Dating. It’s not easy. Well, the first date is easy. You know basically nothing about this person, so even if it turns out that you have zero in common, you can get through a few drinks or dinner by talking about your first pet or whatever. Actually, that would be boring. Movies, talk about movies. But what if after the first date you think you like this person, but you’re not sure? What’s the fast track to finding out your date’s true personality?
Yes, bowling. Why? Because the many factors that comprise a bowling outing can pretty much clarify if your date is a fun person you want to continue hanging out with or someone who will either slowly or quickly turn into a psycho.
First and foremost, this is a date and dates should be fun. Conveniently, bowling is fun, even if you suck at it. Because, guess what, there’s beer. And beer is fun. Personally, if my date didn’t want to drink a beer while bowling that would probably be a huge strike against him. Pun intended, obviously.
But back to learning if your date is a monster or not. Bowling is a window to the soul. Okay, that’s extreme. But it’s at least a window into how people handle competition. Seeing how someone reacts to winning and losing is hugely important. So if they beat you and then scream, “IN YOUR FACE!” and take a victory lap around the alley, you can assume that they will be a crazy sideline soccer dad/mom. If you win and they say, “This game is STUPID” and throw their shoes down the lane, maybe you don’t want to attend game nights or weddings with this person.
[Thankfully, when I turned out to be an extremely poor loser at bowling, my boyfriend still wanted to date me. But he also forced me to play Dungeons and Dragons because “it’s a team game” and you won’t “get as mad at me.” So view that as a cautionary tale and be a good sport, OK?]
How well does your date handle wearing bowling shoes? Do they admit that they look sorta ridiculous? Then they’re a keeper who’s honest with themselves and others.
Does your date look amazing in bowling shoes? Then they must be some sort of supermodel, so congrats, but that could make you feel insecure over time.
What is their sock situation? Mismatched? Fine. Arthur George socks by Rob Kardashian? Dear God. Do they not wear socks? That seems bold…too bold. Especially with shoes that have been worn by a whole bunch of other people. Also, Ladies: A fun side bonus of bowling is that you learn the guy’s exact shoe size. And as we all know a guy’s shoe size directly corresponds to… what size shoes you should buy him one day as a gift. That way, you won’t have to ask him directly and totally give away the surprise.
Do they choose a name other than their own to put on the screen? BALLER4LYFE? Maybe he doesn’t want to get to know the real you. PINDIESEL? Maybe he doesn’t want to get to know the real him. But what if they pick THEDUDE? This is complicated. Because of course you love a Big Lebowski reference, but you must tread lightly. One mention is good. Two is like “haha cool aaaanyway.” Three references and they clearly have nothing else to say and have some sort of Lebowski tick. Also keep track of how many White Russians they drink. That could go south later. In the bedroom. In the southern hemisphere of their body.
What’s their bowling style? Classic? Great, an older person cared enough about them at some point in their life to teach them good form! Good back leg work? They care about details. Between the legs? I think the implications there are obvious and probably not positive. I call my boyfriend’s method the Happy Gilmore because he just flings the bowling ball, side arm. Like his arm is a hockey stick. Except unlike Happy Gilmore, he’s not some iconoclast sports genius and the ball frequently goes into the neighboring lane. Here’s the thing: I knew I really liked him when I saw how terrible he was at bowling and I didn’t get crippling secondhand embarrassment. So that was useful.
But once you ascertain that you indeed like this non-psycho person with non-embarrassing bowling methods, bowling is prime for flirting and will hasten the possibility of a make out. A) There’s the aforementioned beer, which will increase flirtiness by fifty percent. B) There’s the celebratory post strike hugs C) There’s the consensual encouraging ass patting D) There’s the ass-checking-outting when your date bends to pick up a ball and E) Pro move for guys (or girls!): teaching your date the correct bowling method by standing behind them and guiding their body. Please be sure that they are totally down before you do this. Otherwise, gross.
Good luck. And even if your bowling date goes south, remember: You could potentially spend the whole evening not talking to your date because one of you could always be bowling. You can be as into it or out of it as you want. Plus beer. Just don’t go over the line. You mark that frame 8 and you’re entering a world of pain.
Sarah Walker lives in LA. She writes for Awkward on MTV and Sirens on USA. Talk turkeys with her on twitter.