You’re either “wooing” or you’re not.

Gentlemen – forget what women say about independence and equality and paying their own way; when it comes to dating, you’re either wooing or not. It’s understandable that you don’t want to be taken for a chump, but you can reduce your exposure AND still impress the ladies, by following a few simple strategies:

Invite her for Sunday brunch. It’s low-key, you get to see her in the light of day, and the competition is not as intense for her attention. Show up wearing something nice, clean and as though this encounter is important. Don’t show up in sweats, unshaven, with a baseball cap and your Sunday casual on. An opportunity to impress is just that – an opportunity. You don’t want her thinking you didn’t care enough to clean up a bit, even if it’s a Sunday. Also, the meal is less costly than dinner, and you can control the amount of liquor consumed by ordering a Bloody Mary or Mimosa, versus a bottle of wine. And yes, you pay, even if she offers. You can note that her offer is nice, but you have to be “nicer” and refuse. Dating is an investment of your time, and if you’re not willing to spring for breakfast, it will make her wonder about whether she wants to invest her time in you.

It’s not about you. When you are face to face, don’t fill her head with all the things that are wrong with you, or let her fill yours with the same. Focus the conversation on good things – things that make you happy, things that interest her, things that make you laugh. A date isn’t the time to process lost loves, jobs, career stalls, politics or health problems. It’s an opportunity to show what lights up each of your lives; the more she talks, the smarter she thinks you are.

Make eye contact. Nothing spells disaster faster than a roving eye – either for others in the room or for her body parts. Show you are interested in what she has to say by remaining engaged in the conversation, as though she is the only one in the room. It’s very flattering, and nothing says “I’m interested” more than keeping the conversation and your eyes, on her.

Don’t rush the intimacy. Don’t think that jut because the meal went well that she’s dessert. If you have a chance to touch, keep it informal (upper arm, maybe the hand, a gentle cheek kiss) for starters. No jumping her in the parking lot, hand around the waist in a “you now belong to me” hold, or god-forbid, French kissing. Keep it light and take your cues from her. If she feels pressured, you have just wasted your time because she won’t want more of it.

Follow-up. Right away, if you’re interested. By Monday, if she hasn’t heard from you, she will start to rattle off all the reasons why you aren’t for her, as a way of dealing with rejection. At the least, call her right away and let her know you had a good time – if you did, and that you are interested in getting to know her – if you are. Feel her out as to whether she’d like to get together again. If she says yes, offer a time and activity – perhaps something also low-key, like a visit to a gallery or a walk to see the Cherry Blossoms. Maybe she’ll suggest a home-cooked dinner or a movie. Take your lead from her. If she puts up some obstacles, suggest that when she’s free you’d like to see her again, and ask that she let you know. Put it in her lap. At least you will have done the right thing, set the stage for another “opportunity” and vetted her interest – all for the price of breakfast.