If you think about it, dating and courtship are an amusing obsession of our culture. We’ve got reality TV shows and online apps devoted to it. It’s the plot, or subplot, of every other movie or TV program. We spend an absurd amount of time on this wonderful, rewarding, and hilariously human endeavor.
And it’s easy to get caught up in the joy and whimsy of discovering someone new and all the wonderful emotions that come with that, but let’s not forget that there are some potential risks even here. Keeping yourself safe while having a fun and active social life is fairly straightforward, however, and the following guidelines should help.
Use common sense, and trust your gut. If something feels off, look sketchy or inappropriate, or is just plain wrong, then follow that instinct. If you’re instincts are off, the result will be at worst mildly embarrassing. If they’re right, you could avoid serious problems.
Meeting a public place and arrange your own transportation. Having someone pick you up at your residence might be romantic or a least convenient, but it’s not smart until you’ve gotten to know the person. Stay in control and make an informed decision about when to let them know where you live. Meeting in public also adds another level of safety—other people can see what’s going on.
For the first date or two, stay (reasonable) sober. Drugs and alcohol occlude judgment, and that can lead to bad decisions. Stay well within your limits—and keep an eye on your drink.
Make sure some of your friends know where you are, where your going, and that you check in with them. This is another small thing— a text message will do—but by keeping them advised you’re lessening the chances of something uncomfortable happening. They can be an out, if you need one: “Hey, I’m so sorry, but something’s come up and So-and-So needs my help. It’s an emergency. I need to go.” Be brief, be non-specific, and be gone.
When/if the time comes, be smart about sexual activity. I’m all in favor of two consenting adults enjoying each other’s company, but make sure that it’s happening on terms comfortable to both parties. And please, practice safe sex.
“But what about online dating and dating apps?” I hear my tech-savvy 21st century readers cry. From Plenty of Fish to Tinder, these mobile device based services are incredibly popular tools in the dating game. I’m not opposed to them—I just think they need to be handled properly. First and foremost: all of the above rules apply. You’re effectively meeting a stranger, based on nothing but their online profile. Be cautious. You can take additional steps to keep yourself safe by ensuring that your social media and digital security is up to measure as well. Social media, dating apps, and other online resources can be great ways to meet people—but there are horror stories and scumbags out there as well. Just be cautious.
Now that we’ve been over all that, let’s address another important thing: get out there, stay safe, and have fun. You’re worth it, so enjoy yourselves!