Does Drinking Drown Your Love Life? Try a Date Detox

Do you need booze to date?

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Here’s a list of some fun, creative and totally sober activities for your next hot date.

by Jenn Hoffman

I have a confession. Every first date I’ve ever been on has centered around drinking or alcohol. I don’t think this is actually much of a confession, because most people I know grab drinks or have some wine with dinner, especially on first dates. According to online searches, most Americans describe “date night” as a dinner and a movie accompanied by some cocktails. If you search “date night ideas,” you get suggestions for happy hour, coupons for drinks and package deals that basically are advertised to get you drunk, fat and somehow horny as can be.

Whether it’s martinis and a movie, beers and bowling or a trip to the wine country, American courtship is a bit of a tipsy game. While not every romantic encounter starts with shots of tequila and ends with a trip to Tijuana, I’m starting to think all this drinking might be making our most important emotional relationships start out a wee bit fuzzy.

So why do we rely on booze so much? Obviously alcohol is social lubricant. It makes us feel more relaxed, less inhibited, and eases the tension for both parties. Getting to know a complete stranger in an intimate setting can be nerve-wracking, so it makes sense that we take a spoonful — or a shot full — of sugar to help the medicine go down.

I have another confession to make: I’m getting bored with drinking.

The fact that most of my social activities revolve around alcohol is starting to bother me. This isn’t because I feel like the drinking itself is a problem, because believe me, I still enjoy having my cocktails. I just feel like having all my adult activities centered around getting a buzz is getting old. At the very least I feel a sad lack of creativity is going on in my adventure planning department.

So what else is there besides booze? Why not go on a date?

1. Get Down and Nerdy
Smart is sexy. Expand your horizons by learning something with new soulmate. Places like the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix offer more than 300 hands-on exhibits and a state-of-the-art planetarium. In Boston, the Museum of Science has a full-motion simulator that lets you journey through space, unravel mysteries of the deep sea and tag along with a water molecule. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is the largest in the Western Hemisphere and currently hosts an official “Mythbusters Experience” where you can try your hand at busting or confirming myths in wildly entertaining experiments. All this science talk is making my double helix hot for your DNA.

2. Become One, by Becoming One with Nature
Why relegate romance to the dark corners of a damp bar when you can go out and frolic in the sunshine? Take a hike, explore your local nature preserve, or visit the state park. A romantic walk gives you time to chat, while the physical exertion will help you burn off some of those nerves. What’s a more natural way to start some animal attraction than hanging with the birds and bees?

3. Get Wet and Wild
Let’s face it. Seeing your date all soaking wet is sexy. Sign up for sailing lessons, rent some kayaks or have an old-school day at the local water park. You’ll get to check out your partner’s body while actually doing physical activity that will improve the condition of your own physique. If you aren’t ready to be seen in a swimsuit yet, try some surfing lessons on a slightly colder summer day. Nothing sucks your gut in like a wet suit (trust me) and when you emerge from the chilly water, your date can help keep you warm, cozy and dry.

4. Get Cookin’
According to my cool friends, gourmet cooking lessons are all the rage these days. Many culinary schools, restaurants and even world-renowned chefs offer private and semi-private sessions, teaching you and your date how to get creative in the kitchen. Gone are the days of basic recipes and boring utensils. These state-of-the-art classes frequently involve exotic dishes, rare spices and anything the attending chef thinks will appeal to your full range of senses. People with a real food fetish will have to simmer down during this date.

5. Get Crafty

Remember when you were in elementary school and you couldn’t wait for arts-and-crafts time? Maybe I just hated math class, but I couldn’t wait for the kooky art teachers to show up with their carts full of fun. Recreate the days of boundless self expression with a little bit of paint, pottery or clay. Most cities offer ceramic painting, pottery spinning, wood working or drawing classes. You could get more ambitious and try a furniture-making class. Nothing says “sleepover” like building your bedpost together. Bonus: You also might get to know more about your date’s deep dark subconscious weirdness through the details of their artwork. Think of it like the art therapy that happens before the two of you inevitably end up in real relationship counseling.

6. Road Trip!
It might sound dicey, but why not just get in the car and drive? Pick a nearby spot you’ve always wanted to see but never had time to check out, and go there. Live near the world’s largest bale of hay? Go roll in it. The only aquarium featuring magical talking dolphins is only an hour away? Go chat with Flipper. You always wanted to cross the state line while driving with your arm around a red-headed girl in a blue pick-up truck? Rent one, find a hot ginger to sit shotgun and cruise. The trip there will give you plenty of time to get to know each other (and how many pee stops she requires while traveling), and at the very least, the ride back will let you know whether you can sustain a few hours trapped in an automobile with this strange human.

7. Amuse Yourself

Your relationship will probably eventually turn into a rollercoaster, so why not start out by actually riding one? Going to an amusement park is a great way to have fun during a date, without the intense pressure of constant conversation. Who can expect you to sustain a serious chat while suspended upside down or whipping back and forth at speeds that nearly break the sound barrier? Going to an amusement park is also a good way to find out if your date is a wuss or too demanding. Too afraid to ride the Death Dragon Coaster? Refuses to wait in line for even five minutes to try the World’s Most Dangerous Slingshot? The relationship is probably gonna be a bumpy ride.

8. Open Mic Nights Gone Bad

Not all open-mic nights are total train wrecks, but isn’t it kind of more fun if the people performing their spoken word/poetry/comedy/emo love songs are totally awful? What’s more memorable than bonding over tea and terrible tunes in an open-mic night hosted at your local coffee shop? Bonus points if one or both of you get up and perform an awesomely bad song or poem dedicated to each other.

9. Pull a Paris in Brazil
Remember back in the day, when you recorded songs from the radio, pausing it just into time to cut before the commercials in order to make the perfect summer mix tape for your crush? If you don’t, you’re too young for me anyway. That’s not the point. The point is, many of us fantasized about being super cool DJs with really clever DJ names. (Chairman DeadMao is mine). Forget what Samantha Ronson has to say. Haters gonna hate, but now you and your date can actually attempt to mix it up on the ones and twos by taking a mix master class. In Los Angeles, Miami and New York, The Scratch DJ Academy will have you DJing like a delusional Paris Hilton in Sao Paulo in no time. Smaller cities have similar DJ lessons listed on Craigslist and through local music stores. You’ll thank me when you’re DJing like a super star and spinning musical wonders like “YMCA” and “The Chicken Dance” at your own wedding.