning on. My plan will be to print this and let him take from it what he will.


later, Tom.

Hey dad, how old does he have to be before he can date her alone?

and thanks for the drive-by BS post handy.

later, Tom.

Hi Tom’s son,

First, I’m well removed from those days of yore when I was a novice dater. I’m 30. I’m not elderly, but I’m sure to you I’m more like your dad than your brother. But I have a brother who’s 15, so I can kind of sort of maybe a little relate.

Girls always appreciate politeness. Remember this: She is not your best friend, although she may be someday. You don’t treat her like she’s “one of the guys.” You might know this already. You’re saying right now, “Well, duh.” Well duh is right!

When you’re driving her somewhere, open all doors. You don’t have to have to make a big display of your chivalry, because she might take that the wrong way and think you’re patronizing her. Look out for her, not because she’s female but because by definition a date means you’re treating her like a guest. So hold open the door; just don’t bow.

When you’re at a restaurant, let her order first, and let her order whatever she wants. You don’t have to tell her this, but don’t make the mistake of saying, “No, you can’t have the filet mignon. What am I, made of money?” If you want to date her, you should already have an idea of how sensitive to you she’ll be. Is she the kind of girl who will order a lot of things from the menu? If so, then don’t date her. You’ll regret it, trust me.

Also, hold her chair for her when she sits down. Again, you don’t have to go overboard, but just do it out of politeness. Girls love politeness, and she’ll be suitably impressed.

Remember your manners when you’re dining. Pretend you’re at someone else’s house (which you are, of course). Elbows off the table. Don’t scratch. Smile as much as you can, but don’t force one. If you need to use the restroom, excuse yourself politely. Make as much conversation as you can, but don’t discuss only yourself. Find out about her. Girls love to talk about themselves.

When paying, pay it all - unless you already know upfront that you’re splitting the tab. In most cases, you wouldn’t - and you should always assume you’re paying the bill unless it’s been explicitly discussed otherwise.

Girls (and women, as you’ll see when you get older) really appreciate honesty, politeness, kindness, intelligence, and a sense of humor. If you can be a good conversationalist and can treat her with respect, you’ll have a second date for sure.



Hi, Tom’s son.

Ignore those geezers.

For 95% of all relevant circumstances, treat her like you’d like to be treated. Treat her like a person. Don’t treat her like different standards apply to her cuz she’s female. I mean, you can open the door for her if you’re closer or she has her hands full or something, but mainly and functionally it’s okay to treat her like one of the guys.

(This assumes that you don’t treat your guy friends like shit. If you do, and she won’t tolerate it, that speaks well of her judgment in comparision with that of your guy friends).

She’s met guys her own age who know how to play Sir Galahad. What’s probably more appreciated is receiving the same solid level respect that she gets from her best friends.

The remaining 5% have to do with things like “no, it isn’t okay to arrange for her to head home alone from a deserted subway station at 1:15 AM because she’s female”. You won’t automatically know what circumstances truly are different for females, so when there are miscommunications and hurt feelings, be prepared to talk about it, and learn. (She won’t always understand guy-specific experiences either. Be prepared to teach and explain).

A list of pointers:

[li]First and foremost, be a gentleman. Pull out her chair for her and open doors, especially car doors.[/li]
[li]Don’t bring flowers on a first date. A tradition of my own is to bring a small “something”, as a gift. My usual is a miniature abalone shell the size of your thumbnail from my shell collection. No jewelery, of course, just something small in a cute little box. You can find marvelous little bent wood boxes at hobby shops or crafts stores.[/li]
[li]Remember to listen. Men are genetically programmed to preen for the ladies. Try to keep it to a minimum. While you may wish to avoid really serious topics, be prepared to talk about things that do mean something to you. The best thing to do is gauge all of this from the pace that the lady sets.[/li]
[li]Dress well, and groom yourself well. You never have a second chance to make a good first impression. If you wear colonge, use it sparingly, don’t bathe in it unless you are really afraid of body odor. Floss and do all those other annoying rituals, look your best. Breath mints never hurt either. I like Smints.[/li]
[li]For myself, I never let the lady pay on the first date unless she insists (and then I try to limit it to her leaving the tip). I always let her know that she may pay on the next. That way she has equal footing, but you are able to pace the level of overall “shazzam” that you might wish for to impress her. This also allows the woman to know that she now has a non-suggestive way of repaying the event by her being able to ask you out.[/li]
[li]DO NOT talk about past relationships unless asked about it! Even then, limit any discussion to a minimum without being rude.[/li]
[li]Always offer to share a taste from your own plate if your date shows interest, or split dishes at a nice restaurant. It is an intimate touch to share food like that.[/li]
[li]It never hurts to do a little reconnaisance, find out from a mutual friend what the lady’s interests or hobbies are. This is a great starting point for conversation, try to have one or two other subjects as backup.[/li]
[li]And now for the hardest part. After all of this weird advice; be yourself. It is almost impossible to do, but a women’s intuition is specifically attuned for detecting phonies. For them it is a survival tool to find out whether you are sincere. Just be yourself and that won’t be a problem. Be sure to talk about the passions in your life.[/li]
[li]Be sure to compliment her outfit, hairstyle or jewelery. Be sincere, but make sure that you notice. Women go through hell making themselves up for a nice evening so show some appreciation.[/li]
[li]If you enjoyed the evening, let her know in no uncertain terms. This is your one opportunity.[/li]
My advice is not to go for the big smoocheroo at the end of the first evening. Walk her to her door, and perhaps a kiss on the wrist or cheek. It is better to be remembered as a gentleman. At the very least wait in your car until she is safely inside the house.

For an established girlfriend, I think the list is a little different than if this were a first date. She’s going to think it’s really weird if you do a total change in how you treat her “midstream,” as it were. Also, I strongly suspect that advice about whether or not to kiss her is too late to be of any use.

However, some of the basics still apply. Open doors (including car doors), but don’t make a big deal of it. Don’t pull up outside her house and honk - come to the door. Find something you like about her appearance that night and compliment it. Be polite to her parents if you want to keep dating her. This means not ignoring them in their own house. If you’re just picking her up for a date, say hello and tell them where you’re going and when you expect to be home so they don’t worry. If you’re just hanging around at her house, include them in the conversation occasionally. If you go over there for dinner, find something nice to say about the food, no matter how hideous it is.

Try to look like you made an effort to be well-groomed for the date. Watch out for too much cologne, though - it’s especially oppressive in a closed car. But don’t skip the deodorant.

If you go parking somewhere, be very sensitive to whether she seems comfortable with whatever you’re doing. Keep an eye on the time and try to make sure you don’t come home too long after when you told her parents you would (build some padding into the estimate). Remember that they will have control over whether you get to go out with her again, and don’t piss them off.


and, er, sorry about it

I wish I could print out the above and give it out to the guys in my office. They are by no means old, but they can come across as patronizing. Especially one of them. But that’s another story.


You’ve gotten some great advice, Tom’s son. A date should be treated well. It’s not all about going out to eat, either. Ask her what she would like to do before the date, so that you can plan accordingly. If you think “Hey, I like to stand at the airport and watch planes land for hours, maybe I’ll just randomly take her there”(yes this was once a real date. I’m into planes though, so it was ok), that’s definately an “ask her first” kind of deal.

Once you’ve been dating a while, you know her likes and dislikes. But keep acting like a gentleman. That doesn’t mean that you can’t relax, but she was important enough for you to ask her out the first time, and make sure she knows that she still is.

Except In Frat Houses, Carpets And Clothing Are Not Interchangeable:

If Mom Wouldn’t Like Your Magazine And Tape Collection, Chances

Are Your Date Won’t Either!:
From the time you have met the “soul mate of your dreams,” you have been trying to show her that
you’re a sophisticated, sensitive, modern man who treats women as equals, not sex objects. You
enjoy her company, and you love her mind. This image will go out the window if she finds Miss
January hanging in the linen closet

Serve Drinks In Real Glasses

Cleanliness is Next To Godliness

Dinner Should Not Have Originally Rattled In A Box:
If when she arrives, you pop something into the microwave, and it’s
finished before her chair is warmed, she won’t be amused.

As a general rule, ten-thirty or eleven is a reasonable time for a thirteen or fourteen year old to be home. The
hours should be made a little later each year, so that sixteen or seventeen year olds might stay out until
twelve-thirty or one. If they are going to be late, they should call home and tell their parents so they don’t spend all
night waiting up for them.

The girl’s parents should meet any boy who is going to take their daughter on a date. He should be able to
exchange a few words with them, and the parents in return should realize that this moment can be very
embarrassing for the boy. Conversation should be light and casual. After all, the boy has been willing to show his
face at the door!

When a young man is picking up a date, he should go to the girl’s door to pick her up. She should not keep him
waiting. The traditional courtesy of a boy always opening the car door for a girl is not often practiced today,
although girls still enjoy the extra attention.As she approaches the car, he should lean over and open the door for
her if he so chooses.

The passenger should be very careful not to let his or her date drive if he has been drinking or is under the
influence of drugs and should be ready to take the wheel at the first sign of careless driving.

A boy should not just drop his date off but should see her to the front door of her home when returning after dark.
Whether a body is invited in after a date depends on the hour and a girl’s understanding with her parents in the
matter, and whether or not someone is home.

Also try Love letter hints from: :

                                                  How to French Kiss
                                                  First Kiss


-Always wear a shirt.
-And pants.
-Pick her up at her door. (Don’t beep from the driveway)
-Talk to her parents. (They’ll think you’re a “good kid” and may be helpfull later)
-Open doors.
-Close doors.
-Be polite.
-Never take the last cookie from the plate.(Really the bag)
-Never give the first hickey.

Ditto to most everything that’s been said so far about general courtesy. I’ll add:

  1. Listen to what she has to say. She may be dropping bits of information that will come in handy later (i.e., if she says that she doesn’t like or follow a particular type of movie, you aren’t going to want to take her to see that exact kind of movie on a later date).
  2. People love to talk abou themselves. Give her plenty of opportunity to do so.
  3. You’ve asked her out. You pay for the whole nine yards. No exceptions. On later dates you can work out other arrangements.
  4. Don’t wear a baseball cap. And if you do wear a baseball cap even though you’ve been advised not to, take it off when you go in her parent’s house.
  5. Go easy on the cologne, stud boy.
  6. Have fun. Don’t put alot of pressure on either you or her. If it works out, great. If not, don’t sweat it.

I think this is all excellent advice.

One thing I would like to add is that sometimes girls don’t know the dating rituals either. Believe it or not, you need someone to show you, or at least some practice, to gracefully have someone else help you on with your coat, or to sit in a chair that someone is holding for you. So sometimes, a girl will roll her eyes or snicker to cover her own nervousness when she is blindly stabbing her arms toward her sleeves, wildly hoping that it will result in her coat actually being put on. The goal of manners is to make other people feel comfortable, so if the coat thing turns into an absolute disaster for either person, you’re not meeting the goal. If this happens, don’t let it discourage you, but be considerate and show courtesy in other ways as well. Practice the things that require an actual skill set (the chair, the coat) with your Mom, or if that is mind-numbingly horrific, a sister or other female.

Being able to gauge the situation and the appropriate expressions of dating etiquette is an invaluable skill. On formal dates or dances, or with your parents, or with her parents, step up the courtesy. If you’re going with a bunch of friends to McDonald’s, obviously a different standard applies. The bottom line, whether you are at prom, or at McDonald’s, is to use etiquette to express to your date that you value being with her.

Welcome to advice from the former Dating Klutz.

Let’s talk ergonomics. Believe me, this will save you a lot of trouble and make you look like a competent man - the kind that a young lady will want to go out with again.

  1. When opening a door, walk the door back towards you. This will ensure that it is open enough for her to walk through, and that you are not blocking the door. This will also ensure that you hold onto the door and do not let it accidentaly hit your date.

  2. When holding a coat for your date to put on, there is a little bit more than holding that will make you look much more suave. It also requires a bit of observation. FInd out whether she is left- or right-handed, and 99% of the time that is the sleeve she will go for first (unless she goes for both at once, in which case your job is easier). Lower that side just a bit and aim the armhole toward her hand, making it that much easier for her to slide her arm in. It may sound silly, but she’ll appreciate it.

  3. If taking a cab at anytime, you get in first. This assures that she does not have to slide across the seat, which she will appreciate if she is wearing a skirt or dress. Word to my wife for teaching me this one.

  4. Learn to hold doors for everyone. This will (a) be the right thing to do, as it is polite, and (b), make it look less like you are condescending to her.

  5. Of course, be polite to her parents. However, this applies equally to your parents, especially in her presence. Don’t be a sychophant (go ahead and look it up - it’s a very useful word), but be a human being.

  6. BE POLITE TO WAITSTAFF, TICKET TAKERS, USHERS AND ANYONE ELSE PROVIDING A SERVICE! Sorry to shout, but this will deep-six the date in 1.2 seconds. Of course it’s the polite thing to do, and it will show your date that you know how to treat other people. Also, tip properly. No 10% garbage. These people work hard, and deserve 20%. If the service is so bad that they deserve less, then call the restaurant later and complain. Don’t make a scene and embarass your date.

  7. No alcohol. Does that sound preachy? I couldn’t handle alchohol at 16 and my friends couldn’t either. Do your date a favor and don’t imbide. A good rule to remember for when you are twenty-one is a glass of wine at dinner is just fine, but never get drunk on a date. It will almost certainly offend your date. And, of course, never show up for a date after drinking.

  8. Listen listen listen. Converse, don’t rant.

Hope this helps! Good luck in all your future dating endeavours.

Are you people for real? Opening the door for her, helping put her coat on, helping her into her seat … last I checked, this is 2001, not 1950. Criminy!

My advice is: Date someone who is capable of opening their own doors and putting on their own clothing. You do not owe this girl anything other than general politeness and attention. Treat her well, but make certain she treats you the same way. If she doesn’t, don’t worry about it; simply find another girl, one more worth your attentions.

Um, dear, being about the age of Tom’s son I can tell you that although your attitude is quite normal, it shouldn’t be. All the girls I’ve known (including me) adore gentlemen, we’re okay with guys that don’t follow all the wonderful advice that’s been posted here but if you find a gentleman you keep him. There’s a guy at my school that I really liked last year, I loved him for his personality but the way he treated people made me adore him. He holds open doors and holds out chairs and he’s overall just a real gentleman and a really considerate guy. He was a real surprise in a world where most guys don’t care much anymore.
Tom’s son, my advice to you would be just to do what everyone else has told you, don’t listen to the guys that say it’s old fashioned. It may be “un-fair” that guys have to watch out for the girls but you can be assured that most girls really appreciate it. But be sure to gauge the girl’s reaction, if she’s uncomfortable with it or doesn’t like it then quit. I’ll be back with more later, let me go check out the guys at school…

Lots of Love,

Not getting laid much, are you?

As to the OP: My best advice would be to ditch the parents as soon as possible. You are freaking 16 now and you have your own license. Demand some freedom!!

One thing that I’ll add:

When you go get her at the door and meet her parents, shake their hands. Offer yours first, be bold. Shake her Dad’s hand every time you see him after that, and call him Mr. (insert his last name here).

We women like gentlemen, but our parents like it even more…and if her parents like you, it’ll make your life a LOT easier.

My words were said with more force than I intended. I appologize; I tend to get emotional over some things.

Many have posted that he should do this and that and the other thing. IMHO, he isn’t in any way obligated to do this, nor should he be expected to do these things. I just don’t want to see yet another person put forth all sorts of effort without making sure they’re getting something in return. My rules of dating are: Be polite. Be kind. Treat them how you would like to be treated. Expect them be polite and kind to you, and to treat you how they would like to be treated.