Until recently, I had a hard time understanding all the attention given to dating. “Young adults aren’t dating anymore!” “Guys need to man up!” “Girls say they want to go on dates, but really they don’t!” “Girls can ask guys out too!” To me, it all sounded like a problem of equivocation that could be solved by simply clearing up our ambiguous use of the word “date.”
See, there are two kinds of dates: there’s the “casual” date, and then there’s, for lack of a better word, the “date” date (e.g. candlelit dinner, stargazing ala A Walk to Remember, etc.). While people still go on “date” dates, we don’t really see casual dates anymore. In fact, I didn’t even know what a casual date was until last fall.
Apparently, people used to go on dates all the time, and it wasn’t a big deal. People even went out with multiple people at the same time. As in, you went on a date with one person one day and another person the next. Dating in this context had no connotations of commitment or exclusivity, rather, commitment and exclusivity only came once you went from “dating” to “going steady.” This is the kind of dating that has gone the way of the dinosaur, and it is on this kind of “casual” date that our recent attention (including this year’s Valentine’s Day campaign) has been focused.
The problem with this focus, however, is that—at least ostensibly—casual dating still exists, we just call it hanging out. After all, you can hang out with multiple people at once, and hanging out is just another way of getting to know someone without the connotations of commitment and exclusivity. “Date” for us has come to refer only to date dates rather than the casual dates of decades past, so it struck me as a bit odd and anachronistic to so stubbornly insist on continuing to use “date” in the casual sense: Why not just use “hanging out”?
by Christian Say