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Most of us are aware of the new romantic dramedy, Southside with You. It stars Tika Sumpter as a young Michelle Robinson and Parker Sawyers as Barack Obama. The film, written and directed by Richard Tanne, chronicles the couple’s first date. It’s an adorable movie that led me to think about five things we might be able to take away for ourselves when it comes to first dates, all from watching the very beginning of this iconic couple’s relationship.

1. Attraction can be subtle. 

In the beginning of the movie, we watch a fictional Michelle get ready for her day with Barack. She lotions and powders and picks at her hair, all while claiming she isn’t interested in the man she’s about to meet up with. It so subtle, but these small gestures might indicate that there’s a bit more attraction there than we’d like to admit to ourselves. Pay attention.

2. First dates can be awkward.

What I loved about Southside with You was the way the couple spoke about things that were both deeply personal as well as cultural/societal. This felt so reminiscent of my own first dates. But those conversations also included the awkward moments, disagreements, and even silence that comes with learning about one another. That’s okay. If you let awkwardness be an acceptable feeling, it frees you up to discover other more interesting feelings (like chemistry). A little bit of awkwardness is a good sign.

3. First dates are great; sober dates are amazing.

It’s easy to meet up for drinks, have too many, and find the hours go by quickly. With every beverage, your lips might get looser, and your laugh might get a bit louder. Though drinking dates are super fun and can result in lifelong relationships, it’s far more telling when you lose track of time on a date while you’re completely sober. I’m not a mathematician, but I think a two-hour sober date is the equivalent of a four-hour date during happy hour, and you can remember everything that happened the next morning.

4. It’s okay to be unconvinced.

One of my favorite things about Southside with You is that fictional Michelle was pretty unimpressed with the future president throughout the movie. She even called him out when he seemed to be posturing and jockeying for her affections. So often, we’re told to bite our tongues, laugh when the joke isn’t funny, and tuck less agreeable parts of ourselves away to snag a man. I believe the right man reveals himself in time. You don’t have to be convinced of anything after the first date except for whether or not you’re looking for a second date, and you’re allowed to be honest about your reservations.

5. Shirk the rules if it feels right.

We have rules about kissing. We have rules about texting first, staying too long, and being too vulnerable. Those rules keep us safe, but sometimes they limit how open we might be to something real. If it feels right, lean in for the kiss. If you think it’s worth it, send the first text, or share the vulnerable story. In the case of Michelle and Barack, you never know where it could lead…

Patia Braithwaite is a freelance writer based in New York City. To hear more about her first dates: She Tweets and ‘Grams occasionally @pdotbrathw8

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