Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Fog of Dating

Last week I spoke at the NCACPA's Emerging Leaders conference. It's for their younger members (under 35). After my session, a group of us got involved in a discussion about dating. This is the perfect audience for me - most of them were single too. (Now I don't mean to date, I mean to commiserate with!) In most of my audiences, everyone is married.

The discussion we got into was what exactly counted as a date. Now I found this interesting. Usually I figure if a man asks me out for a drink or coffee or a meal, and he's not married, a business contact or a friend of mine, it's a date. I think all of these meetings are dates. But here was the discussion - one of the women said it was a date only if you kissed at the end. The rest of us disagreed. We felt if the man paid, it was a date. (Although I have paid on occasion just to get the hell out of a date.)

The truth is, I never really thought this was a topic that was open for debate. I've known several men who asked me on our first date if we could have a "real" date. (Poor guys didn't realize that was the real date and they blew it.) I've always known that men hate to call anything a date and anything short of marriage a relationship. (Hell, some don't even consider marriage a relationship.) But I didn't realize that what a date actually is was a matter of debate for women.

I don't kiss the majority of men I go on first dates with, but I'm still sure I was on a date. I can agree that a really good date ends with a kiss, but a bad date ends with either or both parties trying to get the hell out of there ASAP. But it was still a date! What do you think, readers? What the heck is a date? Am I wrong?

Hey gang - let's see what Wikipedia says! (Italics are my insightful comments.)

Dating is a form of courtship, and may include any social activity undertaken by, typically, two people with the aim of each assessing the other's suitability as their partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse. (Typically two - i.e. don't be bringing your friends or your Blackberry!) The word refers to the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity. Traditional dating activities include entertainment or a meal.

In many cultural traditions, a date may be arranged by a third party, who may be a family member, acquaintance, or professional matchmaker. Recently internet dating has become popular. (God help us all, especially me.)

Although dating etiquette in Western culture has become more relaxed during the twentieth century, there are considerable differences between social and personal values. For example, when an activity costs money (for example, a meal), traditionally the man was expected to pay; but in recent times the practice of "going Dutch" (splitting the expenses) has become more common and more acceptable. (I am totally biased here - if a man doesn't pay on our first date, it's over for me. One guy actually pushed the check toward me and said - "I'll get it next time." Needless to say - there was no next time. It's not about the money - we can just do coffee - it doesn't have to be expensive. It's about making me feel cared for.)

The average duration of courtship before proceeding to engagement or marriage varies considerably throughout the world. (Ain't that the damn truth.)

Nothing there about kissing, but there is a mention of the man paying.

I guess dating is in the eye of the beholder. One person might think they are on a date, and the other might think they are......well, on the moon.

The only time it has ever been murky for me is when a man I thought was just my friend thought we were on a date. I was usually clueless until the bill came. If he tried to pay for everything, I would fight him. I didn't want there to be any doubt about things. Usually after the bill battle, he would blurt out something like - don't you know that I'm attracted to you? Thank God none of these friends have ever tried to kiss me. I'm so damn blunt it never gets to that point.

So many things are in the eye of the beholder. One person is planning your wedding, the other person is planning his escape. A neighbor thinks you hate him, when you just like your privacy and have never given him a thought. Some people like peanut butter, some people (clearly insane) don't. It's so easy to be convinced things are one way, when they really are another. The older I get, the less I know. Hell, when I started writing this post, I was sure I knew when I was on a date, and by the end, I realized I've been on someone else's date when I thought I wasn't.

Keep an open mind - realize your reality is not the only one. Heck - you might be dating someone right now and not even know it!


jeff said...

Hey, I think you're right on about the kissing as a good determining factor for defintion of date/not date. But only if your date is kissing YOU.

If there *was* kissing, and you weren't involved, then it most certainly was not a date.

Denise Ryan said...

Ha, ha, ha!!! Or it was the last date!! : )