The Chemistry of Dating- 8 Essential Chemicals for a Great First Date

In between classes, exams, and student organizations many people want to find that special someone. But alas, a part of meeting that special someone involves the palm-sweating agony of that most dreaded of social situations-the first date.  As chemists, we can face the anxiety of first dates with the knowledge of the chemicals involved.  While this knowledge doesn’t make us more charming by any stretch, we can take comfort in the fact that at least we’re working with molecules in reactions, and if there’s one thing we know, its chemistry! Thus, we present the guide to a great first date…at a molecular scale.

1. Serotonin– required for a good time

Serotonin has many uses in the body, one of which is to contribute to the overall well-being and happiness of people. When people are happy, a date is much more likely to have a positive outcome.  And since it literally is what causes a good feeling, you’d better hope for plenty of it!

2. Adrenalin- Nervous?  You’re welcome.

Together epinephrine, left, and norepinephrine, right, are known as adrenalin. Adrenalin causes the heart to race and a person to begin sweating nervously, very common reactions on a great first date. A racing heart and nervous perspiration cause more excitement, possibly leading to a better first date and many more dates to follow.  Or to only one date with embarrassment to follow.  We don’t know; we couldn’t figure out uncertainty in p-chem and we definitely can’t figure it out on dates.  Fair warning, there may be some of this present when waiting for a call the next week, too.

3. Geranyl acetate– better grab a dozen

Geranyl acetate is chemical responsible for the smell of roses, although other chemicals also contribute to the smell. A bouquet a roses, fragrant and beautiful, will almost certainly start the evening off right.

4. Ethanol– and we don’t mean denatured

Ethanol, more commonly known as alcohol, is a chemical, which can certainly be beneficial on a first date. It can help someone who is nervous, as people often are on a first date, to relax a bit. A small amount of alcohol can calm nerves and lead to a more enjoyable evening, assuming you are 21 or over. Caution – too much ethanol can ruin a date, so it must be used in moderation!

5. Phenethylamine and Theobromine– forget love, we’d rather fall in these!

Phenethylamine, left, and theobromine, right, are two of the main chemicals present in chocolate. One can never go wrong with chocolate. Sharing a decadent chocolate mousse is a wonderful way to end a first date.  And nothing helps a bad date recede into the past like a box of chocolate

6. Testosterone and Estrogen– because you do look good in that outfit

 Testosterone, left, is the male sex hormone, while estrogen, right, is the female sex hormone. These hormones are responsible for lust, which causes happiness, which is the overall reason for dating.  Or something like that.  Try not to let these dominate, as both tend to smother reason when you may need it the most.

7. Dopamine– For when you just can’t get enough of someone

Dopamine is the addiction chemical. Although it can cause addiction to substances including drugs, it also plays a role in being attracted to another person. Without a bit of dopamine present, attraction will not occur and the date will not go well.

8. Oxygenlightheaded?

Oxygen, although necessary to sustain human life, is the one chemical that best contributes to a first date when NOT present. If your date “takes your breath away”, there’s a good chance that the date will go well! Being so enchanted with your date that you “can’t catch your breath” is a sure sign that the person you’re talking to has potential as that special someone. But you don’t want too much oxygen taken away.  A bad date can “suck all the oxygen out of a room”, leaving you nothing to talk about and several minutes/hours of horrible awkwardness.

So, the next time you’re out on a first date with that potential special someone, remember these eight chemicals and their importance.  They may not

Tessa is a rising senior at Miami University, where she studies Chemistry. She is the president of her ACS student chapter and an ACS student liaison for the 2012-2013 school year.

guarantee a second date, but at least if a reaction happens, you’ll know the mechanics.


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