What measure is a date?

Something I’ve been butting my head up against in discussion of… whatever, romanticosexual entanglements or something… is that I keep using the word “dating”.  Dating, much like polyamory or casual, seems to have a different meaning to different people.  To Carrie, it implies old-fashioned you-and-me-are-going-courtin’ style dinner-and-a-movie stuff.  To L, the word “dating” implies some level of exclusivity.  I’m using it in a much broader sense, but that’s in large part because I don’t have another, better word.

When I say that I’m trying to figure out “dating”, I’m trying to wrap in anything related to early romance or sex or attraction, basically.  Any interaction in this milieu: hooking up at a party, picking someone up at a bar, contacting an attractive individual on OkCupid and arranging to meet for coffee, light flogging, etc.  I’m aiming to discuss that interstitial period that exists between meeting someone and a capital-R relationship.  Which, of course, means that my definition is no more valid than anyone else’s;  I’m certainly dating Carrie by many lights, but it wouldn’t occur to me that that would be part of this discussion.

Even that is going a little too far, because it implies that I’m necessarily talking about capital-R relationshipping as a goal, which I’m not.  The “interstitial period” could last forever, for all I care. Or it could never exist, which is basically what happened with Carrie and myself, who went from first meet to “we are an item” in about the time it takes Julia Child to make an omelette.

Basically, my only real “goal” in this arena is to hang out with interesting people and occasionally sleep with the attractive ones.  If the word for that isn’t “dating”, then I don’t know what it is, and would appreciate suggestions.

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5 thoughts on “What measure is a date?

  1. Ahh. At first, I was going to contradict and say that no, I meant that “dating” implies “permanence” (e.g. you know it might end some time, maybe, but you can’t place it at a precise event, like “end of summer” or “end of ugrad”), not necessarily exclusivity. [I have a hang-up about the finitude of my relationships.] But then I realized that to me, I still have this fixed notion that any “permanent” relationship is all of the following:

    1. On the road to marriage (or as you put it, capital-R relationship, the difference being that there is a ceremony to mark the beginnings of marriages;; I imagine that acts like “moving in together” can also delineate the beginnings of capital-R relationships)
    2. Exclusivity, hence your correctness.

    I think part of the reason I have this definition is because I do so many things with guys that would constitute “a date” for anyone else, sometimes even the guy I’m with. In contrast, I tend to treat mattress-bound activities in a very business-like way: “Scheduling Thursday meeting.”

    If “time / duration / finitude” were not a dimension for me, I think I would say a date is any meeting with mutual sexual attraction — but this seems fairly limiting.

    Anyway: the matter at hand is to find a new word, not to beat the “def date(p1, p2):” horse into a stickier pulp, so I will say no more. I personally rather like “romanticosexual interaction,” but I think that’s too much of a c-c-c-convo breaker.

  2. (hi!)
    This is such a perennial issue – at what point does a “meet to check each other out” become “dating”? The metric I semi-consciously use in my own head is whether or not sex has happened (yet). Way back when I was on OKC I had a number of what I guess were dates that had less emotional or romaticosexual content than lunch with my aunt Judy, but they were still – nominally? by some definition? – “dates.” OTOH starting what is now a clear capital-R Relationship with D had some hilarious moments of stating the obvious.

    It’s complicated, but only because “dating” means so many things that using it requires a whole bunch of other explanation, which kinda means that as a term, it doesn’t work.

    There’s got to be some part where you see the person and aren’t having sex (but might?) but flirtation is happening and mutual interest is being explored – that has to be a date, I guess. And there’s a whole other can of worms opened re some kinds of parties – where do the boundaries lie? Is it that you’ve *chosen* to be naked with this specific person? Is mutuality the defining thing? What about the emotional connection thing? What if you’re deeply connected but it’s really not remotely romanticosexual?

    I think the reason the terminology fails is that it’s tough to find a word for an experience that is by definition intensely internal. Relationships are individual to the people involved, and it makes no more sense to pretend that I know anything about somebody else’s “dating” than their marriage, unless we’ve had a lot of conversations about that. Intercourse? Sure, that’s easy to define. Love? Um, see several hundred years’ worth of poetry and other art.

  3. Ugh… terminology. I would say I am “dating” someone who I regularly do activities with and with whom there is some mutually understood romantic/sexual (the difference between those is a whole other issue) context. If I just have sex with someone regularly without activities, then I wouldn’t say we were dating, I would say we are lovers, or fuck buddies, or something.

    Now that I think about it, there does seem to be a point where a relationship passes the “dating” stage. I wouldn’t say I’m “dating” the people I’m in serious LTRs with, and I’m not entirely sure why. I think because “dating” ultimately describes the activity you are doing rather than the feelings you have. For me, when the feelings become vastly more important than the activities it becomes “in a relationship” not “dating”.

    I also think I use the word “date” more liberally than the word “dating”. I might go on a date with my spouse, or a good friend, but that doesn’t mean we are dating.

  4. L: It sounds like you mean “indefinite” rather than “permanent”, but I can see how that fits a pattern. It’s funny, because in my head “dating” is precisely the opposite, being clearly an impermanent step; I pretty much only mean things that may or may not go anywhere in particular when I refer to “dating”.

    But, re: scheduling, all hail Google Calendar.

    Liz: (hi yourself) Up until a couple of years ago, whether or not sex had happened was the only way I knew it was a date. I think I’m gradually working out how this stuff works outside of hooking up with people and then suddenly being a couple.

    Meaghan: Yeah, I understand a distaste for nailing down definite terminology. It’s just that I occasionally need to talk about this stuff, and I feel like I don’t have any word space to use. There just isn’t a word that will mean to the other party in a conversation what I mean when I say “I’m bad at dating”. What I mean is I fundamentally don’t understand the stage that I think you and I both mean by date-qua-verb vs. date-qua-noun, but obviously not everybody, nor even everybody I’m very close to, means it the same way.

  5. Pingback: Glossarylalia | Newly Open

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