Friday, January 31, 2014

A Date or Not-A-Date

I went on a very nice Not-A-Date recently.  That is, I spent a chunk of time one-on-one with a straight, attractive, single man whose company I enjoy doing reasonably Date-Like things.(1)

As a side note, how, you may ask, do I know it was Not-A-Date?

Because he did not ask me.

These days, I really do think it is that simple.  I didn't always.  I have spent lots of time trying to interpret and re-interpret behavior.  I am also a committed egalitarian, and I do not believe that All Men are one way and All Women are another.  But increasingly, I am becoming enamoured of letting the guy make the move, and here's why: if they really like you, they will ask you out.  The pulling petals off of daisies disappear, the angels sing, and everything is clear.  There may be plenty of room for ambiguity in human relationships, but I do not think it is here.  Want to know if he likes you?  Here's what you do: ask yourself, "Self, has he asked you out on a date?"  If the answer is "yes," then he does.  If it is "no," then he does not.(2)

Anyway, we know this nice day was Not-A-Date because he did not ask me to go on a date.  And that's fine with me.  I was not expecting a date.  He is my friend, and I like spending time with him, and we were doing things I wanted to do anyway.

But some time later, I find myself a little bothered by the whole thing.  First, it did look awfully like a date, and while I'm not going to spend a lot of time worried about the thoughts of random passers-by, I am going to note that when I mentioned it in passing to a couple of good friends, each of them asked, "Wait, was that a date?"  "No," I said, "he didn't ask me." "Well, it sounds like a date," both retorted.  So appearances were, at least to my female friends, a little suspicious.

Second, I've been down this path before.  Most of the women of my acquaintance have been.  In fact, between the two of us here at the Béguinage, this story arc has happened with a good half-dozen men.  Here's how the story usually goes:  guy and girl are friends.  They enjoy each others' company.  They spend some time together.  They go on some Not-A-Dates.  They have lots of fun.  Then the guy meets another girl and the friendship dissolves overnight, leaving the girl to wonder what happened.

There are variations on this narrative.  Sometimes the girl falls in love with the guy in that process of spending time together and going on Not-A-Dates, and then is heartbroken when the guy tells her -- or doesn't tell her!! -- that he's seeing somebody.  Most times, she doesn't fall in love with him, but she still tortures herself by wondering what the new girlfriend has that she doesn't.  Sometimes, the guy intentionally asks the girl on Actual Dates for some time before confessing that he isn't really ready to date anybody, as though dating were some sort of arctic adventure that required outfitting a year in advance instead of what they had, in fact, been doing.  And it is this messiness that I want to avoid.  I don't want to be a placeholder, the cardboard cutout girlfriend until somebody cuter, somebody who's really girlfriend potential, comes along.  And I don't like losing my friends when they fall for somebody.

So I don't know what, if anything, to do.  I can refuse to go on Not-A-Dates, but that's not a great solution, because I like my friends. Deciding not to spend time with them on principle because they're men is obnoxious.  I can keep doing what I'm doing, and try to be at peace with the inevitable replacement.  Or I can abandon friends, dating, and social interaction altogether and just write my dissertation...

Thoughts?  Advice?  Suggestions?

Yes, I am footnoting my blog posts.  Too long in academia, friends.  Too, too long.

(1.)  Not kissing.  Kissing is usually a pretty good indication that you're on An Actual Date instead of Not-A-Date.  

(2.)  This is where I give the obligatory reminder that a date, even An Actual Date, is neither a declaration of undying love nor a marriage proposal.  It is only a date.  This has been a public service announcement. 


  1. Definitely Not-A-Date. No asking, no kissing = not interested. I would say, either friend-zone him back (and decide you guys will never be kissing friends) or, if it bothers you, use your words and tell him that he is giving mixed signals. Then ask him what he wants out of your friendship.

    Also, definitely write your diss, but not as a passive-agressive dating move. Work/life should not be mutually exclusive (also FYI, I am being a giant hypocrite with this last piece of advice. :-)

    1. Yup, definitely Not-A-Date. No ambiguity here. And that is TOTALLY fine by me.

      I'm not concerned about this specific friendship, really, as much as I'm concerned about the principle of the thing. The story arc I outlined above seems to happen with alarming frequency among the women of my acquaintance, and I find it perplexing.

      At the moment, it feels like writing the diss is both the problem and the solution for everything. ;)


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