What That Viral ‘First Date List’ Doesn’t Tell You About Real Romance

You may have heard — a recent list has set social media ablaze. It’s a compilation, allegedly birthed from women’s consensus, of places they deem unacceptable for a first date. From Applebee’s to bowling alleys, it seems the conventional spots have suddenly become persona non grata in the dating realm.

This of course has incited a range of reactions, with many women advocating for higher standards in dating, while others argue for a more modest evaluation beyond displays of ‘princess treatment.’


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The Fine Line Between Standards and Entitlement

Advocating for higher standards in dating venues? That’s understandable, to an extent. Everyone deserves to feel special, particularly when it comes to romantic pursuits. However, there’s a fine line between having standards and exploiting someone’s interest to indulge in lavishness, under the guise of “dating preferences” and “knowing your worth.” This distinction seems lost in the current discourse, especially among women championing this newfound dating doctrine.

Take, for instance, the woman in the recently-viral Cheesecake Factory video. Her indignation over her date’s restaurant choice wasn’t a display of high standard like she thought. It was entitlement, bordering on beggary. By the video’s end, her pleas for compromise, rather than a ride home, revealed more than disdain for chain restaurants. It showcased a mindset viewing dates as transactions, not as opportunities to connect. Her date’s decision to cut ties wasn’t a rejection of her standards but a refusal to entertain her entitled behavior, which she has since admitted to.

Materialism in Dating — A Misguided Focus

But this fiasco reveals a more significant, more concerning trend. The current dating conversations are hyper-focused on the material aspects—where the first date happens, how expensive the appetizer menu is, or whether the ambiance meets Instagram-worthy criteria. Sure, a man can take you to a five-star restaurant, pull out all the stops to impress, but here’s the hard truth: it’s entirely possible that he can still be an absolute disaster of a human being. Sadly, many times, I see this is in fact the case.

Regardless, I think we’re missing the forest for the trees here. Among these heated debates about the ‘right’ dating venues, (personally, I’d love a Cheesecake Factory date) we’re glossing over what genuinely matters. Where are the standards for character? For respect? For integrity? It’s as though we’ve collectively decided that a man’s worth—and our safety and happiness—is directly proportional to the thickness of his wallet and not the makeup of his character.

The Paradox of Modern Dating Standards

Scroll through any forum, listen to the latest dating podcasts, and you’ll find a peculiar paradox. The same voices advocating for upscale first dates are also those justifying men’s cheating, disrespect, and various other debaucheries with a resigned “high value boys will be high value boys” tone. It’s a dangerous, disheartening narrative that needs dismantling.

Don’t get it twisted— a fancy first date isn’t a vaccine against toxicity.

How a man treats you, respects you, and values you in the everyday moments far outweighs any orchestrated charm he might deploy across a candlelit dinner. These are the standards worth holding onto. It’s imperative to evaluate a man’s attitude, his world view, his character in the day-to-day. Does he respect you, your boundaries, your aspirations, and your independence? Does he practice honesty, empathy, and kindness in his interactions, not just with you but with others?

These qualities, often dismissed as ‘old-fashioned,’ are the real indicators of someone’s worth. They predict a pattern, a consistency in behavior that no amount of gourmet cuisine or exclusive venues can.

Let’s redirect this conversation from the extravagance of dating to the excellence of character. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not about where you’re being asked to go. It’s about who’s asking you—and whether they’re worth your time, regardless of the setting.

In the grand scheme of things, a first date at a five-star restaurant could mean nothing compared to morning coffee with someone who respects you, listens to you, and genuinely cares about your well-being. We have to refocus on what truly matters and recognize that the foundation of any worthwhile relationship doesn’t start with where we are but with who we’re with and who we are.

Until next time,

Ash Pariseau


  1. “The current dating conversations are hyper-focused on the material aspects—where the first date happens, how expensive the appetizer menu is, or whether the ambiance meets Instagram-worthy criteria.”

    This attitude, exemplified in that list, is one of the reasons that many men today think money is necessary to get a woman’s interest. Presuming many women agreed with that , that’s not surprising. It’s unusual to see an opposing view nor do such get an equal number of views.

    • Yes, and this perspective, often amplified by social media and pop culture, doesn’t reflect the values of many who prioritize genuine connection over material display. That’s why it’s a good idea to celebrate those voices that advocate for authenticity and substance in relationships. They may not always get the same spotlight, but they certainly represent a significant portion of the dating population who appreciate the deeper aspects of compatibility and partnership.

  2. The shame of it is, these women represent a tiny fraction of all women, yet are giving the rest of the women a horrible reputation. Men see these memes and videos are noping out of the whole scene. Women walk around scared because of the 1% of all men are evil and could cause them harm. Men walk around feeling like women aren’t worth the trouble because of the 1% of women who are featured on these videos. Nobody wins and the 99% who are good people are the big losers.

    • It’s truly unfortunate how a small fraction of negative experiences casts a shadow over the whole scene. Most women and men are out there looking for genuine connections, but the loud minority can sometimes skew perceptions. We all lose out if we let those rare negative instances dictate how we view each other.

  3. “The current dating conversations are hyper-focused on the material aspects”

    100% agree, and this isn’t all that new. Weirdly, I wouldn’t want to go to any of those places for a first date because I think a first date should be even more low-key than any of those places.

    That first date should be very low-pressure, low-investment of both time and money. This is your chance to talk to them and figure out basic compatibility (i.e. whether you want to invest MORE time and MORE money actually dating them!).

    My suggested first-date standby is coffee or tea, because: 1) total cost is $10 – $12 (or less); 2) you can cut it short if you don’t get along, or you can sit and talk for hours if you do; 3) if you DO get along and don’t want it to end, there’s no rule that says you can’t go to dinner, take a walk, go get drinks, or whatever.

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head. The emphasis on the material can overshadow the real purpose of dating, which is to connect on a personal level. I can see how a low key first date, like grabbing coffee or tea, is ideal for that initial meet up. It’s affordable and provides the perfect setting for an uninterrupted conversation. It’s all about discovering that initial spark without the distraction of extravagance. Plus it leaves room for the relationship to grow organically.

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