Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Preparing for the Warrane Ball: on being a great date

Jonty Gardner presenting Tamara El Rahi with the vote of thanks after the talk

With the Warrane Ball approaching, the formal dinner guest on Wednesday 13 September 2017 had a different sort of topic to discuss: how to be a good date. Tamara El-Rahi, a freelance journalist and mum to 15-month old Emma, told the boys that she had three good reasons for being an appropriate person to talk on this subject.

“Number one and the most obvious – I am a woman!” began El-Rahi. “Add to that the fact that I have seven sisters and lots of female relatives and friends – this gives me an insight into what a woman appreciates in a date and really in any man.”

She continued: “Reason number two: I spent a few years involved with an initiative called The Allure Workshop. Our aim was to help young women recognise their beauty, inside and out, teach them self-respect and also help them to realise the respect they are due from men. So I guess it’s a topic that I’ve dealt with in a professional sense too.”

“And reason number three: I have an amazing husband!” she said. “In other words, I know how it feels to be treated well by him, and it really sets him apart from other guys. I feel like it’s the difference between a man and a boy.”

El-Rahi recalled for the boys the ways in which her husband, Nadim, had outshone other men from the start. They’d met in high school but reconnected years after university, at which point he gave her a call to ask her out to dinner. On that first date, he picked her up and took her to one of the fanciest restaurants in the city, and dropped her home. He asked her on the second date by sending a bunch of flowers to her office with a note. Each date was different and showed a lot of effort and thought, and they officially became a couple on their fifth date. Nadim became legendary among her colleagues for the deliveries he sent to her at work: more flowers, chocolates, and lots of other creative gifts. On her birthday, just a few months after they started dating, he flew her to the Gold Coast – just for the day – to go to Movie World. On their first Valentine’s Day together, she was at work and received 12 white roses in the morning, 24 pink roses in the middle of the day, and 99 red roses in the afternoon!

“Now I’m not saying that every guy has to do these things,” said El-Rahi. “But I do think it shows just how cool it is to be chivalrous towards women. I feel like being a gentleman is a forgotten art! I may be giving you tips about how to behave at the ball but really they are about dealing with women at any time. These days, being a gentleman is underrated: not surprising in a culture that tends to degrade women. Men sometimes think they will be perceived as cooler if they’re not openly a gentleman, but really it’s not a good look at all.”

El-Rahi went on: “I know that you are all capable of showing your dates a really good night; and treating women with respect in all areas of your life. So I’m hoping the following tips will help you with that.”

Inviting a date

El-Rahi encouraged the boys to be intentional about asking their date to the ball. She said, “When my husband asked me out for the first time, he made it clear that it was a date… When you ask your date, be intentional about it. Maybe they’re a friend, maybe they’re someone you’re interested in, maybe they’re your girlfriend. It doesn’t matter – they all deserve the respect of knowing that they will be your date on the night; and then to be looked after as a date on the night. You should also give them the respect of letting them know the details for the night in advance – venue, time, dress code and so on.”

As for how to actually ask them, El-Rahi told the boys that texting, Facebook, Snapchat or any other form of social media was not a good idea. A better idea? A phone call! “It doesn’t have to be a three-hour call, just a quick one – but she deserves that much. And it shows that you’re man enough to do things properly,” she said.

El-Rahi also addressed the fear of rejection. “Look, I can’t guarantee that every girl will say ‘yes’. But most of the girls I know would be thrilled to be asked to a ball by a charming young man… It’s about your attitude – you can’t control how they’ll answer, and if they do say ‘no’, you have to realise it’s not the worst thing in the world; it just wasn’t meant to be. Ask somebody else and maybe you’ll find you have an even better time with that person!”


From the basics, El-Rahi talked to the boys about presenting themselves well.

On the night, it’s the obvious but the necessary: a shower is a good place to start. She talked about having the outfit prepared beforehand to suit the dress code, having made sure it still fits and that it is clean or dry-cleaned. They should wash and iron their shirt, do their hair (or get a haircut if they’re due for one), as well as polish their shoes, cut and clean their nails, and wear deodorant and a bit of cologne.

“You might think – what’s the point of all this for one night?” said El-Rahi. “I think it helps to look at the deeper meaning – that you’re presenting yourself well not just because that’s what expected of you, but because that effort shows respect for yourself, but also for your date and the others you will be socialising with that night.”

She also added that their date is bound to have spent a lot of time on her look for the night also, and so encouraged them to give compliments – and to be genuine about it. “Tell her she looks beautiful, you won’t find a girl who doesn’t appreciate that. Don’t say ‘hot’, I find that to be a rather degrading term really.”


“This is about the gentlemanly ways of looking after your date during the night,” said El-Rahi. “Have this aim in mind: to make sure your date is always comfortable and that she has a good time.”

El-Rahi talked about the logistics of getting to the ball – best option is to pick up a date and drive her there, but depending on their situation at college, the boys should at least ensure she gets there and home safely (perhaps by meeting her at a point and travelling to and from with her). The other typical things were opening doors for a date, pulling out her chair for her to sit down, remembering she is in heels and walking a little slower or offering an arm. The boys should make sure their date has a drink before they do, wait to start eating when she also has received her meal, and be aware of things like filling her water glass.

“Remember that these aren’t done because she isn’t capable of doing them for herself; they are ways of showing her that you respect her,” said El-Rahi.

She asked the boys to know their limits when it came to drinking, with the awareness that a ball is a classy event. Drinking too much might also mean neglecting to look after one’s date, and being more likely to embarrass her. She also asked them to be wary of turning it into a rowdy boys’ night, which might leave a lot of dates feeling awkward or uncomfortable. And she also encouraged them to dance even if they’d rather not, for the sake of their dates.


“I once heard something awesome that is totally true,” said El-Rahi, on the topic of conversation. “It was this: that the sure way to make someone like you is to be genuinely interested in them.”

She continued: “Think about it: you can’t help but like someone who seems interested in you. So just be natural and talk about what you want to know! About her studies or job, her family, her hobbies, her travels, her friends. Chances are she’s a bit nervous and will welcome the fact that you’re being so conversational. Ask lots of questions, and actually listen to what she says and respond! And don’t just talk at her; I know sometimes when we’re nervous we might just keep talking about ourselves. And then of course, make sure to introduce her to anyone you say ‘hi’ to or are sitting with.”

She also implored the boys to resist their phones for the night. “They are a conversation killer and a big distraction from what’s happening right in front of you. There may be moments where you don’t know what to say next, and you’ll just want to pull out your phone to save you looking awkward, but I think you all have it in you to keep making an effort. I’m sure that it’ll be worth it.”

(Photos from the evening are available here)

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