Are we all ‘just friends’ until proven date worthy?
“We should hang out sometime!”
Four words. Just four words that produce more confusion than a fortune cookie without a fortune.
For some people, any offer to get a drink, food or simply go for a walk in the park with a bag of crisps is to find themselves the recipient of the unspoken desire: “I’d like to have sex with you.” Whether this is an indication of their inflated self-confidence or a lack of social awareness, we’d be unfit to judge. For the rest of us however, such a message sees us teeter precariously on the romantic date / friendly-hang divide.
None of us are strangers to this ambiguity.
We’ll go out with someone. The conversation will flow, there will be some flirtation (although IRL and without the use of emojis, can we really be sure?) and over the next few days some G-rated chat will be exchanged, even during office hours. Then, when relaying the information to a friend, we’ll say: “yeah, it was great! I mean, it wasn’t a date but it wasn’t not a date, ya know?”
Enter the #NotClearDate.
The English language has come a long way from the limited grunts of cavemen but when it comes to setting up a date, we may as well be using Egyptian hieroglyphics what with the high level of uncertainty exchanged.
To be direct is to communicate your intention and makes knowing where you stand with someone easier but when you don’t know a person too well, it can also seem forward. Ron Burgundy’s infamous pickup line, “I want to be on you” may have been met with winning results but for the majority, being forthright taps into the fear of rejection which, in the dating world, is the most immobilizing fear of all.
The whole notion of uncertainty when it comes to going on a date is ego-driven. It’s like insurance for a bad night out – a belief that you can’t suffer a blow to the heart from someone who isn’t interested when you never communicated your own.
As inaccurate as this belief is, more alarming is just how many males stand by it. A study titled ‘Accurately Detecting Flirting’ found that only 1 in 3 men and 1 in 5 women can accurately detect when someone of the opposite sex is flirting with them. That equates to one third of guys simply not picking up the signals that a girl is interested.
Perhaps this is the result of the technological age we live in. We have become so reliant on the assurance of a ‘super like’ and a “hey, DTF?” delivered at 11.30pm that the playful touches offered under the guise of flirting now render meaningless, as though that girl who grazed your elbow was simply swatting away a fly.
She wasn’t, by the way. She was trying to communicate her interest.
But if we are to get anywhere in our love lives, we need to tackle this issue of the #NotClearDate head on. It might be one thing to get dinner with that girl you hooked up with in the bar, but when your colleague asks to get drinks should you wear your lucky ‘date night’ shirt or is it acceptable to come straight from a gym session, still clutching your post-workout whey?
Here’s some advice on making sense of it all.
If ever there was a way to put a stamp on your relationship, it’s through the sharing of food. A couple that shares food is the bane of every waiter’s existence. There is nothing less sexy than seeing two people make a catastrophic mess as they shovel limp spaghetti onto one another’s plate before declaring, “two spoons for that pudding, please” loudly enough for every unhappy single in a mile-radius to hear.
We’re not sure why the sharing of food is so fraught with intimacy – but it is. No one will willingly exchange germs with someone just for the sake of tasting some below-average spaghetti carbonara. If she offers to share food, suggests you take a bite of something on her plate or offers you a sip of her drink…it’s a date.
“Always assume. I always assume it’s a date,” says a friend.
“I go and meet them thinking we’re going to have drinks, laugh, there’ll be sexual tension and then we’ll dry hump in the car before I drop her home. I’m almost always wrong, of course; they’ll bring up an ex in conversation and we may as well just forget the fancy restaurant and be eating at ‘The Platonic Shack’”.
There are occasions where the mention of an ex is warranted in conversation but such occasions rarely occur on a date. To sit through a monologue of another’s past love is to find yourself in the front seat as you go Thelma and Louise-ing right into the friend zone. Generally, dates have a tendency to be almost interview-like; of course the conversation is always more scintillating and humorous, but your desire to learn and know things about the other person ensures that the questions keep being fired.
For some, flirting involves a bit of bantz and some light negging interjected with high-laaaaa-rious put-downs. For others, it’s a scintillating conversation and a probing of deeper questions. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: touch is crucial. Light, playful touches are a sure-fire way to create sexual tension. Friends might fist-bump but those who are on a date will engage with frequent, light touches such as the tapping of a knee when jokingly tease, “you should really know this *tap tap tap*” or that fleeting forearm touch as you bond over a mutual hatred of frozen yoghurt, “Together we must put an end to this fro-yo madness! *forearm graze*”. These little trigger points are the most intimate of all. Yep, that’s a date for sure.
For those eager to soothe a friend’s nerves on a first #NotClearDate, the phrase: “you’ll know if it’s a date based on their appearance and how much effort they put in” is often thrown around. Oh, if only it were this easy. It seems obvious that one should shower before a date, but you’d be surprised at the number who don’t. Simply finding a t-shirt sans yellowed sweat-stains and remnants of your curry lunch will have you feeling like a contestant off The Bachelorette.
Although everyone’s sense of style is unique (which explains why the trend ‘hobo-chic’ is still a thing), generally when on a date with someone you’re interested in, greater care will be taken with one’s appearance. If she’s sporting lipstick, she might just be trying to impress you and the same goes for the hairstyle. If it looks like a straightener, curling iron or some kind of hair product was involved well, you might just find yourself on a date.
The fact is: you need to be honest about your intentions from the get-go. If you find yourself on the #NotClearDate, wondering if those sparks are reciprocated or if you’re simply leaning too close to that candle, just ASK.
“Is this a date? Because I’d like it to be.”
It might sting to be rejected, but it’s a world better than being surrounded by ambiguity.