DOWNEY - There’s probably nothing more awkward than a first date, but this 2010 Warren graduate has it all figured out.
26-year-old Ashley Rodriguez attended Long Beach City College before moving on to Cal State Long Beach to earn her degree in Communications. As she approached the end of her studies, she decided it was time to leave her long established assistant management position at T-Mobile and take a shot at working in social media.
“I’ve always been an Instagramer, Twitter fanatic,” said Rodriguez. “I thought ‘How am I going to get experience without actually going out to the real world and having someone teach me?’ Great, I’m going to grow my own page.”
Around the same time, Rodriguez realized she had a knack for finding hidden gem restaurants and food stops. She had also recently gotten out of a relationship and was starting to date again, but the results were less than stellar.
“I thought, ‘Wow, it’s really boring dating now a days,’” said Rodriguez. I’m always going on movie dates, I’m going to the Olive Garden, I’m going to all of these big chains. I just figured I’m going to have a place dedicated on Instagram to places I love going to…I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to be a little guide.’ I figured I’m going to be a first date guide.”
She called her page First Date LA.
“Fortunately, I feel like I know what I’m doing with social media,” said Rodriguez. “I grew that page to 5000 followers in five months. I shocked myself”
First Date LA has even grown to now include a website, with Rodriguez working on a potential new app as well.
While First Date LA primarily highlights unique food, it also features different activities and special events as well.
“A lot of people go on first dates more than second dates, unfortunately,” said Rodriguez. “I try to look for as many activities in the LA area, OC area; occasionally I’ll feature a different city. Just last week I went axe throwing in North Hollywood. I didn’t know it was a thing, but I want to shed light to these activities that are out there…don’t you want to take someone out on a first date and really give them an experience? Let’s dig a little deeper and find something that will just blow them out of the water and I guarantee it will make you stand out over the next guy or girl.”
Some of Rodriguez’s favorite date spots in Downey include The Olive, Fatimas Grill, and Bastards. In the Greater LA area, she prefers Smorgasburg in Downtown, The Attic in Long Beach, Street Food Cinema, Chica's Tacos in Downtown LA, and Moonlight Roller Way in Glendale.
When it comes down to the date itself, however, Rodriguez also has a bit of advice for those going out.
The first mistake she says that potential suitors make is to not dress the part.
“I would say they (daters) don’t dress accordingly to fit the mood of the date, they don’t get enough information,” said Rodriguez. “Be a little more prepared, find out where you’re going. Try to fit the aesthetic of the place you’re going to. You could go to a dive bar and dress casual. You could go to a nice restaurant in the Downey Promenade, and ladies put on some heels. Just look great, feel great, be great.”
She also says that suitors should not be afraid to ask questions.
“As questions to keep that conversation going because it is an interview,” said Rodriguez. “It’s not only them interviewing you, you interview them…even ask those basic, simple questions – what’s your favorite color, what’s your favorite food, how’s your family – because that will let you know a lot about a person.”
Rodriguez says not to rush things. She personally won’t accept a kiss on the first date.
“If somebody tries to kiss me on the first date I say no just because I don’t know them as a person,” said Rodriguez. “I’m not gonna base it off one [date], I’m not gonna switch saliva with someone on the first date.”
She also stressed to show your true self.
“If someone doesn’t like you, then they just don’t like you. I’m sorry, you know? They’re just not that into you.” Said Rodriguez. “There’s so many people out there, just be yourself and you won’t have to question the relationship in the long run.”
Rodriguez said one of her worst personal dates came from a Tinder match who ended up being too fast paced for her.
“I met him – he had just come from a Hollywood party – and he was talking very fast, he was all over the place,” said Rodriguez. “He said, ‘What do you think, do you think we’re good together?’ Too fast. He thought swiping right made it seem like we were meant to be…too fast for me.”
Still, she says dating apps can work.
“My sister is married…she’s been with her significant other for seven years. They met on OKCupid,” said Rodriguez. “I am such an advocate for online dating, I just believe that you need to screen them.”
For those who have trouble meeting people, Rodriguez says to start within their industry.
“If there is any work event going on, go. You don’t want to go because it’s work, go,” said Rodriguez. “You’ll meet people who have the same mindset as you. Be their friend. Have patience, you will meet someone along the line, you will get those invitations. It’s just about networking.”
Once you find someone interested, Rodriguez says that it’s OK to reach out immediately after locking down a phone number, and in the current generation, sending a text over calling is fine.
“Hey this is my number. That’s it. Text them very casually; ‘don’t ask them how’s their day,’” said Rodriguez. “In our age, I would say get their Instagram, watch their stories. If you have mutual interest, comment every now and then, casually. It’s casual.”
However, sometimes a phone call might provide a bit of an advantage.
“For Valentine’s Day last year, someone called me in January and said, ‘I would love for you to be my Valentine. It’s a little far in advance, but I have to make a reservation,’” said Rodriguez. “She has to say yes or no on the spot. That was the best, I just thought ‘Wow.’ I situations like that…give time a reason to be on your side. Schedule something.”
And, of course, the big, million-dollar question: Who pays on a first date?
“Out of respect, the male pays for the first date,” said Rodriguez.
However, things should be considered different if the girl invites the guy.
“Let’s say I invite someone out to a restaurant or something, I will take care of it,” said Rodriguez. “They don’t know what kind of experience they’re about to partake in, and you dragged them out of their comfort zone.”
First Date LA can be found on Instagram at @firstdatela, and on Facebook at First Date LA. You can also find it at www.firstdatela.com. Rodriguez can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.