It's late Friday night, and the bar in which I find myself is like an ancient ship's lower deck: dark wood and barrels. The band performing in the far corner matches the mood. It's a jug band, which is exactly what it sounds like: a few guys drawing bassy notes out of empty jugs while another guy plays a guitar made out of a cigar box. Couples are dancing, drinks sloshing out in little waves. I'm out with my close group of friends and, of course, I see a very attractive woman getting a drink at the bar. First I see her in profile, her dark hair tucked behind her ear. But when she turns to look out over the crowd, I see her brown eyes and bright warm smile. And she sees me. She's pretty to the point of intimidation, but, importantly, I do not look away. And she doesn't either.

We have a nice long moment.

Walking over to the bar, with the hope of introducing myself to her, it occurs to me: What exactly am I looking for in this woman? What am I hoping to find? I'm past 30, almost settled professionally, and I feel like it's been far too long since I've met someone I could fall in love with. I'm not sure if any of us can recognize real, lasting love the first time we meet somebody, but there a few things that help a man decide if a first meeting needs to turn into a first date.

1. Assume Your Awesomeness

Though it can be difficult (trust me, I understand), assume you are an awesome, quality person. This is not about having a big ego. It's about not feeling insecure, not laughing too often and too long at what is not funny enough and not agreeing too fast and repeatedly before any actual points or ideas are fully expressed. Because when you're busy thinking about all your possible flaws and faults, you might end up sounding like this: "Yeah, totally, haha, yeah, haha, totally, yeah. Haha." If you take your awesomeness as a given, you can focus on finding out what is awesome about the guy you just met. This will ensure you remain genuine, and the conversation will end up the same way. That's something I highly respect in a woman. Haha, yeah, totally, yeah. Haha. For serious, though.

2. Skip the Sharp-Edged Wit

Every online profile, every random dater, every TV single person all say they want the same thing in a mate: a sense of humor. From men and women. But the pressure to be funny, when mixed with a healthy dose of nerves, means that conversations easily veer into banter. But banter often flips directly into sarcasm and making jokes at your date's expense. What ever happened to sincerity? Sincerity is wonderful. Sincerity is milk chocolate; sarcasm is a grapefruit. In the past, I was deeply in love with a woman who never tried to make jokes. Not that she never laughed (I still miss her laugh), but she just didn't feel the need to be constantly funny. And neither did I. Love doesn't always need a laugh track.

Next: The one thing that drives up the romantic tension like you would not believe


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