Here are some common sense safety tips for meeting your online date in person. Your instincts will play a strong role in keeping you safe too, so listen to them and take action if you feel uncomfortable or alarmed at any time. Remember, there's also a good chance that your date is perfectly genuine. Tread a sensible line between optimism and caution and your date will be safe and enjoyable.
Meet when you're ready:
Don't be pressured into meeting your online date. One of the big attractions of online dating is that you can find out the important stuff - be sure there's a real possibility for a relationship ? up front, so take your time and make the most of it. Your offline date should confirm and enhance your feelings, not lead to disappointment, or nasty surprises!
Meet in a public place:
Hopefully most of you are yawning at this. However, when you've built up some trust online, and happen to share an interest in lonely country walks, say, a lonely country walk might seem like a great idea for a first date. Give yourself a severe reality check when arranging a first date. First dates should always be in well-populated, public places.
Meet in a familiar or well-known area:
You need to be able to find your way home, or back to your hotel room, quickly and easily. Don't travel into unfamiliar neighborhoods and if you've traveled to an unfamiliar city to meet your date, choose a hotel in a central area that's well known to taxi drivers and locals.
Meet in a place where you're not well known:
For first dates, avoid favorite hangouts where everyone knows you and your business. Your date can return to pry information out of your favorite bartender or friends, or turn up uninvited ? bad news if you decide not to pursue the relationship.
Revealing where you live, where you're staying or getting into a strange vehicle puts you at risk. Be sure to make your own way to and from your date, and don't be persuaded otherwise. If you make your travel arrangements ahead of time, you'll have a good excuse for refusing any offers to pick you up or drop you home, and if your date's half the person you think they are, they'll respect your independence and caution.
Make your own arrangements:
Don't let your date take over and make all the decisions about where you go, what you do, and, if you're traveling from another city, where you stay. Make your own travel arrangements (I've said this already, but it's important), book your own hotel, and make sure you and your common sense get to play a big role in deciding when and where your date takes place.
Tell a friend or relative about your date:
Make sure someone knows who you're meeting (their full name and phone number), when, where and at what time you expect to be back.
Take your cell phone:
If you don't have a cell phone, borrow one. Arrange for someone to call you at a certain time to check up on how your date is going, and how you're feeling about it. Agree beforehand on some phrases that will let them know, without giving the game away to your date, whether it's going well or whether you need to put a pre-arranged escape plan into action.
Don't drink too much:
Sure, a drink can calm your nerves but be careful not to overdo it and lose your ability to make safe and sensible decisions.
Leave if you feel uncomfortable:
You're excited about your date, you want it to go well, to give it every chance of success but (and it's a big but) don't let this tempt you into ignoring or excusing the fact that something doesn't feel right. If it doesn't feel right it probably isn't. Trust your instincts, admit it and get out of there. If necessary, enlist the help of a waiter or manager or some other person that can help you make a get away, perhaps feigning a call from home or showing you an alternative way out of the building. Remember though, it's not necessary to explain yourself to your date. Simply leave.
Watch for strange behavior:
When you meet offline, dating should fall into a natural, comfortable pattern. Stop dating if it doesn't. For instance, if your date always wants to meet some distance from where they live or work, is reluctant to introduce you to friends or family, or has strange rules about how and when you call each other, something's very wrong.
Copyright 2004 Caroline Mackenzie
Caroline Mackenzie is Co-Owner/Webmaster of The Dating Muse, a guide to online dating services and personals featuring reviews of the top online dating sites plus tips and ideas for finding friends, dates, soulmates and sexual adventure online. You can visit her site at http://DatingMuse.com and subscribe to her newsletter at http://datingmuse.com/subscribe.htm