Benjamin Mann is a young professional currently living, working, and dating in Toronto. More of his writing can be found at yourbrainondating.com.
If I told you I was going on a date this Thursday, you would probably do two things.
First, you’d become inconsolably jealous. Second (after you’d stopped crying), you’d likely ask what I had planned.
Here, almost unconsciously, a line will be drawn.
If I say, “we’re having drinks,” or “we’re going for lunch,” you’ll likely assume one of us has intentionally kept the date ‘light’, perhaps because of uncertainty, and that my odds of ever having sex with my date are somewhere in the statistical ballpark of a coin flip.
But if told you that we’re “having” or “making” dinner, your impression of the date would likely shift. You’d probably think of the plan as more “romantic” and more indicative of a successful connection. You might wonder about things like wardrobe, elegance of the meal, and what may transpire after.
If these things don’t run through your mind, then good for you.
But most of us have been trained to think that dinner – simply a meal most commonly eaten in the evening – is intrinsically ‘romantic’ or ‘intense’ relative to other ingestion-related dates like brunch, frozen yogurt or drinks. It’s a stupid result of passive conditioning and if we want to make the dating world a smoother, more sensible place, we need to drop it.
You might think I’m overreacting to a negligible issue, but I promise you these kinds of psychological glitches cause more interference than you’d think.
Statistically, there are three relative factors that come along with dinner: a longer duration, a larger tab, and a closer proximity to intercourse. But realistically, lunches can go on for hours, six drinks can cost as much as dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and I find few things more exciting than a good roll in the hay during Family Feud.
The first big problem with this conditioning is that it makes everyone think too much. Dating should be simple. You dig someone, you do stuff with them. If you enjoy it, you do more stuff. If you don’t enjoy it, you send them a text message telling them you got mono (obviously).
By applying some unnecessarily rigorous ranking system, we’re getting tripped up between the lines. What’s the point? What does it get us? A superficial Date Thermometer that we use to assume we know where someone’s head is at?
It’s difficult enough calculating someone’s LTAF (Long-Term Annoyingness Factor) or uncovering that they’re an insecure nutcase. I also have to align a date agenda with some informal intensity scale?
What about more unconventional dates like a sports event, grocery shopping, or strip Pictionary? This is pointless. It imposes a meaningless anxiety on the dating process and it’s distracting.
We should be focusing on the connection not the context.
I was debating this topic with a good friend and I told him about a date on which I went for a bike ride to the beach and played catch. I found the date “romantic,” but I suspected that it would register on the more frigid end on the common Date Thermometer. His response was, “Well, I can see how that would be romantic if the two of you were in love…”
So while he was somewhat disagreeing with my position, he was indirectly making my point for me; despite 18 suicide-encouraging seasons of The Bachelor, I can’t actually manufacture romance.
I can try to grease the wheels or avoid offensive environments, but if I’m actually trying to meet the right person, it has nothing to do with the what and everything to do with the who. I can’t be too concerned with what we do. I just need to make sure we’re a good match. And ideally we both have fun while we’re figuring it all out…
The less we perpetuate this kind of nonsensical hypothesizing and informal rule-making, the happier we’ll all be and the more likely we’ll be to find the people with whom we truly fit. Stop trying to fabricate or interpret intensity and romance. Just be in a position to discover it. Next time someone asks you to dinner on a Saturday night, ask them if you can get smoothies Sunday morning instead. Then after smoothies, have sex. Do that enough and pretty soon your knees will buckle every time you pass a Booster Juice.
And dinner? Well, it’ll just be another meal. And that’s all it ever really was.