There's no denying it: first dates are up there with job interviews and public speaking in the nerve-wracking stakes.
Why? Well, literature and film are filled with instances of love at first sight. Eyes meeting across a crowded room. Two strangers instantly knowing that they've met their soulmate before they've even been formally introduced or exchanged hellos. It's not difficult to come up with examples of such lovers—Romeo & Juliet, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Bella and Edward from Twilight. The list goes on and on.
No surprise then that we put so much stock on that very first meeting. And even fewer surprises that we get so palm-sweatingly, pulse-racingly, tummy-flutteringly terrified as we prepare to walk in to a first encounter. The pressure to be at your very best is immense. The pressure you put on that other person to impress you is immense. It's all just completely immense.
But does it really need to be? Do we really need to focus so heavily on that initial encounter? Because after all, real life isn't Shakespeare or the movies. And Romeo & Juliet, not to mention Bella and Edward didn't exactly live happily ever after, did they?
You don't have to look very far though, to find examples of couples who really are living happily together, yet whose first encounters fell far short of the fairytale.
When Will Smith and Jada Pinkett first met at a dinner party, Will ended up going home with another woman who he went on to marry. Hardly the stuff of Mills and Boon. When Barrack Obama met Michelle,
she turned him down repeatedly until she agreed to go with him to get an ice cream in the park. Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher might be one of Hollywood's hottest couples these days, but once upon a time, while filming a TV show together as teenagers, they likened their relationship to that of brother and sister.
So before you allow yourself to give in to panic about an upcoming first date, just remind yourself that your future happiness does not hinge on coffee, chat and cocktails. Just relax, be yourself and enjoy the opportunity to get to know someone new. And who knows what it might lead to.