Wednesday, Jan. 15 — Q: I am a bridesmaid in a wedding in four months and haven’t been able to think of a guy to be my date. I recently met a guy at a party. He is the friend of a friend and is cute and funny and seemed really nice. He lives two hours away, so it isn’t easy to meet for coffee or something, but I thought I could ask him to be my date for this wedding and see where things go from there.
A: Taking a guy to a wedding on the first date is like taking a cow sightseeing at a slaughterhouse.
On a first date, the only person asking “So, are you two next?” should be a counterperson at Starbucks. The commitment-ganza first date also goes against the three things I always say first dates should be: cheap, short, and local. That way, even if you and a guy hit it off like the Israelis and the Palestinians, you can probably stick it out for a polite 59 minutes of happy-hour drinks and then bail — in a way you can’t if you’ve signed up for a wedding ceremony, a four-course sit-down dinner, and people you don’t know crying on your sleeve and throwing up on your shoes.
Beyond this being the wrong venue for a first date, inviting a near stranger four months in advance has to come off weird and desperate. This far ahead, a guy has to wonder why there isn’t another male soul in your life you could ask — and wonder who’s next on your list if he says no, the wino living under the bus shelter? (On a positive note, that guy would especially appreciate the open bar.) Also consider that there’s a reason this guy hasn’t asked you out, and it’s probably that he isn’t interested or isn’t interested enough to date a woman he has to travel two hours to see. (A guy who’d date the 7 who lives around the block would probably need her to be a sexually gifted 11.5 to make up for the two-hour drive.)
But there is an upside in the rubble of all these downsides. If you can accept that you won’t have a date for the wedding, you might find a date at the wedding by turning it into an opportunity to strike up conversations with interesting and possibly handsome strangers. Who knows, you might even meet a really great guy for you — one who gets that glimmer in his eye, realizing there’s no better woman to invite on a first date to either his nephew’s circumcision or his grandma’s funeral.
Q: My boyfriend and I are attending a wedding next month, and he wants to buy the bride and groom a gift from their registry. However, I recently got into handmade pottery and thought it would be much more special to make a personalized gift — something totally unique, like a ceramic honey pot. Besides displaying our creativity more, it’d be cheaper, and there would be no shipping charges.
A: A handmade ceramic honey pot seems like the obvious best gift — if the happy couple are Martha Stewart and Winnie-the-Pooh.
I, too, used to turn my nose up at gift registries, which I thought were a tool for the lazy and uncreative. It does seem that being a truly caring friend means putting real effort into gift giving, like by spending six months crocheting a couple an afghan out of cat hair rather than just rolling out of bed and mouse-clicking on something they’ve registered for at Bed Bath & Be-yawned.
But two business school professors, Francesca Gino and Francis Flynn, did a series of experiments to find out whether this is true. Lo and behold, they learned that gift recipients actually preferred the gifts they’d registered for, appreciating them more and finding them more thoughtful and even more personal. (Gift givers assumed the opposite to be true.) The gift givers’ mistaken assumption seems to stem from what another researcher, Adam Grant, describes in his terrific book, “Give and Take,” as a “perspective gap.” We tend to interpret what another person would want by asking “What would I want?” rather than what would get us to the right answer: “What would THEY want?” In other words, though your pottery efforts may far surpass the artfulness of my macaroni assemblages, your boyfriend is probably on the right track in sticking with the registry. So, keep on potting, but get them that monogrammed garlic press they say they want instead of what you want them to want: for you to save money on a gift and not have to pay for shipping.
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