Dating is fraught with worries, which is unfortunate, since the main idea (and easiest way to be found attractive on a date) is to have fun.

 

But unlike concerns about your hair (up or down?) or blouse choice (or maybe a dress?), one smart anxiety daters have is with safety. The preponderance of new dates now come from meeting people online, not through friends, and so wariness is good, (but being too afraid to date is not).

 

You can minimize worries, so you can (potentially) enjoy your date, says Lisa Cotto, sergeant in the Community Services Division of the Norwalk, Conn., police department, if you follow the dating safety tips below.

 

(Literally) Watch the Alcohol: Whether dating or even just for a night out with the girls, always "Keep an eye on your drink, keep aware, and don’t drink too much,” advises Cotto. If you know that fourth beer puts you over the edge, don’t go there. If you can make at least your first date alcohol-free, you will be better able to judge your future potential romantic partner. If you go somewhere and you want to drink (hey, it calms the nerves, that’s just how the stuff works), do your best to have no more than two beverages, ask for a water with your beverage, and drink one for each alcoholic beverage you imbibe.

 

Take Your Time: There are no prizes for fastest time to the relationship or sex (hey, not everyone out there is looking for a husband or wife, that’s OK). When you find someone you can talk to and trust for however long your connection lasts it’s a much more enjoyable experience. So whether you are dating for a good time, or looking for a relationship, enjoy the conversation, learn what their most embarrassing moment in second grade was, and get to know the person behind the suit and tie or crazy curly hair. It’s always worth it and makes for a more worthwhile experience.

 

Get the Details: Most people have a hard time lying if they have to answer a similar question from different angles. But don’t worry, you don’t have to plan out questions, and try to ‘catch’ someone (that would probably be a very weird conversation). Over the course of normal, regular chatting, listen closely and you’ll get a good idea if someone isn’t telling the truth. If your date comes via friends or acquaintances, ask about them. Cotto says that part of police background check includes talking to exes; no need to pry into relationship details, but it’s OK to ask general questions, and honestly, you can get a pretty good idea about someone from their past relationships. There’s a big difference between, “He was a nice guy, but we couldn’t make it work,” and “He’s a total scary psycho dude.”

 

Listen to Your Gut: Never let someone convince you to do something or go somewhere you don’t want to go. The easiest way to ensure that this doesn’t happen is to listen to your gut, and trust it. If you have any reservations or discomfort surrounding a situation, have faith that your inner decision maker is sound, and follow along. No reasonable person worth seeing again would get angry about keeping you comfortable and the date safe. “If you are feeling creepy, or if you have that ‘uh-oh’ feeling go with your gut,” says Cotto. She says women should look out for a guy who is immediately too possessive or too into you right away. And, she says, keep the conversation casual; don’t make promises at the beginning of the date before you’ve gotten to know a bit about them.

 

Don’t Give Out Personal Details: The simplest way to keep yourself safe is to keep your specific details general, and meet in a public place, says Cotto. Give the name of the town you live in, but not the neighborhood or your street address. Be general about where you work “in advertising in the city” but not the name of your company.

 

Have a Post-date Plan: An easy way to make sure the date only goes as far as you want it to and stays safe is to have a post-date plan with a friend (even if it’s just a phone call). It keeps a tight time limit on the date and gives you an easy out if the person is weird, boring, or creepy. Plus you can dish on how well or horribly it went with your buddy, which helps make the whole thing less fraught. And just to be on the safe side, make sure you have 911 on speed dial (it’s a good idea to do this anyway).

 

Have other tips for dating safety? Leave us a note in the comments below.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.