A friend says to me the other day, "Oh, R. might have an issue for the Nondating Life."
"What's that?" I say.
"He's going to hang out with a guy, but he doesn't know if it's a date or not."
"Ohhhhhhhh," I say. "That."
It's a classic situation. There's this guy or this girl. He's cute. She's hot. You sort of dig him or her. And, lately, you find yourself in date-like situations. And you find yourself hoping they're date situations. But you just can't tell.
Of course, this sort of thing doesn't happen with the skank you met in the bar last week or the tool who's chased you down on Match.com. You KNOW those are dates because you wouldn't be dealing with that person for any reason other than to get married, laid or, at the very least, emotionally traumatized (again).
No, this typically happens with people you meet through work or through other social circles. I've had this happen to me with fellow bloggers. The aforementioned R. met his guy in their gay hockey league. (No, I'm not making that up. See
The problem here is that you've already established a relationship of sorts. You're colleagues or acquaintances or whatnot. And, conceivably, going out for drinks or to dinner with the other person could just be things that, you know, friends do. Even if you're madly attracted to the person. Even if you typically don't do this sort of thing with other colleagues and acquaintances. Even if you think the other person might be flirting back with you.
A line is being crossed here, but you just don't know which. Are you crossing into friendship? Are you crossing into a relationship? Are you crossing into a drunken night of tawdry sex that is going to leave the two of you incapable of making eye contact for the next few weeks?
Of course, the sensible thing to do would be to ask. But we've established long ago that romance and common sense are, like, the two biggest bitches in high school and, oh my god, like they'd both totally DIE before being caught in the same room together.
And why don't you ask? Why don't you just open up your mouth or type up an email and use the gift of language and ask, "So, is this a date or what?"
Because you'd feel silly. Because you'd be risking rejection. Because you might make a fool of yourself.
So, instead of making a fool of yourself, you go on a series of these nondates and with each passing one get progressively crazier, act increasingly weirder--you fret, you hope, you worry, you moon, you envy and, yes, you even pine--until finally you just snap and say "HOLY SHIT I CAN'T TAKE THIS ANYMORE. YOU'RE DRIVING ME CRAZY AND I THINK I LOVE YOU."
And when that happens? Well, there's a very, very slim chance that the other person will say, "Oh my god. Me too!" But the smart money goes on the other response: He or she shouts "Hey, look over there! It's Steve Perry from Journey!" and then, the minute you turn your head, runs away, never to be seen from again.
But, hey, at least you didn't make a fool of yourself by just asking the person if you were dating.
Let's be honest here. Can we be honest? Good, I thought so. Let's be honest. If you have to ask "Is this a date?" If there's a question about it, then it's most likely NOT a date.
Yes, there are exceptions. In the case of R., as a matter of fact, this was the FIRST time they were hanging out. So the question is valid. It COULD just be hanging out. Or it COULD be the prelude to some hot man sex. But by the end of that first time (or the second one if both parties are on the shy side), R. should know.
If you find yourself on the third or fourth hang-out, nondate or whatever, chances are you are dating this person only in your own mind. If the other person were as into you as you are into him or her, you'd already be holding hands on the subway, playing tonsil hockey in the park and generally making a nuisance of yourself in public.
But, hey, I'm not in the business of crushing ALL hope here. There is the slight chance that the other person is going through the exact same thought processes that you are, and you're both paralyzed by fear of rejection (that fear will never, ever go away), fear of screwing up a friendship (I'd call that the most moronic reason ever for not entering a relationship, but it's not a reason, it's a damn lie a person tells you to "let you down easy"), fear of commitment (the old standby) and/or fear of waking up ten years from now in a loveless marriage (because really, if two people like you get married, what are the chances of it working?).
So hang out with them again. Flirt, banter, whatever it is you two do when you're together. And, at the end of the evening, make your move.
Now, at the beginning of this post, I said you could just up and ask the person. Sure, you could do that. Like I said, it's the sensible thing to do. But since we're being honest, I'll admit that if you ask and the person says no, it doesn't actually FEEL any less humiliating or heartbreaking. And, really, if you're going to go through both humiliation and heartbreak, you might as well go down in flames, no?
So when the time comes to say good night, lean in real close, look into his or her eyes and GO FOR THE CROTCH! That's right, just grab it. And when the mouth flies open in shock, get your tongue in there while the getting is good.
Your "friend" might reject you, sure. But you just totally got to third base.
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