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I’m Not Sure if This is a Date

coffee_cup morning, awake, breakfastHave you ever been on an “I’m not sure if this is a” date?

We probably all are more sure than we say we are, but deny that we’re sure so if we discover that one of us isn’t getting what we want, it doesn’t hurt. It’s one of life’s little dramas. This is how it plays out on a Friday night:

You show up at Starbucks first, slip inside, and slink into a big, black velvet chair in a corner. You pretend to read (who can read at a time like this?). You avoid eye contact with the door. And you think.

Do I buy my drink? Do I wait to let him pay? Does he want to pay? Is this a date? If only he’d been explicit.

“Can I take you out on Friday?” instead of “Want to grab coffee on Friday?” Is that so hard?

He shows up. You smile. He’s nervous. So it is a date. You walk to the counter together. You order tea. He asks for coffee.

“Are you together or separate?”

He looks at you. Brother, this ball was made for your court. But he has assumed the decision is yours. Shoot! You panic.

“Separate!” you say. Did you have another, more viable option? If you’d said together, he’d think you think you’re on a date. And that’s the last thing you want him to think you’re thinking if you don’t know whether he thinks it, too.

You both pull out your wallets. It’s not a date. He smiles. Did he smile because he’s relieved? Is he offended and the smile was fake? You assume he’s happy to be out with a friend.

You assume.

Don’t we all? And not just during maybe-dates. We do it at work and at church and at school and in grocery stores and at gyms. We do it on the road and at parties, in marriages, in families, and among friends.

But “assumptions are the termites of relationships.” (Henry Winkler)

Do you wish we could be bolder? Do you think we should?

Because if it were socially acceptable to go up to a guy or girl with whom we’d like to spend more time and say, “I like you. Can we explore that?” we’d do it. If we didn’t fear how it feels to be rejected, somebody might be more inclined to say “I’d like to take you out to dinner!” instead of “Let’s hang out!” If social norms didn’t make it so boldness freaks us out, we’d be bold. We’d be honest, with others and with ourselves.

Instead, we are too timid to be bold. We assume and we act on our assumptions. We do, therefore, what presents the smallest risk.

Are we too timid to be bold because we’re avoiding the sting we’ll feel if boldness backfires? Or does that sort of thing only sting so much because we’ve been too timid for too long?


Arleen Spenceley, who works as a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, is author of forthcoming book Chastity is For Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, to be released by Ave Maria Press in Dec. 2014. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in counseling, both from the University of South Florida. She blogs at arleenspenceley.com and tweets @ArleenSpenceley. Click here to like her on Facebook.


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  • Eileen

    Why wouldn’t you just say, “Together. My treat.” You might do that for a friend sometime, wouldn’t you? And if he thinks it’s a date, he’ll insist on paying at that point. And if he doesn’t, then it’s either a) not a date or b) he thought it was a date when he asked you but now you know that it’s not worth pursuing a relationship with a guy who’s either so cheap or so emasculated that he won’t insist on paying on a first date at a coffee shop. 😉

    • Ladasha Smithson

      I don’t think appropriate in this day in age to force the man to pay for
      everything on the date. There are much fewer single Catholic men than
      Catholic women so we must not give Catholic men a reason to date the feminist women they are surrounded by, who will often:

      1. Pay for themselves
      2. Be much more flirtatious
      3. Actually ask out men

      • fishman

        hmm… if men require those things to get them to go out it is probably because they lack maturity needed to be married.
        1) Pay for themselves ( paying for a woman shows you have enough income not currently in use that can afford to have a family)
        2) Be much more flirtatious ( a man who is ready to be married is more attracted to virtue then vice. Women who are too , out there, sexually make it obvious they are not ‘into’ virtue or prudence).

        3) Actually ask out men ( because they are too scared or to ask out women? what kind of leader would that man be for a family?)

      • MomChooseLife

        YES! To everything. There is absolutely nothing biblical about waiting for men to ask you out or play for you. We are called to be ACTIVE as Christians. The Tree that produces no fruit is as bad as the tree that produces bad fruit. If you want a man to marry you you need to be ACTIVE at it, even if that means asking men out yourself and paying for yourself.

  • fishman

    Wow, this is so … female and article. No offense, but men aren’t thinking that way.

    The reality is that women seem to be able to have close friends who are male , but men really generally don’t have opposite sex ‘friends’. Our brains are too partitioned and appetites to strong for that.
    So, unless a guy
    1) has know you for multiple years and you really are like brother and sister ( in which case you know if it is date).
    2) is in a much older or younger then you and thus thinks of you as a grandma/mother/daughter figure.
    3) is in a strongly committed relationship and views your activity together as some kind of ministry.

    If he is spending time alone with you and is unattached, the thought has crossed his mind that you might be interested and that he might be interested, and the current activity you are engaged in will further inform that opinion. Is that a date? yes. by function if not by form.

    I’m not saying there aren’t occasions where men and women are ‘just good friends’ and spend a fair amount of time together with neither one romantically interested in the other, but such cases are few and far between , and prudently should be viewed as something prone to change, either when one person finds a romantic interest or two become interested in each other.