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How to Be a Tiny Bit Better at First Dates

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My friend Brooke was recently telling me about a blind date she went on where the guy never called her back. She was fine with it — she says he was super boring — but like all of us do when we’re blown off, she had also been speculating a bit about where things went wrong. Her leading theory: his lack of follow-up might have had something to do with the entrance she made at dinner.

“I ended up working late, and I had just enough time to go home, shower, and get dressed before running out to meet this guy,” she told me. “I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I was starving.” So she sat down, opened her menu, and said in her date’s direction, “I hope you don’t mind if I order an appetizer right away. Today’s one of those days when I care more about crab dip than first impressions.”

It’s not that Brooke’s not polite — she is, nearly to a fault. It’s just that all she was really lusting over in that moment was the burger list, and pity the man who tried to make small talk in the meantime. Romance is hard when you’re hangry, or even when you’re just plain old hungry.

Research backs this up: Dating on an empty stomach is an easy way to sabotage the evening. In one study in the journal Appetite, researchers at the University of California, San Diego analyzed the link between the contents of a woman’s stomach and her receptiveness to romance. The study’s subjects fasted for eight hours, then went through an fMRI while viewing photos of everyday objects, couples, and romantic scenarios. The hungry women showed exactly as much interest in a first kiss as they did in a bowling ball — but when they were given 500-calorie protein shakes and shown the photos again, they became far more responsive to romantic cues. The way to a woman’s heart, in other words, really can be through her stomach.

Not every first date is going to go well. That’s just a fact of life. But you can improve your chances of having a good experience by being mindful of your appetite. If you’re doing something that doesn’t involve eating, make sure you’re full enough before you arrive; if you are eating a meal together, make sure it’s a satisfying one. And it couldn’t hurt to take care of the ordering before getting into the small talk — otherwise, if your date’s hungry, you might as well be a bowling ball.

How to Be a Tiny Bit Better at First Dates