For some women, first dates are stressful occasions – almost equivalent to a painful trip to the dentist or being trapped in a room full of spiders.

The steps leading up to the evening – picking out a dress with wrecked nerves and sweaty pits – is made more unbearable by what follows, including mundane conversations about the weather and that awkward moment when the bill arrives.

My first dates with Mr. Right were filled with disasters of Armageddon-like proportions. They included cheesy pick up lines, spinach remnants in my teeth and extraordinarily awkward silences. At one point, I even contemplated bolting into a taxi and returning to the safety of my walk-in wardrobe.

But the truth is this: first dates are all about taking a risk. In the hope that he’ll turn out to be Mr. Right, you need to put yourself out there and do your best.

While I’m not a relationship expert, I’ve learnt from numerous mistakes and emerged with greater cunning and a good strategy to tackle a first date. Here’s a list things you shouldn’t do.

DON’T …

Dress like you’re homeless
Comfort is not everything (you can be comfortable after you’re married). Right now, dress to impress because first impressions do count. If you’re not accustomed to walking in heels, practice. Likewise, if you cannot sit down like a lady in a dress, practice.

Attempt to chow down a burger
Eating a burger without looking like a deranged caveman is a skill. In fact, the only people who can do it practice daily and are die-hard fans of MacDonald’s Facebook page. It’s advisable to stay away from food that cannot be eaten daintily.

Guzzle too much alcohol
If your date is the type who’d take advantage of an intoxicated woman, you had better stay sober enough to clobber him on the head with the wine bottle. Plus, no one likes an unladylike and unglamorous drunk who spews her deepest and darkest secrets.

Reveal deep dark secrets
Trust me – there will be ample time to frighten him with your deepest and darkest secrets once the relationship progresses. I recommend revealing each to him in a step-by-step process, so he’s not tempted to run for the hills. Men are like deer – easily startled. So, you need to tiptoe around them with great caution in the initial stages.

Wax lyrical about marriage and a dream home
Again, deer-like men don’t like to be told about your dream walk-in closet, breezy kitchen and white picket fence on the first date. Jumping the gun now means you might sacrifice an enjoyable and relaxed courtship period. It also messes with the gradual bonding process, which could backfire later at a later stage of the relationship.

Give the impression you might be bored
If you like him and you’re having fun, it’s important to let on. Let him know you’re engaged and interested in the conversation by leaning in closer, maintaining eye contact and nodding at appropriate times. Yawning, looking away and fiddling with your mobile device are all signs that you’re bored.

Today, after three years (and then some) of an imperfect courtship, Mr. Right and I have finally got our dates down to a tee.

I can now dress like I’m homeless, drink as much wine as I like, chow down a Carl’s Junior burger with gusto, reveal all my deepest secrets (and murder fantasies), rant about our new home and upcoming marriage, and even space out when he’s trying to talk to me (once in awhile, of course).

Alisa Chopard is a writer and a lover of all things satisfying, including good food and fabulous fashion.