One of my favorite episodes of the American version of The Office is called “Happy Hour,” and it introduces a fun character from Steve Carell: Date Mike. Date Mike only comes to exist after Steve Carell’s character (Michael) finds out that one of his employees has brought a date for him to the company happy hour. Michael dons sunglasses, pops his collar, and puts on an attitude, explaining he didn’t realize he was on a date.
Lately I’ve seen my social media feeds clutter with people’s confusion about dates. One article went viral about people not being clear enough when it comes to their romantic intentions. Another recent article in USA Today reported on a study commissioned by JDate and ChristianMingle that found there is a lot of confusion when it comes to figuring out whether or not a date was actually a date… or something else.
There’s a few angles I see with this. On the one hand, online dating should make this issue much easier: when a website has the word “date” in the title, it should be pretty clear what’s happening. But that isn’t always the case. Over Shabbat, I discussed this with friends. Some had used JDate simply as a way to further test the waters, inviting people to happy hours — not a date, simply an introduction opportunity that other parties misunderstood.
Here’s a distinction that makes defining a date less ambiguous: a good date simply involves people having fun, a little bit of sexual tension, and most importantly, spontaneity. My friends and I discussed our best and worst dates earlier this week (three men, two women) and came up with some conclusive answers as to how we enjoyed or disliked dates. When both parties interacted heavily (not seeing Troy, for example, when one party isn’t into action movies), or had a fun time just doing something random (not as random as buying plants at Home Depot, but maybe as random as eating a cookie cake together and sharing wine), it didn’t matter how the night was labeled.
People like to have a good time and try new things. If you can do that together, a date becomes a date whether you call it so or not. More often than not, the hangouts I’ve had with members of the opposite sex — such as watching a Scream movie marathon or going to a women’s basketball game on campus — have often led to much deeper connections than me making small talk about the first time I ordered the veggie burger at a restaurant. So date, hangout, invitation to meet at Whole Foods — it doesn’t matter what you call it. A date has a lot of extra pressure added to it, and that tends to take away from the fun. There’s no need to bring Date Mike to the party, but add some fun and spontaneity, and it’s going to be a good time — regardless of what it’s called.