The Ruthless Date Killer

8 reasons why you should make your next date a no-cell-phones zone (especially if you want to make it to Al Green’s greatest hits)

Lucky you. Congratulations on scoring an old-school talk-first-rip-off-clothes-later date in this era of “fun,” “NSA,” and instant gratification.

You must proceed with caution, or this could be a once-in-a-full-moon coup. You’re cleaned, pressed, and looking sharp. Now one more thing: Off with the cell phone!

Then ask your date to do the same. It’ll be a great ice-breaker. Make an excellent first impression by making it clear that this is a moment strictly for two — no interruptions, unless it’s the waiter or a street brawl outside… or a bar fight inside, which would probably be more exciting than anything on the phone anyway.

Unthinkable? Well, the next date might very well depend on making this one a phone-free zone. Here are eight reasons why it’s a good idea to turn it off before you turn on the charm.

1. You don’t want to be caught checking out the Grindr grid when he returns from the bathroom.

And you definitely don’t want to be the one doing the catching. Maybe I don’t have enough faith in my dates, but I always assume that’s why they pull out their phone as soon as I leave the table and quickly put it away when I return.

Could he be making a back-up plan? Hmm… Is he telling a friend with benefits to assume the on-deck position just in case our date ends with just a kiss and “Let’s do it again”? No phones, no questions.

These days I have a first-date test: If I return from the toilet, and he’s not looking at his phone, I immediately upgrade him to “Potential Candidate for Potential Keeper” status. Maybe he’ll return the favor if he returns from doing his business and finds me smiling off into the distance and tapping my feet instead of my fingers.

2. If he’s the kind of guy to get on Grindr as soon as the date is over (Brace yourself: He might be “looking” already), do you really want to pop up on his grid?

Few things will sully a perfectly lovely date more quickly than your profile appearing right next door to his when it’s over.

3. Oh, and you don’t want him to hear the ping of incoming messages if you forget to close the screen or put the phone on silent.

It may prove that everybody wants you, but if your date is human, he’s probably already insecure as hell. Why remind him that he’s competing with more guys than a suitor on The Bachelorette?

4. You might be tempted to answer it, which is just rude.

“I have to take this” might be the most annoying mid-date sentence. No, you don’t. Turn it off and let voicemail do what it’s supposed to do. A scintillating conversation can rarely recover from an intermission during which you discuss some un-pressing business while the guy sitting across from you/next to you awkwardly looks away, pretending to be totally engrossed by the fascinating sidewalk scene outside so as not to appear to be eavesdropping.

Answering the phone when your date is in the middle of a sentence is as rude as talking with your mouth full. I’ve ended dates from New York City to Australia for it.

5. You don’t want the first impression to be that you can’t live without it.

How are you going to look down on the post-millennial obsession with modern technology (an excellent conversation piece, by the way) with a straight face if your eyes are glued to your LCD screen?

6. You might spoil the mood before you even try to set it if a suggestive — or worse, cheesy — ringtone interrupts your casual conversation.

If you’ve chosen something by Taylor Swift, you might want to save that revelation until after you’ve had a chance to hook him with your fierce non-music-related attributes. If you have better taste in ringtones, good for you. But remember, Al Green’s greatest hits will work much better as a background mood-enhancer later on — if you get that far.

7. You don’t want the phone to end up in the wrong hands: his.

A date named Felix once used my phone to friend himself on my Facebook while I was in the bathroom. He took Facebook stalking to the extreme there. That’ll teach me for not turning it off — or at the very least, not keeping it in my pants!

Felix and I first met at Stonewall, a gay bar in Sydney, and it was a welcome change from lust at first sight on a gay app. It didn’t take him long to remind me that guys can behave just as insensitively when you first spot them off the grid. He wanted me as a Facebook friend, but he couldn’t be bothered to return my text message the next day. Naturally, our Facebook friendship didn’t make it to the next weekend.

Epilogue: He actually tried to Facebook-friend me the old-school way weeks later, using his own phone… I hope. Naturally (again), I didn’t accept.

8. Getting back to FB stalking, you don’t want him to accidentally find out you’ve been doing it to him.

My ex-boyfriend introduced me to the phrase “Facebook stalking” when he admitted on our first date to doing it to me before our first date. We’d met at the Melbourne club The Peel the night before, and if I wasn’t already sold on him after a chat, a dance, and his 8am text message the next morning asking me out, his Facebook revelation the following evening closed the deal. Clearly he didn’t feel like he had to play it cool with me. Cool. Still, I never would have admitted to such a thing myself!

Recently, long after that ex became an ex, I was almost caught in the Facebook-stalking act after the fact when I went to show my date a photo on my phone. Thankfully, I remembered just in time that the first one that would pop up would be the one I had screenshot earlier while scrolling through his public Facebook pics.

Change of plans. Let’s skip the photo and make out instead. Do you like Al Green?

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa”