But arrogance can be the ultimate mood-killer when getting to know a stranger. How do I put it in a way Washingtonians will understand? If you’re running for president of someone’s heart, you want to show that you’re smart, attractive and competent, yet also relatable. Being likable enough isn’t, well, enough.
With that in mind, here are five lines to avoid on your next first date.
1. “I’m really good at first dates.”
I uttered this gem while on a great first date this summer. As soon as the boast left my lips, the loud and crowded bar got quieter, and a waitress shot me a “you should know better” look. Instead, I went on about how dating — and being able to carry on a conversation with a stranger — is an actual skill. So many people don’t know what they’re doing, I added.
Now that’s all true, and my date agreed. But I didn’t need to brag about it. Show, don’t tell, sister.
2. “I want to be a Thought Leader.”
When a date told me this several years ago, I laughed out loud for a good 10 seconds and said something like: Never say that to anyone, ever again.
Sure, I could’ve been nicer about it. But nothing says arrogance like a made-up job title that means: I’m really smart. I’m going to make a career out of being trenchant and controversial on panel discussions, on television and in bestselling books I’ve yet to write.
Washington is teeming with aspiring Thought Leaders; their preferred method of asking someone out is by sending a direct message on Twitter. When a wannabe Thought Leader breaks up with someone, he might say something like: I can be someone really important in my field, and I need to spend my time and energy on that.
3. “I’ve been to 98 countries.”
Travel snobbery is classic D.C. The above comment was uttered on a date with a Solo-ish contributor, and it says: I’m worldly and sophisticated. Don’t believe me? Check my passport — I just had extra pages added.
Travel snobs’ online dating profile photos are overseas shots, but nowhere as ordinary as Machu Picchu or Santorini. Their profile might include a quote from Mark Twain (“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do”) or Gustave Flaubert (“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”).
If you fall in love, you can take $120,000 vacations together, where your travel snob will debate with David Brooks about whether the caviar is better in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
4. “Is it weird for you, living in D.C. and not having been to grad school?”
Is it weird for you, having a mountain of student debt?
At the time, I didn’t have a zingy comeback for this display of credential snobbery from a lawyer (who also has a master’s degree in public policy!). But I’m pretty sure I held my own, despite the fact that I have only a couple of bachelor’s degrees.
About 23 percent of Washington area residents 25 and older have a graduate or professional degree, the highest proportion of any U.S. metropolitan area. But it’s still the exception, not the rule.
5. “I’ll get this — you’re poor.”
Those weren’t his exact words, but that was the sentiment. When a date several years ago insisted on picking up the check because I was an “impecunious copy editor,” I was disarmed not by the fact that he was paying, but because I needed a dictionary to understand his comment. (“Having very little or no money, usually habitually,” according to Merriam-Webster.)
No matter how obvious it is that there’s an income disparity between you and your date, there’s no need to point it out, especially if you’re the higher earner.
And by using a $5 word to highlight our wage gap, my date made me feel underpaid and under-educated. Maybe I should’ve gone to grad school.