Gone are the days when a man and a woman meeting over a drink knew the outing was undoubtedly a first date. With lines blurring between the platonic and the romantic, defining what constitutes a first date has become a guessing game. The various intentions behind a first date — from finding a mate to bedding a casual-sex partner — has forced many singles to define exactly what it is.
Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, says that nearly every social engagement between men and women, whether it is called a date or is painted as a romance-free outing, becomes a date as soon as they start looking you over.
Men and women are biologically wired to behave toward one another in specific ways. Fisher says, “I was introduced to someone at a dinner party, and we barely spoke to each other. But then he said, ‘I’m going to the Eastside. Would you like a ride in the cab?’ A date had begun.”
Dating coach Evan Marc Katz attributes part of the confusion to men and women not expressing their intentions. He says that dating should be a simple matter: a social meeting between a man and woman, paid for by the man.
If this evening goes well, there is an understanding that it can lead to a second date and is possibly a prelude to a long-term relationship.
A slew of ingredients have been tossed into today’s dating stew pot, complicating something that was a clear-cut proposal for the previous generations, says Dan Baritchi, who operates a dating and relationship advice website.
What was once a general rule that a date was that first baby step toward finding a husband or wife no longer applies to the way men and women socialise today, Baritchi says. In fact, they don’t want to call a date a date. By putting a label on the social outing, pressure is unnecessarily turned up, he says.
Suddenly, both parties have to prematurely weigh if they want to have a romantic relationship before they know one another. Mike Murdoch, 39 and single, says that all that anxiety over defining a first date is not new. He attributes some of this to the cultural upheaval of the sexual revolution in the 1960s and ’70s. It made men and women change their expectations about how they wanted to live and date. He winds up with, “But it probably always was confusing. Romance has always been complicated.”