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Is this a date?
It used to be so simple for a woman--the man did the asking, made the plans, provided the transportation, and covered all the expenses. Of course, there was all that waiting by the phone and continuous speculation, shared with friends about if or when he would call. Then traditional roles began to shift and women became comfortable taking the lead, knowing that if they did so, they would assume responsibility for the date unless he insisted otherwise, and she was open to this. Then the world of dating underwent even more radical shifts as people started going out with groups and splitting off as the evening wore on, and began sharing activities with attractive friends or co-workers of the opposite sex, such as making dinner, renting movies, and hanging out as a twosome. It seems as if dating has gone out of style--yet, people are still connecting, forming relationships and finding love. It's just a lot grayer and more challenging in this new un-dating world.
Here are some examples of "get-togethers" that could lead to one or both individuals wondering, "Is this a date?"
Coffee or drink after work with a co-worker
Lunch and/or dinner with a friend
Movie and/or dinner with an attractive roommate
Splitting off from a group activity for twosome time
Spending all evening at a party with a person they met there
The answer will depend primarily upon three things; the history between the individuals (if there is one), their stated and unstated intentions and desired outcomes, and the verbal and non-verbal interactions that pass between them before, during and after their alone time together.
If they have some history together, both people should have a basic knowledge of how the other feels towards them. This will have been demonstrated through both the content and depth of their verbal exchanges and the body signals shared between them. Stated simply, a strong interest and attraction can be felt which then leads to a feeling of sexual chemistry that is different from the chemistry of affinity shared by platonic friends. If it is sustained over time, there is usually a romantic interest growing behind it.
Stated intentions are just that. Did the person refer to your suggested got-together as a date? Did they suggest the venue, make the plans and offer to provide transportation? If so, sounds like a date. Or perhaps they did some, but not all of these things, it could still be a date, but they are playing it low key because they are not sure of what your feelings are or they don't want to come on too strong. Unstated intentions are those sent through body language, tone of voice, eye contact; and the distinct impression of a growing interest that these generate. Does it feel like a date? If so, that is probably your friend's intention. If the end of the "date" leads to any non-platonic physical contact and/or a suggestion for a second date it suggests the desired outcome was to go on a date.
Correctly interpreting someone's verbal and non-verbal communication requires looking for consistency in what you see and hear and tuning into what your gut is telling you. In other words, if he or she says one thing, yet does another, there is reason to doubt what you are hearing or experiencing. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Pay close attention to their posture, level of attentiveness, openness and comfort in the dialogue between you, quality of their questions and answers, and the physical closeness or distance they maintain. Also note how they end the date--with a handshake or kiss on the cheek and a thanks for the fun time, or a hug, kiss on the lips and a suggestion to get together again soon.
Lastly, it's important to emphasize that without some history with or prior knowledge of someone, it will be more difficult to answer the question; "Is this a date?" If you meet an attractive person in a club and spend all evening with them, exchanging numbers at the end--the probability that they saw this as a date or that you will hear from them again is lower than if you had some history together. After all, strangers are just that--you don't really know anything about them, except what they tell you, and if there is alcohol involved, it can be hard to evaluate anything clearly. Do these kinds of first meeting lead to dating and relationships? Yes, they do, but less frequently than other ways of meeting do.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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