Are your palms always unreasonably sweaty? Do you commonly find yourself fumbling over words when trying to make conversation? Are you a fan of feigned eye contact and lingering silences? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then first dates are definitely for you!

Filled to the brim with embarrassing moments and cringe-worthy experiences, first dates are notorious for being all-around awkward and uncomfortable. Whether or not it will lead to a second date is a different question, but sometimes the worst dates often create the best, or at least the funniest, memories.

The initial step in planning a first date is picking a place to go. Dating Metrics, a popular dating survey software, conducted a poll, which revealed that the most common first date destination for people under the age of 21 is the movie theater.

“I went to the movies on my first date,” said AHS senior Maddie Rhodes. “We got dinner before at Not Your Average Joe’s and then went to see Insidious.

“It was actually kind of funny because when we were at dinner I ordered off the kids menu, and he did too because I did,” Rhodes said, chuckling. “And he is pretty tall, like over six feet, so to see this big guy eating such a tiny meal was really funny and it’s something we still laugh about.”

AHS senior Colby Agostino also went to the movies on his first date. “We went to see Holiday Office Christmas Party because it was almost Christmas at that point,” Agostino recalled. “I remember I was nervous, but going to the movies gave us something to talk about, and it was a funny movie too, so that took a little pressure off.”

The survey also reported other popular locations to go on a date including the aquarium, the zoo, and the bowling alley.

Ms. Haltmaier, a math teacher here at AHS, went somewhere a little more fancy than the movies on a first date. She remembers her favorite first date was at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. When asked whether she prefers more unorthodox dates over traditional dinner dates, she revealed that “it really depends on the company.”

Haltmaier went on to say, “I like both traditional dates when I can wear my nicest clothes… and also out-of-the-box dates that are spontaneous.”

AHS senior Molly McQuaide can attest to the awkwardness of first dates. McQuaide works at Sarkisian Farms, a business that opened in 1968 originally as a farm, but added a driving range to its estate in 1994, followed by an ice cream stand ten short years after that. Sarkisian’s is a popular destination for couples on their first outing together, so McQuaide has seen her fair share of cringey encounters. “You can definitely tell with the younger kids and high schoolers whether or not it’s a first date because they’re just so quiet,” McQuaide said as she brushed chocolate jimmy’s off the counter. “They just sort of stand there and smile at each other; you can tell both of them are nervous. Then it gets to who pays for who and they both kind of hesitate and awkwardly laugh a little before the boy offers to pay.”

Zak Hardock has also witnessed many dates throughout his employment as a host at Sal’s, an Italian restaurant in downtown Andover that is owned by Lowell native Kevin Branco. A common form of chivalry follows the tradition that the guy always pays on the first date, and Hardock can confirm that this tradition lives on. “With all of the dates I have seen, regardless of whether or not they are first dates, the guy always pays,” said Hardock matter-of-factly.

“Sal’s is a pretty expensive place, too, so if a guy takes you there it must mean he really likes you,” Hardock said with a laugh.

Time Magazine conducted a survey that asked almost 4,500 people whether or not they think men should pay on the first date. 78% of the participants agreed that it is the responsibility of the man to fund a date, however expensive it may be. Whether it is an evening at Sal’s or a simple ice cream excursion at Sarkisian Farms, the majority of people seem to believe that ladies should not have to pay on a date.

“I paid for dinner and he paid for the movie on the first date,” said Rhodes. “He was insistent on paying for both, but I wouldn’t let him because the movies are expensive. When I wasn’t looking, though, he slipped ten dollars into my phone case to ‘pay for my dinner’ and I didn’t realize until after I had gotten home that night.”

Although evidence confirms that the guy does end up paying on the first date, whether he does it directly or indirectly (see phone case story above), this doesn’t always have to be the case. It is not unheard of that the girl pays, but the common saying “chivalry is not dead” seems to be the sole motivator behind who picks up the bill, and may also serve as a way to impress the person sitting across from you at that dinner table.

Now that you know the ins and outs about first dates, it’s time to talk about what to do and what not to do on first dates according to the real experts from AHS. “It’s completely normal to have some nerves before your first date; just remember that your date probably feels the same way,” Rhodes admitted. She also recommended listening to your favorite selection of music and going someplace that you are familiar with to combat any of your rational, or perhaps irrational, anxieties.

Agostino also included some absolute things to avoid while on your first date. He suggested, “You should never try to talk politics or forget your wallet in the car.” He also, comically, added, “Those may or may not be suggestions from firsthand experience.” First dates can be exciting and nerve racking at the same time, but both Rhodes and Agostino can agree that keeping the nerves at a minimum and having an open mind are the best ways to have success on a first date.

The media often portrays first dates as extravagant displays of affection typically ending in true love or absolute chaos. However, the community at Andover High School has their own opinion on the accuracy of Hollywood’s portrayal of first dates. Agostino agrees with the media’s depiction of first dates and his logic is that “in most movies the guy falls in love with the princess on the first date and since most girls are princesses I would have to say that Hollywood is spot on.” All jokes aside, Agostino’s message carries a certain truth, which is that every first date is memorable and unforgettable, for good or for worse.

McQuaide, on the other hand, completely disagrees with the media’s definition of a first date. “A first date does not have to be a life changing event,” she said, “Something as small as going for a stroll and enjoying conversation can be satisfying enough. It’s not about the fancy dinners or clothes; it’s really just about two people figuring out whether or not this thing could work.” Both Agostino and McQuaide have unique opinions on what should qualify as a first date, but they can both confirm that first dates are an extremely special experience.

Ahh, first dates. A different image may pop into each person’s head when they hear those two small words. For Colby Agostino, it means running back out to the car to get his wallet. For Maddie Rhodes, it means ordering the mac n’ cheese off the kids menu. For Susan Haltmaier, it means dressing to the nines at the New York Opera. As observed, the common stigma behind first dates is the inevitable awkwardness that ensues between two nervous people who are simply trying to get familiar with each other for the first time.

No matter what, however, first dates create lasting memories between two people. They can be either excellent or tragic, but they can almost always generate a good laugh. Whether you’re on a first date like Maddie Rhodes, or observing one like Molly McQuaide, it is clear to see that people tend to act differently (and sometimes clumsily) when their nerves kick into overdrive. That may not be a bad thing though, and as Rhodes puts it: “You really don’t have anything to lose, so you might as well just have fun with it and get as many laughs in as you can.”

By Brooke Lenes