What Makes It a "Real Date?"

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I wouldn’t say that formal first dates are extinct, but I would argue that they are at the very least, endangered. I’ve realized that people do indeed get to know each other while going out but find themselves confused as to whether they are in fact on a date, or if they are just casually hanging out. Casual relationships are becoming more popular while the idea of a traditional courtship is a little less common. While many of us want to appear “chill,” how are we able to distinguish a “real date” from something with less meaning?


I don’t mean the intention to commit immediately. What I mean is, a date implies the intention to get to know someone better. An offer to focus entirely on each other for a period. When a potential partner suggests a spur-of-the-moment trip to Chipotle on the way back from a party, no one has previously expressed a commitment to focus on that other person, leading to divided attention and possibly a lack of satisfaction on either or both sides. It is unsatisfying to receive half-baked attention from someone you hope to get to know. This situation is one where a friend might come to you asking if it was a “real date.” My answer would probably be a solid “ehhhhh…?”

“Hookup culture” has not brought anyone out of the are-we-aren’t-we grey area, and certainly hasn’t secured a romantic night out for anyone.

I’ve witnessed relationships in man and woman holding handswhich a couple’s first date comes months into their pronouncement of being a couple. Some relationships go entirely without a “real date” at all. Though having a low-key night after running into a crush is perfectly great, there is a lack of respect that accompanies the absence of some kind of relationship objective, even if that objective is just getting to learn a potential partner’s favorite type of cheese.

Meanwhile, the rise of online dating seems to have sparked the prospect of first dates once again, sending 11% of the American population into a world centered around the prospect of meeting up with someone for the first time. The prospect of relationship inspired people. So much that they make the effort to plan a way to get to know the potential partner.

So while we, in the non-cyber dating world, are struggling to push partners to make an effort, online dating has become a platform for those with the drive to establish a mature relationship.

It all comes down to people not putting in that aforementioned effort, an idea that may be hurtful to a potential (or current) partner.

Dates don’t need to be at five-star restaurants, nor do they need to be long or expensive.

For all your partner cares. A date could be a walk in a nearby park, as long as they are initiated, followed through, and not cluttered with distractions.

Millennials, when you encounter someone that is unwilling to take that crucial step, reconsider whether you want to spend your time with that person. Or just take the initiative yourself. Either way, it’s time we stop wasting our time waiting for small changes from unclear meetups.

Our moments are better used on people that are willing to put in the effort. If you are on the other side of this, make a positive change, ask out that person you’ve been seeing. Ultimately, they will respect you for it, whether or not it works out in the end.

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While many of us want to appear “chill,” how are we able to distinguish a “real date” from something with less meaning?


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