Meet Kimmy Foskett and Liza Renzulli, the women behind popular dating podcast, 51 First Dates. Our Editor, Valerie Ackler, digs into the podcast — the best and worst dates so far, behind-the-scenes intel and other essential dating topics.
V: I'd like to catch our readers up on what you're doing with 51 First Dates because many of them may not have encountered it. Give us a summary of the concept.
K: Of course! I guess I'll start as, 'the dater.' 51 First Dates is a podcast that Liza and I started. We've been business partners and friends for... eight years now? I always mess this part up...
L: A long time!
K: Yeah. A long time. Basically, it was a kind of a two-fold idea. My therapist recommended I go on a hundred dates to break the bad habits I've formed while dating. Meanwhile, Liza is in a very healthy relationship and she's a person I've called on as a sounding board many times. We had this idea to make a little podcast project out of it, where I go on 51 dates and we discuss them. Also, we're talking about dating in general, relationships, love.
"Because... yes, people are dating all over the place, but it seems like people aren't always dating in a super digestible or honest way."
L: Right, and this isn't about finding Kimmy a man. It's about examining how she was dating, the habits she was getting into and the habits that everyone gets into when they're dating. As New York millennial ladies in their 20s, we've seen a lot of people assume bad habits from the culture we live in. You know, trying to be the 'cool girl,' or not communicating openly. And also, dating forever has been... not that feminist. The power has not been in collective female hands historically and that's really shifting. We want to talk about that because our dating experience can be all up to us, as women, if we own it.
V: Couldn't agree more! So, Liza you're happily coupled. Tell us where you fit into the process.
L: I'm like the Andy Richter, or... who is Howard Stern's little buddy? I'm basically the support system for Kimmy... and a drunk feminist.
(Laughs from Kimmy).
L: I had a long period of being single, of having a couple different relationships in New York, of dating in New York — although not nearly as much as Kimmy because she's a dating champion now (she's been on 32 dates just for this podcast!) Anyway, I've had some bad experiences, some great experiences, some neutral ones.
"I want to be a voice for people in all different stages of their dating process."
Especially in regards to communication. I have discovered through my current relationship that I should just ask for what I want, and talk about how I'm feeling. That happened because I went to therapy and because I met someone who was better at it than me. He taught me that I could say how I feel, and that nothing bad was going to happen. I want to help others accomplish this in their relationships. I'm also here to push Kimmy and help her process these 32 humans she's met.
K: Yes, and Liza has helped me break out of my comfort zone. In the beginning, she was actually picking the dates, some of which I wouldn't have chosen for myself. This didn't always feel super ethical, so we've veered away from her always choosing. But it's been essential to have her. The mentality has been, 'hey, we can do this together!' She's my champion!
V: OK, so she's the best friend, the date coach, and in the beginning, also the matchmaker. That's a super important role! You ladies have generated some buzz. I believe there was a Timeout article, also some exciting guests. Tell us about that!
K: Yes, even more so than the press mentions the most exciting part for me has been some of the guests we've been able to have on the podcast. We had Emily Morse from the podcast Sex with Emily, Katie Sturino who founded Megababe... you know, a lot of really interesting women who have different takes on topics like sex, dating and body confidence.
L: That's right, and we've have also gotten to work with Lionsgate to talk about the most recent Tyler Perry movie. We interviewed one of their actors. The movie is about when dating goes wrong, so that was fun! We've been fortunate to have a lot of interesting conversations about dating through the lens of different people, and the work they do. We're also starting to work with some cool sponsors that we're really excited about.
V: Congratulations! I'm curious Liza, what date were you most excited about for Kimmy?
L: What a great question! A couple of the set-ups have been the ones I've been most excited about because I've known both people... so that's exciting when you're like, oh I want this to work because I am invested in both of these people's stories. They haven't fully panned out that way (haha), but they were good dates. Kimmy went on a date fairly early-on with a mutual friend. I was really excited for that one because I love when friendships turn into romantic relationships. It's interesting when you've seen someone in one life for a while, and then you start to see them in a new way.
V: Very true. Kimmy, what was your most surprising date experience?
K: Liza surprised me by sending me out with someone who was 24 (I'm 29!). I didn't know his age before the date. It ended up being a great date. Another surprising one (also a Liza set-up), was with a divorced man who had a child. I think I had some preconceived notions, so I was reluctant to go on that particar date — also, I was definitely feeling a lot of dating fatigue at that point. It was surpring because we ended up having such an amazing time together. He's a huge fan of the podcast now too, which is so great!
V: What's going on with you two now?
K: I'm moving to Los Angeles, which he knows. We call the really good dates, 'gems' and he was such a gem. He's the kind of person I would be proud to set-up with a friend.
"I think it's important to be clear that every time I had a preconceived notion, I was proven wrong."
These were both great dates, and both were Liza's — so good job, Liza!
L: I'm obsessed with setting people up now. I'd never really done it before, but my mom does it all the time and it drove me crazy. I was like, 'Mom, get out of people's business!' I'm officialy doing that thing where we become our mothers. I want to set everyone up!
V: You get it from your Mama! (Laughs) Have there been any disaster dates?
K: Truly only one! It was not that bad, but he had his work phone and his regular phone out. It was a total miss in terms of chemistry. I will give Liza credit because I remember picking this one out...
"It was right around that time Liza suggested: no more business school guys."
And of course, he was another business school guy (no offense to them, I'm going to business school!), but it felt like either he really didn't want to be there (even though he had organized it), or maybe he was feeling in a bad mood... I mean, he had two phones out the whole night!
V: Phones away! That's a big dating no-no. We actually covered a study on this, and cell phone use was the top dating pet-peeve for men and women.
K: Totally. Another one, there was a guy who was talking about how his teeth hurt the whole time.
(Laughs from all)
K: Yeah, that one was a little bit more amusing. It wasn't a bad date, and I don't want to shame him for it. But, he just couldn't stop talking about it. I learned a lot about his teeth.
V: He must have been nervous, that's bizarre! So we've heard that one of the goals of the podcast was to break some bad habits. What habits have you broken, Kimmy?
K: I'm a pretty confident woman in all other aspects of life, but in dating, I used to take any form of rejection personally. Say I didn't hear back after a first date, for example, I would take that as a reflection of me. That dynamic has entirely changed. Now, I go into dates like they're just dates! I don't go into them with expectations, and I don't take them as a reflection of myself.
Tawkify Timeout: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.” ― Isaac Asimov
V: That's amazing, Kimmy! Because they are just dates! This reminds me of our Matchmaker, Cora Boyd's, view on first dates. You must feel liberated.
K: Yes! It feels like some kind of magical bean I didn't know about! I just wasn't able to get to this point until I had gone on a bunch of dates.
V: Liza, what habits do you think Kimmy has broken?
L: I would have said a very similar thing. I've seen a big shift in Kimmy actually being able to see what she brings to the table... and when it doesn't work out, it's just a matter of two people not connecting.
"Think of dating like going to a friend's random birthday party."
You don't know anyone and you have to endure a bunch of conversations with strangers... some of those strangers you're going to have a great time talking to, and others... you'll have to make a break for the bathroom to end the conversation (haha!). That's dating. Kimmy has been able to bring her great self-confidence to the dating realm through this experience, and we hope others will be able to do that as well.
V: Absolutely. It's difficult to not internalize the dating process, but it's oh, so helpful when you're able to separate yourself from every perceived, 'failure' or 'miss.' This isn't a sport, you're not trying to 'win' every single person you meet. You're trying to find just one healthy and productive partnership. I'm curious, do the men you date know about the podcast beforehand, Kimmy?
K: Good question. We only talk about first dates on the podcast, but some of my introductions have led to more dates with the same person. I was about to go on a third date with one partiuclar man at Il Mulino, a nice dinner in New York. I was actually really into this guy. He texted me before the date to let me know he had found the podcast. He said it was really good, and enjoyed it, but that he didn't feel comfortable continuing to date someone that was publically talking about a bunch of dates with other men. I thought that was totally fair. Which brings me to a point that my local bartender made (haha, I just realized that sounds bad that I have a local bartender).
"Anyway, he's a friend and he asked me: 'Isn't this just another way to distance yourself from a relationship actually working out?"
Won't this podcast get in the way? I don't think it is, but we obviously have to consider what happens if a serious connection truly does form within the podcast. Back to the third date situation, after that I felt like I had done something wrong, or icky, so we started going about it in a different way...
L: Right. On set-ups, we say: This is from a podcast, it's a genuine date, we'll pay for it on the business. The date will be talked about, everything's anonymous, everything's kind. Here's a link to the podcast. We're really open with the people we set Kimmy up with. On dates from the apps, it's a bit different. She's goes on the first date, and if there's any kind of connection, she tells them quickly afterwards.
K: One of my dates from the very beginning actually recommend we don't tell people. He felt that if the dates knew, it would become a whole different thing. You know, it wouldn't be as authentic. We originally branded 51 First Dates as an experiment, so balancing that is difficult.
V: I can see that... I wouldn't tell the men unless it turns into something more serious. It's anonymous, so what's the harm? Liza observed in an early episode that your dating pattern was often to let the man chase you, and then it became, and I quote, 'all about the patriarchy.' And that led to one of my favorite moments from the show where Liza describes an informal lecture she gave to a group of her younger cousins about 'the patriarchy.'
L: I'm always the crazy person talking about the patriarchy.
V: (Laughs) I'd love to hear how you think the patriarchy influences the dating process and dating culture.
L: I touched on this earlier, but I think dating (for such a long time), has been primarily in the hands of men. This is a very cis gender way of talking about it, but I'm talking about historically from cave man time until I don't know, like 1965. Men have been 'at the wheel,' and women who take more initiative are often viewed as bad or 'slutty.' I talk about this a lot in the podcast, but...
"We're lucky to live now, in a time where we have so much more autonomy in our own lives than even our grandmothers and mothers had."
I feel it's our responsibility to use that autonomy because they couldn't. And one of my favorite things about doing this podcast, is that we have a lot of younger listeners (late teens, very early 20s) who are just getting out into the world and starting to date. I didn't feel a lot of power or freedom when I was that age, I had low self-esteem and also just assumed that I shouldn't take control of my dating life... I think this is (in part) due to the way things are portrayed 'in the media,' I know that's a stereotype, but it's valid! So, one of the biggest goals for this podcast, outside of the experiment, was to help women listening feel empowered to ask for what they want, be open about their feelings and desires, and heck — ask people out themselves, as well as feel comfortable having a talk to speed things up, or slow things down — all of it.
V: Absolutely. I think a lot of women (maybe especially young women) have a mindset of: Does he like me? When the question really should be: Do I like him? It's nice to hear that you have some young women listening... maybe you can help girls realize this sooner.
K: Yes absolutely. We hope so. Our listeners are my favorite part of this whole experience. I never want it to end because of the community it has built! It's mostly women, younger 20's, but it absolutely ranges by gender and age. I love when a post will pop-up in our secret Facebook group from a man! All of the men that listen are fantastic — they have to be if they're listening and not getting all bristled by what we're saying.
V: Seems like there's a lot of potential to expand podcast topics. Maybe even by having an episode that explores dating for 40s, 50s, 60s aged people.
K: That's a great idea. Someone else mentioned that briefly and I'm glad you mentioned it as well because I feel it's an unfair space that hasn't been covered. If I'm single in my 40s and 50s, I want to hear about dating from other people in their 40s and 50s too!
V: Absolutely! Switching gears here, are there any topics you think should be avoided on a first date?
K: Politics pop into mind! But I'm kind of becoming less and less about 'rules' for dating. Do you have any ideas Liza?
L: If you approach any topic with openness and genuine curiosity in your date's thoughts, it's a good thing. I also haven't been on a first date in like five years...
L: Yes... and this might be a silly way to answer, but...
"I think the only topic to entirely avoid would be only talking about oneself."
I've been on dates with people who don't seem to want to know anything about what I think, about anything! It's important to ask your date questions. I just watched the Parks and Recreation episode about going on a first date. Leslie Knope is on a mock date with a friend, and she's freaking out. She starts talking about whales and a teeter totter... it's a mess. Her friend tells her, just ask me a question!
"I like to think of dating as a sort of quest to be curious about other people."
V: I love that! I think we all know that second dates are sometimes an engima. Has anyone ever told either you, straight up, that there wouldn't be a second date?
K: Early on, something else weird was happening (it's related)... the guy would text me right after the first date ('I had such a great time with you tonight, etc'), and then total crickets. I was trying to push the buttons for the podcast and go on second dates unless the first was atrocious, so I would press a bit. Most would eventually say they were busy with work, or had a problem with the podcast.
L: There was that one guy, maybe the 5th or 6th match... you two had a really good first date. Afterwards, he was texty, texty, texty... saying he couldn't wait to get together again. You texted him later in the week to make plans and he responded with: listen you're great, but...
K: Yes! I remember this. He was upfront about it. And I thought that was fine. It hurt my ego back then, but it would never hurt my ego now. We all have to be the rejector at some point!
V: True! Kimmy, I heard in an early episode that you often felt nervous before a first date, which many singles can relate to. You probably feel less nervous now after all this experience, but what advice do you have for people who feel this way?
K: A really good question. I am way less nervous, but still get the jitters right when I walk up to a date. I recommend going a little bit early to settle-in before the other person arrives.
"I choose my seat. The date has to find me. I sometimes even order a drink. It makes me feel like a powerful lady."
And our most recent guest here, who is on board with this, said she does this all the time. She even breaks out a book if she'd like, which I thought was really cool and badass. Yes so, arriving early helps me mentally prepare. You also have to realize that the other person is likely nervous too.
V: That's right! I want to talk about 'type.' I know that this is a topic you wanted to scratch-at through the podcast, by setting Kimmy up with men that are not necessarily her type. Why do you think that's important?
L: Some people are deeply self-aware and connect with who they connect with, and blah blah. That's great. But most people I know aren't like that, including myself. For me, many of the people I've dated (or had insanely huge crushes on) have been stubborn Capricorns, with a sharp edged, slight jerky sense of humor. I kept falling for the same kind of person and I think Kimmy had a similar experience too, where she was finding herself continuously drawn to the same type of person who then wasn't giving her what she needed, or really lighting her up. I've seen this happen over-and-over to almost every single woman and man I'm close to. So, it was important to encourage Kimmy to step outside of the box.
V: We wish we could throw out 'type' at Tawkify, so with you there! Kimmy, has this experience changed your match priorities?
K: Yes. I used to be attracted most to men who were unavailable. It ended up making me very vulnerable, but I kept falling for people who I knew it wouldn't work out with. My physical type has absolutely been challenged as well.
"I've just been going on dates, not being as picky, and finding amazing connections and conversations."
I would have been against going out with the divorced man we talked about earlier, but I'm so glad I went on that date!
L: We just had an awesome interview with Katie Sturino. We talked with her a lot about the things that make you 'nope' people. When you see something on-paper, and immediately swipe left. We all agreed that it's important to be careful about that, and not discredit someone so casually.
V: Totally, we just published an article about swiping with intention and how that can radically change your dating experience. Separately from that... I found Kimmy's Reel online.
K: Oh god.
V: It's a total crack-up! There is a scene where Kimmy is on a date and the man recommends a self-help book to her. Who wrote that scene and was it inspired by a real dating experience?
K: Yes. (Laughs) It was inspired by someone I was 'hooking up' with slash had been friends with prior from acting class. I guess actors like to give each other self-help books, it's a thing. But yes, it was totally inspired by an incident where he offered me a self-help book.
L: Also, to give credit - Kimmy wrote that scene.
V: It was so great! Changing gears again, there's been a couple names bouncing around on what to call your listeners. Pretty babies was in the mix... And French fries, right? Has anything stuck?
K: Nothing has, and that's probably our fault because that's important for the podcast! Nothing has stuck. I sound depressed about it, because I am.
L: I'm still rooting for french fries. It makes no sense, but I think it's great.
V: It will fall into place! I also like french fries. I want to talk about a particular date with someone from your past, Kimmy... a former camp counselor, was it?
K: Yes, that's true.
V: Let's quickly talk about how funny that is, and also what was the age difference?
K: (Laughs) Only a couple years! Maybe 3 or 4. It's a big age difference when in middle school versus high school, but no big deal now. We went to an artsy camp, I had a crush on him and his friend (another counselor). He was (and is) a cool, artistic, cute, open-minded guy...
V: I have a question for Liza, which week's date would you want to go out with?
L: Oh man. I mean... I would love to go on a date with a childhood crush. I get a crush and foster it for years. I think it's more about what they did on the date too; for example, an activity-type date would be great. Kimmy has also dated people who are older than her. I've never experienced that and I would like to.
V: That's a good way to feel forever young! I'm curious, Kimmy, what forms of dating or dating sources that you experienced through the podcast would want to continue doing outside of 51 First Dates?
K: If you can get past how exhausting it is, I would still do the apps. Also, the set-ups were great; I'm pro set-up.
"We did Tawkify for one of the dates, and that was the only matchmaking service I've worked with."
It shook things up! It felt different and I really liked the lack of awkwardness in the end stages of it, because you had a matchmaker to discuss post-date and handle next steps, or not. I'm not just saying this because I'm talking to you. I encouraged our listeners to look into matchmaking because of that experience.
V: That's great to hear! You mentioned in an episode that you like Tawkify's date feedback process, which relates to another episode where you discuss saying 'no' to dates (which is really difficult for some people). There's a point made in the podcast about sticking around so as not to offend your date, but how you can then end up offending yourself by sticking around. How do you strike that balance?
K: You know, this is still hard for me. I do feel there's something small that makes me feel like I owe men happiness. And maybe it's the podcast, maybe it's something within me, maybe it's the patriarchy. You know what, it is the patriarchy! (Laughs) I don't know why, but it's hard for me to do. I wish I could just say: 'no thank you, not interested' more often. There is a weird pressure in certain situations. Let's say a man takes you out for a nice dinner and would like to have another drink afterwards, but you're tired.
"Having the confidence to decline, owning your power, and honoring your needs is everything."
V: Couldn't agree more with that last part! I want to talk about the first kiss. I know you discuss this topic on the podcast, but for our readers: should a first kiss always happen on a first date? And what about from the male perspective as well.
K: Don't do it unless there's a crazy connection. We've even had male guests on the podcast who say they feel pressure to do the first kiss. There should be no pressure. Also, it's strange when a man says he's not interested after a first date where a kiss happens, because it's like: why did you put your mouth on mine?! This is saliva we're talking about.
V: That would make for a great scene in your reel, Kimmy! Any closing thoughts for all of our brave daters in the Heartalytics community?
L: Go on as many dates as you possibly can. Have fun. Enjoy the process of meeting people.
K: Don't get down on yourself if it doesn't work out. It's just a date!
L: Go on second dates often too.
K: Yeah, go on second dates! That's true and hugely important.
"Some of the best people I've met and biggest crushes I've formed have resulted from second and third dates."
V: Great advice. This is actually something our matchmaker, Candice Cain, talks about in Guy Tawk. Had a great time chatting gals! You two have been incredible, the project is super inspiring. I'm excited for Kimmy's next date!
Catch Liza and Kimmy on 51 First Dates podcast.