Bring Back the Dinner Date

I’ve had several conversations in the last few months about what defines a date — mostly how it’s confusing and sometimes how as a girl, I don’t know if I’m actually on a date. During one conversation, my friend started off with, “We went to a concert, but I’m not sure it was actually a date or if we just ended up hanging out one-on-one.” And while that sounds a bit dramatic, it’s a common sentiment among my 20-something friends, especially when you factor in things like friendlationships, texting, Facebook and just general confusion about what you actually call time spent getting to know someone of the opposite gender. Is it courting, dating, being intentional … or some sort of hybrid of all three?

From where I sit, I’m advocating for bringing back the traditional dinner date. In a world of ambiguous coffee dates and endless nights of group hang-outs, it’s nice when a guy cuts through all the confusion and asks a girl on a proper date. I appreciate it when a guy is upfront about letting me know what he’s thinking so that there’s not an awkward moment when the check comes and I’m wondering if I should offer to pay. (Next week I’ll tackle the whole who should pay on a first date question.)

Because of all the ambiguity, a guy stands out — in a good way — when he calls and says something like, “I’d like to get to know you better. Can I take you to dinner?” It’s clear that it’s going to be a date and that there’s interest in spending time together with a purpose. Maybe we’ll hit it off and go out again, or maybe we won’t. But either way, at least it’s clear that a guy is interested in seeing which it will be.

Texting, Facebooking and emailing are all fine, but asking a girl out on a date through these methods usually adds another layer of complication and more room for ambiguity or miscommunication. All the online social media stuff is a great way to initially get to know someone and build a friendship, but eventually, if there’s interest in something more, it has to move to real world, face-to-face communication. And when it comes to dating, the more clarity, the better. Getting to know someone seems to work best when you can read facial expression, tone and body language.

I realize that the whole is-it-a-date and who-should-initiate question is more complicated than a short blog post, but in my experience, most girls appreciate a guy who asks a girl to dinner, lets her know it’s a date, and clearly communicates that from the beginning. In a world where confusion and mixed signals from guys and girls can feel like the norm, any time intentions are clearly communicated, it only adds to the attraction if it already exists. And if the girl isn’t interested in going out on a date, at least she knows what was being asked and can graciously thank the guy for his invitation anyway.