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Respect is at the heart of dating etiquette

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dear Thelma: My teenage daughter will be allowed to start dating soon, but everything is so casual in today’s world. Do standards for a proper date even exist anymore? What should I tell her to expect in dating etiquette today?

A: Respect is at the core of every etiquette lesson, and it’s especially important to teens beginning to date. The standards that you develop as a family are the standards she should expect from herself and those who want to date her.

If you’ve determined your teen is responsible and respectful enough to date, first set and then communicate your own rules of dating – curfew or nights of the week acceptable for dates – and the consequences for breaking those rules. The manners you must communicate that you expect your teen – boy or girl – to show on a date come next.

As with any invitation, the date should be made as far in advance as possible, within reason. Two days may be fine for a movie date, but asking someone to the prom should be done at least a month in advance.


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If you ask someone out on a date – especially a first date – you should be prepared to plan and pay for the evening’s activities. That goes for girls and boys who do the asking. You never ask someone out and then expect them to pay. Once you’ve established a relationship you might decide to go Dutch treat or alternate who pays the full cost.

If someone plans a date to take you on, and then you want to alter or add to the activities, you should be prepared and willing to cover the added costs. Choosing things to do that are affordable to both parties is a good idea, as is thinking of a date as an opportunity to spend time with someone rather than to be treated.

Accept or turn down a date as soon as possible – preferably within a day. If you choose to turn down a date, thank the person for asking and politely tell him or her no.

When making a date, be clear about your plans. Be on time to pick up your date or be ready when your date arrives. Go into your date’s home and meet his or her parents and siblings. Show your maturity by looking them in the eye and greeting them with a handshake and a smile. Answer their questions and ask your date’s curfew. Respect it as well as your own.

Finally, honor your commitments. If you’ve made a date, the only acceptable reasons for breaking it are family emergencies or genuine illness. If you must break a date, do so as soon as you know you must and apologize for the cancellation.

Once you’re on a date, put away your cell phone and concentrate on the person with whom you’ve agreed to spend time. Don’t have a running text conversation with your buddy or girlfriend during your date and answer only calls that are important. Listen as much as you talk. Use your best table manners whether you’re at a fine restaurant or a fast food place. All of these show the respect you have for the person you’re out with and the respect that you expect to receive.

Dear Thelma: I’ve been dating a woman for a couple of months. I’m thinking of sending flowers to her at work for Valentine’s Day. Is that proper?

A: Yes. It’s a sweet gesture, and that kind of thoughtfulness is usually very appreciated.

If you’ve received flowers, be sure to give a call to thank the sender and let him know the flowers arrived.

Thoughtful gestures and good manners never go out of style.

Agree or disagree with Thelma’s advice? Post your comments or ask a question about etiquette at Thelma Domenici is CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates, offering corporate coaching and contemporary social skills development programs to all ages.