Goodbye, dinner and a movie

A little more than a year ago, Kimra McPherson’s boyfriend, Tim, told her he was planning to see a movie.

She couldn’t go with him because the two lived on opposite coasts.

So, he went to a 10 p.m. Eastern- time showing of “A Mighty Wind,” and she saw it at 7 p.m. Pacific time.

Even without the hand-holding or popcorn-sharing, “we would have had pretty much the same experience at about the same time,” says Kimra, a 22-year-old. Afterward, they talked about it on the phone.

Seeing the same movie was a way for the couple to feel connected across a great distance.

“When you’re apart that long and doing different things, it’s important to have shared experiences,” says Tim, who is 34.

Planning an unusual evening doesn’t have to happen only when you’re far apart. You can do it right here in the Triangle.

Before Callan Bentley and his girlfriend, Lisa, started dating officially, they met unexpectedly in a coffee shop.

Lisa suggested they hop on a mass-transit bus and see where it took them.

“We had no idea what was going to happen,” he says, adding that they wound up having dinner in a great, new spot.

Dates involving more creativity than the dinner-and-a-movie standard are often hard to coordinate in the Triangle’s fast-paced culture, with many people feeling they don’t have time to plan unique outings.

But such dates are a good way to help new couples get to know each other, or, if a couple has been dating or married for a long time, to keep the romantic spark burning.

“Different dates are going to bring out different attributes about each person,” says Michael Webb, author of “The RoMANtic’s Guide: Hundreds of Creative Tips for a Lifetime of Love.”

Often, it’s the small gestures that keep romance exciting.

John Taylor, 29, just bought a condo with his girlfriend of five years, Kristen Knight.

He cooks dinner on Monday nights and, a few weeks ago, stopped by a bakery, where he picked up chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert. He then whipped up an extravagant meal in which every course used chocolate as an ingredient.

For her birthday earlier this month, he sent an exotic bouquet of flowers from around the world instead of the standard bouquet of roses.

Joy and Kevin Decker, authors of “Romantic Antics: Creative Ideas for Successful First Dates, Adventurous Saturday Nights and Playful Long Weekends,” try to do something each day that makes them feel more connected to each another, such as sharing a long kiss before the alarm clock goes off.

“We believe that you never stop dating,” Kevin says.

But planning the structure of a date is important, too.

When they were dating, Joy left Kevin a message on Monday with a first clue about their date later in the week. The clue was that he needed to feel adventurous.

When Kevin called Joy back to ask what the next clue was, she told him he had reached his clue limit for the day and to call back tomorrow.

“That helped build up a sense of excitement about the date,” Kevin remembers.

The goal for a special date is to maximize the anticipation and minimize the trepidation someone feels beforehand, he adds.

Don’t be dissuaded by thinking creative dates have to be expensive or that coming up with ideas is too difficult, experts say.

Listening to the other person talk about his or her interests often leads to ideas.

For example, if your guy talks about a trip to a foreign city he enjoyed, go to an ethnic restaurant that serves the cuisine of the region.

Taking the time to learn about the city beforehand can make for a more interesting date.

Webb and his wife played a game of chess in which he placed prize coupons, such as a five-minute back massage, on the bottom of pieces. Whoever won the piece also won the prize.

Other ideas from Webb: Coupons for 20 minutes of slow dancing in the living room, an afternoon of feeding ducks at a park, and a game of miniature golf.

A person who is a kid at heart might enjoy a day at a water park, while a more serious type might enjoy a picnic at a lake.

But what makes a date fun, memorable and romantic instead of silly, mushy and cheesy?
“It’s in the eye of the beholder,” Webb says.