My seminary took the topic of dating very seriously. We had an entire class full of marriage tips and ways to prepare yourself for dating and marriage. This mostly included such pearls of wisdom as 'have the kids tucked in and ready to be kissed goodnight when your husband comes home' (god forbid he should see them awake every now and then), "constantly strive to grow and take your husband with you on that journey" which conflicted with the ever important "don't push him too hard, he needs to believe everything is his decision". We even had a field trip to the Brooklyn botanical gardens since it is a 'popular date spot' and we should know where the restrooms are as well as the different humidity conditions in the glasshouses so we could protect our perfectly ironed hair.
We even had guest speakers on the topic. One ancient looking women gave us an entire speech on how to approach the dating process. She wanted us to make lists of what is important to us. She wanted us to make lists of what is essential in our shidduch. She wanted us to make sure our parents were ready for us to get married in six months. She even had all sorts of tips about what to ask about - his yira'as hashem, his feelings towards torah, his feelings on the ever popular topic of 'growing' spiritually together. When she wrapped up this crash course and informed us that we were now fully prepared to go on shidduch dates she asked us if we any questions. Most of us stared at her like she was crazy, a few girls stared at her like she was god and one girl nervously raised her hand.
When the women noticed the hand she asked the young lady what was on her mind. The girl, clearly distraught, blurts out "What do you order on a first date? I have one tonight and I have no idea and no one else seems to have any idea. I don't even know which restaurant we're going to". Finally! Someone was being honest and practical during this class. Well, the woman did not have much advice for her. In her ideal schedule a first date involved the two parties sitting across from each other in suits, at a hotel lounge, with a drink in betwen them that no one drinks but you have to order so as not to be defrauding the lounge. (Like one drink for two people sitting there for two hours is really a simulation of the typical hotel loung clientelle). By the time the two people see each other eat there is all ready a high level of commitment implied. This date was going off the grid in a big way.
Many of us were wondering what the answer to the question would be and were disappointed about the lack of one given. After all, if everything was charted out this way and we were supposed to read into everything so much, shouldn't there be some 'normal' person thing to order? What if we ordered something that signalled we were crazy?
When she arrived the next day we all crowded around to hear what she had chosen. She happily told us that she went with the grilled chicken and it went very well.
Lesson learned? Sometimes you have to think for yourself. I've gone with the grilled chicken, sometimes I've gotten the salmon. I've even been bold enough to get a salad, with the crucnhy leaves and messy dressing (and the risk that the guy thinks your anorexic). The one thing I've never done is gotten the spaghetti. Even I'm not that adventurous.