Months ago, a fella asked if it'd be alright for him to wear Google Glass on a date with me. The question was, at that point, hypothetical, but I hesitated. I hadn't even considered how the tech giant's new headgear could affect romantic entanglements. Now — after a month of wearing Glass and taking it on half-a-dozen dates — I can say that while it's not a deal-breaker, the headset sure makes the awkward moments more awkward.
Lest you don't know, Google Glass is a head-mounted computer with a camera, microphone, bone-conducting speaker and all kinds of sensors. It connects to the Web via Wi-Fi or by tethering to a smartphone and can take pictures, record video, initiate video chats, send messages, search Google and more.
Few — mainly Google employees, software developers, journalists and some other early adopters — are running around with Glass right now. Even fewer are actually wearing it for the majority of their waking hours like I am. (When I adopt new technology, I really adopt it, darn it!)
It's difficult to imagine that bringing technology closer — to one's face — could actually help get it out of the way, but that's what happens with Glass. It's tempered my smartphone addiction and reduced the amount of time I spend staring at a screen. I've even rediscovered the fine art of making eye contact with people.
There's plenty about Glass that can make a date weird. It's a computer — and a camera — on my face. I can quickly record any moment and I can, with some practice, get away with a few hasty Google searches. Yet so far, the fact that Glass can do all these things isn't the primary reason for romantic awkwardness. Instead, it's the attention it draws.
Not that that's always a bad thing. In a crowd, or when you're out with friends, Glass can be a good way to meet people.
"Glass doesn't break the ice, it completely melts it," Juan Pablo Risso, a 32-year-old Glass owner says. Risso is happily married, yet he still finds that women frequently chat him up because he's wearing the headset.
But when you're on a real live date, it can get in the way of a first impression.
"Since it's so new and 'futuristic,' I was expecting the looks and questions from strangers," one of my recent dates explained in a text message. "I thought it would be unsettling to think that I could be recorded or photographed at any time, but knowing that you can tell when Glass is active [thanks to a faint but noticeable glow from the display] pretty much squashed that."
Still, he added, "I pray that it doesn't catch on." I cringed, remembering that our dinner conversation was briefly put on hold as I invited the couple at the next table to try Glass. The guy had been staring at me, and it seemed like the easiest way to get him to stop. Nevertheless, my date took it well. We saw each other again ... and I wore Glass.
Things don't always go so well though.
As soon as another recent date and I walked into a bar, we were stopped by a group of girls who excitedly demanded a "one-sentence review" of Glass. Before I could respond, my date informed me that I'm "not allowed to talk to people until we grab a drink."
Brakes screeched in my head. Only a few moments prior, I told him people would probably ask about it. I even asked if he'd like me to take it off for the duration of the evening. Was I the jerk for wearing Glass in the first place? Or was he utterly tactless for responding the way he did?
Worse still is when things are going particularly well. Yes, friends, Glass can get in the way, uh, physically. I've got no issues making out with glasses on. But things got weird once when a fella started kissing me while I was still wearing the headset. God forbid two Glass wearers ever hit things off.
Whitney Casey, a relationship expert for Match.com, says the overarching rule when it comes to Glass and dates is simple: "Don't wear it."
But assuming you break her first rule, she does offer advice about how to deal with Glass-curious strangers interrupting dates.
"When someone comes up," she says, "you have to be gracious and polite. Or you're like that jerk who was rude to the waiter." Glass wearers and their dates should heed this guidance.
Sherrie Schneider, dating coach and co-author of "The Rules," is also in the "don't wear it" camp, at least in the beginning. Glass is not "a first date accessory," she argues. "You need to treat Google Glass like any special issue on a first date. You don't eat meat. You're a Republican. You had breast cancer. Google Glass."
That said, "don't think that Google Glass will prevent a guy from asking you out again," Schneider clarifies. "If he likes you, he will say 'I want to see you Saturday night, but please don't wear Google Glass.'"
No matter what, Glass "shouldn't be a surprise," Schneider emphasizes. If you're gonna wear it, make sure your date knows ahead of time. Casey agrees. "I think you need to put it on your dating profile that you may be wearing Glass," she said.
I've found that it's important to monitor your date's comfort level, too. One guy who was initially totally on board with Glass grew visibly uncomfortable by the second time someone approached us to chat about it. The matter was probably compounded by the fact that both interruptions were by young men who lingered a bit longer than necessary.
Despite such awkward moments, and despite scoldings from dating experts, I intend to continue wearing Glass on my romantic outings. But I concede that I might not keep it on the whole time. Perhaps taking Glass off — whether consciously or instinctively, whether setting it on the table or stashing it in a bag — may just become my new tell, a sure sign of budding affection.
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