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In the U.S., what is a date? What's "first base", "second base" and "third base"? How do you invite someone out non-romantically?
May 18, 2004 9:39 PM   Subscribe

Baffling Things About America, #819: What is a date? [More inside.]

Does inviting or accepting indicate a disposition to consider a romantic attachment with someone? What's "first base", "second base" and "third base"? Is the reply "I'll take a rain check" insulting, accepted as a standard, polite put-off or merely a desire for another chance? If you want to invite someone out for dinner with no romantic intentions, how do you go about it? Is it still considered a date?

Like many non-Americans, I've always been highly confused about the semantics and the system of dating - despite all the American movies, books and TV shows I've seen - and would dearly appreciate a clear as-if-explained-to-a-Martian definition. Does the definition depend on generation, education or part of the country? Are there ambiguities in the dating system that Americans themselves need to preserve? Many thanks for helping!
posted by MiguelCardoso to Society & Culture (46 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wait.... we're really that different from dating elsewhere in the world?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:42 PM on May 18, 2004


A "date" usually implies romantic possibilities. However it is not always true. A person rarely says, "How about a date on Saturday?"

Most people are more oblique and would instead say, "Hey, I saw that Cake is playing at the Crystal Ballroom on Saturday. Want to get dinner and check out the show?"

Standard terms:
First Base = french kissing
Second Base = hands above the waist (under clothes)
Third Base = hands below the waist (under clothes)
Homerun = Sex

The implications of postponing a suggested date varies depending on the tone, body language, and terms used. I take anything other than "no thanks" as an invitation to try again at a later date.

As for a non-romantic date (still considered a date), say something like, "I am intrigued by your thoughts on [insert topic of conversation here]. Can I buy you dinner and talk about it more?". In essence, by suggesting a topic of conversation that is of interest to both of you gives a reason for the dinner other than romance.

Don't worry about being confused. Hell, I've lived here my whole life and I am still confused more often than not. And yes, I do think ambiguities are the rule rather than the exception. Love and romance are tricky.

Hope that makes some sense.
posted by karmaville at 9:56 PM on May 18, 2004


Oh and since it's been almost a year since my last true 'date', YMMV with my answer.
posted by karmaville at 9:58 PM on May 18, 2004


I don't know. Is this formalized style of dating something that only happens on Friends these days or what?

I usually meet someone through someone we both already know, we end up "going out" and doing something or otherwise just getting to know each other - online or off.

There have been a few instances where I've met someone through work or on a work commute. (There's an argument for public transport and/or bike commuting if I've ever heard one. You get to meet people.)

There have been another handful of instance where I've met someone exclusively online. The online thing is nice because it's easier to get to know someone's interests and stuff without all that mucking around IRL.

I've never met or "hooked up" with someone from a bar, and I don't think I'm missing anything important at all.

If there's chemistry, generally the affection and/or nookie type stuff begins to happen pretty quickly in my experience.

On that note: 1st base = kissing/necking/making out, 2nd base = making out with heavy petting, 3rd base = all of the above plus manual and/or oral copulation - depending on who you're talking to, and home base = Rock and Roll, the Mattress Mambo, The Making of the Beast with Two Backs, la petite mort, etc.

Sorry if that index wasn't romantic enough for you. :)

I really don't think that there's any one standard way to "date" in America in this day and age, but then again I'm a genuine card-carrying weirdo and would be bored to tears dating most of America. My perspective is most likely very, very skewed. For me, sociopolitical and psycho-sexual alignments are much more important than what someone's income or looks are. ask.weirdofilter.com
posted by loquacious at 10:00 PM on May 18, 2004


I respectfully disagree with karmaville on the answers to the last two questions. Of course, the difference here may itself be an age and/or cultural issue.

The implications of postponing a suggested date varies depending on the tone, body language, and terms used.: This is definitely true. But I think that taking anything other than "no thanks" as an invitation to try again is a bad idea, unless in your particular subculture it is understood that the only appropriate way to reject someone is to say "no thanks." In the spheres I've run in, if you want to invite someone to try again at a later time, then it is on you, the ask-ee, to go out of your way to make it obvious that your honest reason for not going is not really just the first excuse you could think of. In Los Angeles or Seattle, for example, saying "no thanks" would be considered rude in itself (not that people don't do it anyway). The "right" way to reject someone in those places is to indicate that the date should happen some other time, and then make no effort whatsoever to uphold that idea.

I also have to disagree with: As for a non-romantic date (still considered a date), say something like, "I am intrigued by your thoughts on [insert topic of conversation here]. Can I buy you dinner and talk about it more?". In essence, by suggesting a topic of conversation that is of interest to both of you gives a reason for the dinner other than romance....because to me, this sounds like exactly the way to set up an actual date in which there is romantic interest.

Unless extenuating circumstances relating to your relationship with that person make is rather obvious that you don't have, or shouldn't have, any romantic interest, then it's really on the ask-er to ask in such a way that acknowledges the awkwardness. This could be by spending half an hour talking about your wife first, or, more commonly, suggesting that the outing include both couples. If neither of you is in a couple, and your sexual orientations are aligned, and there's not a huge age difference, it is going to be really hard to get across the idea that you're not interested in anything romantic or sexual...and you probably are.

Anyway, Miguel...I'm a bit suspicious of this one....didn't you spend your youth dating Swedish models? Aren't you just about the most cross-culturally educated person on the planet? Are you sure you don't already know the answers to these questions, and you just want to watch the yanks slug it out over the differences?
posted by bingo at 10:20 PM on May 18, 2004


Wait.... we're really that different from dating elsewhere in the world?

My ex, who is from Honduras but went to college in the States, didn't get it either. I don't know if it's a Latin thing, a world thing, or a personal thing, but being in a predominantly ex-pat Latin scene for a couple of years definitely showed some cultural differences.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:31 PM on May 18, 2004


I'll step in here and address the usage of the word 'date' in the verb form - I have never heard anyone (American, since that's what you're asking about), male or female, say that they are 'dating' someone unless they are being coy or evasive about the nature of their relationship with said person. A woman, when asked about a man who says "Oh, we're just dating" is saying 'I associate with him in either a quasi or explicitly romantic context, and I either don't want to admit to you or myself the nature of that association' or, 'We spend time together in a romantic context, but nothing has yet happened and I do not really know the nature of our relationship'.

If a guy, asked about the status of his relationship to a woman replies 'Well, we're dating', that means that he and said woman have not been intimate, and although he would like to be, he doesn't know if she is really interested in such.
posted by GriffX at 10:39 PM on May 18, 2004


Compared to a tryst, a date is a shrivelled fruit indeed.
posted by troutfishing at 10:41 PM on May 18, 2004


I've corresponded with people worldwide on this topic and believe that definitely there are differences in dating both culturally and geographically.

In Big City, North America, dating has changed drastically in the past few years. There no longer is a concept of "bases". As someone from the generation under mine has said, "Your generation has bases. Mine has fucking and not fucking." In fact, she considers (and I've verified this with many others her age) oral sex part of "making out". As someone who's over the moon for kissing and courting, I find this very disturbing. (I'm sure there will be plenty of people who'll disagree with me/her on this point, but I can say that when I was in my 20s--the mid 90s--I never met a single person, male or female, who considered oral sex "making out". The situation is now practically inverted.)

Though no one uses the word "date" when they ask someone out, I think it's pretty common to call it that otherwise. ("i have a date on Saturday"; "Great, it's a date!"; etc.).

And yes, there are many ambiguities in dating and I doubt you could get people to agree on many "steps" or "formalaties" or whatever. It's been a long time since I've been on what I thought was a date and then found out the other person didn't consider it such, but I'm sure it still happens to some people. It can be a hellish place to be.

Does inviting or accepting indicate a disposition to consider a romantic attachment with someone?

It does in my book, but that may have something to do with the way I ask or am asked. It's always "clear" that that's the intention. And if the askee isn't inclined to that, they'll either decline or make a point of the lack of romantic interest with a lie: "Um... I like to go but you know I'm seeing someone, right?", etc.

Is the reply "I'll take a rain check" insulting, accepted as a standard, polite put-off or merely a desire for another chance?

I think it depends how it's communicated. When I say it, I mean it. There's nothing worse in dating than not being clear about what the fuck's going on. If you don't have an intention of going out with someone, you shouldn't say you want a rain check. Usually, what I do, is when someone says say such a thing, I'll say something along the lines of, "Cool. Here's my number. Let me know when you change you're in the mood." I may ask them out again after a sufficient amount of time or when the moment seems just right but usually I leave it up to the other person. There've been exceptions, though. The person I've been most enamoured with has also been the person I've been most persistent with.

Are there ambiguities in the dating system that Americans themselves need to preserve?

I think a lot of people don't talk about the stuff with their partners as it's very much a "fragility" thing. People don't want to be the one to look like a fool and feeling something for someone who doesn't feel anything for you can make one feel very foolish indeed. The smart courter, however, turns that to his or her advantage. Being smitten with someone and communicating it with humor, romance, mystery, excitement... can work to your advantage.

This isn't to say that there aren't some things that are better left obscured (what would dating be without mystery?)--it's knowing what/when/why that's the tricky part.

I've known more than one person, uncomfortable with what she was feeling, who denies those feelings both to herself and, verbally, to me. ("You misunderstood.", "That's not what I meant.", etc.) They usually go on to admit their lie years later, but "preserving the ambiguity" is pretty much at the root of it. Some people have it down to an art. (I find those least honest with themselves have the most difficulty being straight forward with others, though that may be stating the obvious.)

If anything, I've been "successful" in my dating life by wearing my heart on my sleeve. When asked what I think the best qualities a mate can have, I answer: good hands, humility, patience, sincerity. If you can hit home runs emotionally, you'll more often do so physically. You'll also be stronger each time at bat.

on preview: I don't "agree" with griffX. Almost everyone I know will say "some guy I'm dating" or "we used to date" and mean that that person is/was their boyfriend/girlfriend. One word that seems to be completely gone from dating vocabulary and which you would have heard in many American films and TV shows is the word "steady" (we're going steady; he's my steady, etc.). I think that's unfortunate. I like the word and it is considerably more applicable to today's dating environment than to the one that hatched it. Today, many people date many people at the same time. They could refer to their "regular" as their "steady", but they don't.

Sorry to babble, it's a topic dear to my heart. :)
posted by dobbs at 10:46 PM on May 18, 2004


MiguelCardoso: Like many non-Americans, I've always been highly confused about the semantics and the system of dating...

It's interesting the system of dating is mysterious to others. What is the process of courtship outside of the US? I mean, most everyone has progressed from clubbing the female over the head and dragging her back to the cave, I assume? I can't picture you bartering cows for wives, either, Miguel. :)
posted by Hankins at 11:00 PM on May 18, 2004


If a guy, asked about the status of his relationship to a woman replies 'Well, we're dating', that means that he and said woman have not been intimate

I wouldn't say I was dating a woman until we'd been intimate; before that I'd be "kind of seeing her" or something.

I didn't like online dating very much because you can spend a lot of time and energy trying to get to know someone via email or on the phone, and it doesn't really matter if you don't have chemistry in person. Until you get the two people in the same room, you can never tell.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:05 PM on May 18, 2004


Bingo and Hankins: No, I genuinely don't know. I've never had an American girlfriend, though I've often dreamt of one. Till the age of 12 - when I was moved from the Anglo-American side to the Portuguese side of the English school I went to - almost all my girlfriends were Americans. But that was as a child - nor really the same.

To tell the truth, I really haven't met any American women when I wasn't with someone else I was serious with at the time, so the opportunity never arose, unfortunately. There is no such thing as "dating" and "dates" in Europe, including the UK. Hence the confusion!

posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:56 PM on May 18, 2004


You shouldn't have asked about bases. It varies wildly even in small sections of states, never mind the whole US of A. And the bases always seemed to get redefined every two years or so from ages 10-18. If real baseball were played the same way older children explained sex to us, veteran baseball players would be faced with a field where first base was a mile away and then the other three bases were within 3 feet of that.
posted by yerfatma at 7:50 AM on May 19, 2004 [2 favorites]


I grew up in the US, and I find the whole dating etiquette system to be ridiculously complex and formal. I've never been able to explain it adequately to a European.

On the other hand, I arrived in Europe with the American idea that you have to go through an entire negotiation process when you start sleeping with someone, and it took me a long time to get used to a more spontaneous way of doing things. French doesn't even have a word for "dating", and the whole concepts of "commitment" and "relationship" don't translate very well, either. In France and Spain, the philosophy is that you sleep with someone first, and then you figure out if you want to be with them -- the direct opposite of what seems to happen in America. There's a lot less pressure to define what an affair means, and people seem to fall in and out of love more completely and quickly than in the US.

The whole "bases" thing is really part of early adolescence, a way for boys to brag about their first fumbling sexual experiences when they're still virgins. I don't know about today, but when I was a kid there was still a lot of stigma attached to girls who "went all the way", and so boys often had to settle for what they could get.
posted by fuzz at 7:53 AM on May 19, 2004 [4 favorites]


I have to pipe pipe back up and add my disagreement to what dobbs and kirkaracha said in response to GriffX. "Dating" is what I say when I'm involved with someone, but we are not monogamous, either because it just hasn't been going on that long, or because we just don't want to be monogamous. This is helpful in distinguishing the relationship from "going out," which more or less implies monogamy, although you can increase the ambiguity by saying "I've been going out with so-and-so."

Not so long ago, I got involved with a girl who left the city less than a month after our first date (to come back two months later). While she was away, I went to a party held by some of her friends, and when I met her friends who didn't yet know me, I explained my connection was that I was dating so-and-so. There had definitely already been plenty of intimacy. But she was not my girlfriend (yet).

On preview: In France and Spain, the philosophy is that you sleep with someone first, and then you figure out if you want to be with them -- the direct opposite of what seems to happen in America.

I'm American, and most of my adult relationships have started that way. And I don't think it's that uncommon, really. If you start sleeping together right away, then the point of the "dating" could no longer possibly be to lead up to the sex...so you find out soon enough whether there's anything else there to work with.
posted by bingo at 8:04 AM on May 19, 2004


There is no such thing as "dating" and "dates" in Europe, including the UK.

eh?! i'm confused. i assumed that what you did in the uk when you "asked someone out" (which may be an old-fashioned phrase now) was "dating". what's the difference?
posted by andrew cooke at 8:12 AM on May 19, 2004


If real baseball were played the same way older children explained sex to us, veteran baseball players would be faced with a field where first base was a mile away and then the other three bases were within 3 feet of that.

Funniest thing I expect I'll read today. Bravo, Yerfatma.
posted by ColdChef at 8:14 AM on May 19, 2004


I think I've almost never been on a "date" as I see the word. To me, a date is like an appointment to hang out with someone you don't know well, to see if you have any chemistry and then to see if you'd like to continue to see each other. It seems to me to be something more appropriate to a society that had strict boy/girl roles. So, if you were hanging out with a guy, it was a date. If you hung out with girls, not-a-date. Hence the weird terms like "double dating" which was a "safe" way to date, I guess.

I usually go out with people that I already know I like through some other context [we're friends from work, we knew each other online, we're friends of friends, they used to date a friend of mine in high school] when it's clear that there's chemistry and we just want to spend some time together. I also have a lot of guy friends, so there has occasionally been some confusion about what "Do you want to go to the movies with me?" means, but it's easy to clear up. Other things I think about dating:

- it's acceptable to "date" more than one person in many instances. This is not quite as clear cut when you say "go out with". So I could date a few guys, but if I'm "going out with" a few guys I am thought to be more of a slut/polyamorist depending on who is asking.
- you can sleep with your dates. the whole bases thing is really only relevant, IMHO, when you're really young and/or inexperienced and each step is a big deal.
- you can flirt a lot nowadays and not necessarily be leading to dating/commitment/seriousness
- I don't think of dating as being something that really happens much outside of college or high school but maybe that's because it's not the way I operate.
- saying that someone is your boyfriend/girlfriend is farther along the intimacy spectrum than saying you are dating

Does inviting or accepting indicate a disposition to consider a romantic attachment with someone?

No, but you shouldn't be surprised if that's what they're thinking. As a woman, I try pretty hard to make it clear to people who ask me to do something if it's a "let's see what happens" affair, or an "I like you only in a friendly way" event. Similarly, nowadays, when I invite guys to do things, I make sure they know I have a boyfriend and am not looking for any other romantic interests, so they know what they are getting into up front. Seems like common courtesy, but a lot of people I know don't do this.

Is the reply "I'll take a rain check" insulting, accepted as a standard, polite put-off or merely a desire for another chance?

A rain check to me means "try again later" I think it's easy to clear this stuff up at the time and see if there's another possibility. So if you say "how about next week?" to a refusal and they say no again [and not "no, but maybe the week after that"] they may mean "no, really, no." A lot of women I know have a hard time turning guys down and as a result, spend too much time with guy who they are not really interested in just because they are too polite to say no, or seem to remain willingly clueless that the guy is interested in them unless the guy makes an overt gesture. As a result, I advise my guy friends to make it pretty clear how they feel and be on the lookout for "I like you as a friend" indicators [like bringing friends on dates, not dating in the evenings, not returning calls, making excuses that wouldn't stop someone who was really interested in your, etc]. I also know a lot of guys who seems to have long-term commitments to people they don't seem to really like very much. They are clearly getting something out of the relationship [sex? companionship? splitting the rent?] and yet they still complain about the relationship. I don't get that.

Are there ambiguities in the dating system that Americans themselves need to preserve?

When I was in hogh school and a bit into college [late 80's] you had to pretend that you weren't sleeping with people you were dating, only maybe people you were "going out with" which was like being engaged to being engaged in the Catholic enclave that I grew up in. I think Americans can have a hard time admitting that they're looking for sex and some companionship as opposed to a lifelong committment, or the potential thereof. As a result, you meet men who keep you at arms length because they think you want to breed with them, and you have women who are either wanting to breed [at my age] and being really weird about how they meet and go out with men, or who become strange wallflowers who play a lot of the games Dobbs describes. Intimacy freaks a lot of people out and the weird ritual dance that is dating only makes it even weirder.
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 AM on May 19, 2004


oh, ok, rereading the above it seems that in the usa there's some kind of implicit schedule that needs to be followed? yeah, that didn't apply in the uk when i was "dating", and doesn't apply much in chile as far as i can tell. however, it's unfair (to poor americans) to say that it's always sex first, questions later. it varies (or at least, it used to). and variation and ambiguity is what makes it fun, isn't it?
posted by andrew cooke at 8:19 AM on May 19, 2004


For historical background, Dating Do's and Don'ts (1949)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:31 AM on May 19, 2004


These are just my experiences and highly generalized. I am now 45 years of age and living in Atlanta, so others' milage may vary.

Until about 10 years ago, asking for and accepting a first date was fairly much non-committal except that it had to be a full-blown date of dinner and entertainment. The second date meant "I'm interested but I want to get to know you better, " and the third meant, "We're having sex tonight but dinner had better be good."

Now however, for my age group, 35 and up, the first date is more often a casual meet-up, over coffee or the like, and the second, about a week later, is a full-blown date followed by sex later that evening.

Among the younger set, 35 and below, the pace is much faster. Again, the first date is often a casual meet-up that ends by going to the male's home to 'check out your lifestyle'. The second meet-up within a day or two occurs at the female's home with sex that evening.

Sprinkle all of the above with generous amounts of phone time. This is important, time spent talking on the phone has pretty much replaced the time spent in preliminary dating.

Again, the above is highly generalized, and I have synthesized both my experience and what my friends have told me about their experiences. To put it simply, nowadays asking for and accepting a first date is an unspoken admission of "Yeah, I'd do you. Just don't bore me."
posted by mischief at 8:34 AM on May 19, 2004


Is the reply "I'll take a rain check" insulting [... ] ?

Minor point, Miguel, but the postponer actually offers the rain check, which was originally "a ticket stub entitling the holder to admission to a future event if the scheduled event was cancelled due to rain." And when given sincerely, it's the least insulting negative reply.
posted by coelecanth at 8:43 AM on May 19, 2004


Another wrinkle: I would say a date implies that no one else is invited. I've been with my boy for years, and when we plan "dates," we mean we're gonna just hang out together. Of course, this could just be because we have many of the same friends, so inviting someone else along isn't unusual.

As for dating, which is to say, going on formalized adventures usually featuring food and a movie or a party, I would say it is on the decline. Most people I know meet people through others or, when they meet someone, invite that person to group stuff first. And I'll second the emergence of the fucking/not-fucking dichotomy and congruent recession of oral sex as a destination; it is more like a pit stop. I can't think of the last time I or anyone I share details with stopped at oral sex willingly (stupid too-drunk boys).

On preview: I've gotta disagree with Mischief. Most people I know, if you get back home at the end of the night, you're fucking. And I don't know anyone with a schedule (you can fuck on date number___). Maybe everyone I know is really slutty?
posted by dame at 8:47 AM on May 19, 2004


I wouldn't say I was dating a woman until we'd been intimate; before that I'd be "kind of seeing her" or something.

French doesn't even have a word for "dating", and the whole concepts of "commitment" and "relationship" don't translate very well, either.

Same in Italian. I've given up trying to squirm out of "Is that your boyfriend?" or worse, "Is that your fiancee?" in reference to friends with privileges or someone I'm kind of seeing, as I can't give my usual flip reply of "Oh, we're just dating."
posted by romakimmy at 8:49 AM on May 19, 2004


Fortunately for you, there does exist a Recommended Standardized Guide to the Bases.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 8:55 AM on May 19, 2004


I think a key aspect to keep in mind is American views of privacy and property.

When meeting someone new who you wish to get to know, with the possibility of becoming romantic, you set up a "date" at a neutral public place. The movies, or a coffee shop, or whatever. Only after one or more of these meetings go well do you invite the person "back to your place" for a more intimate meeting.

American's homes are generally places of refuge and solice. Being invited into someone else's home is a big step in a friendship. And stepping in to someone's home who you don't know well can be an uncomfortable situation. This is especially true for younger, city-dwelling people, who often live in studio or one bedroom apartments; not only are you entering their home, but you're also entering their bedroom (an even more private sanctuary).

Thus the need for a netural dating arena.
posted by falconred at 9:01 AM on May 19, 2004


And I don't know anyone with a schedule (you can fuck on date number___)

I definitely know people who "are on a schedule". There've been people I've slept with on the, whatever, say third date who find out that I first slept with X (someone from my past) on the 4th date who then get upset and wonder if I now think they're a slut.

There's a great scene in Carnal Knowledge (an excellent movie everyone should see if they haven't) (bit'a spoilers) where characters Sandy (m) and Susan (f) are out in the woods and Sandy puts his hand on her breast. She asks why he's doing it and he says "because it's our third date and you should let me do this on the third date." He also says, after constantly trying to kiss her, "You let me kiss you once last week. You should at least let me kiss you twice this week." Lastly, though she's hesitant, when she finds out he's still a virgin, she feels sorry for him and gives him a handjob. Meanwhile, in another part of the movie, she fucks another guy on the third date, no questions asked.
posted by dobbs at 9:03 AM on May 19, 2004


that's what dating is?

where the hell have i been?

I'M MISSING OUT.
posted by Stynxno at 9:10 AM on May 19, 2004


falconred - hmmm. not sure it's that. here in chile people live with their parents until they're married themselves, generally. i have no idea how it works out (the "dating" part of my life ended with the first chilean i "dated", and she was an exception, living alone), but from what people have said above, this isn't like the usa either (and from your argument you might think it would be, since, although for different reasons, meeting "at home" is presumably difficult).
posted by andrew cooke at 9:21 AM on May 19, 2004


dame, like I said, I was generalizing and I do not have any current experiences with any woman younger than 27. Things sometimes happen faster, sometimes slower. Also, I am in Atlanta, in the heart of the bible belt and where the question of separated or divorced often becomes an issue.

I spent 7 months in 2002 in the Baltimore/DC area, and my experience there suggests things may move faster outside the South. Since I only dated three women there, I did not think that was big enough of a sample to draw much in the way of conclusions. Of those three, one was a disaster of personality conflicts, one led to sex the first night, and the third I met online Sunday morning, rendezvoused at a restaurant that afternoon, had one drink and split a salad, and then went straight to her place where we were both naked on the couch before the third song of some Andrea Bocelli CD.
posted by mischief at 9:58 AM on May 19, 2004


There is no such thing as "dating" and "dates" in Europe, including the UK. Hence the confusion!

Could you explain what you mean by this? To me it implies that marriages are arranged by third parties, and that men and women have no social contact other than as fellow participants in mass cultural outings or the like. Dating is basically getting together with someone you like and are (potentially at least) sexually interested in with a view toward more intimate (potentially exclusive) involvement. Do you not do that? If not, how do you get together?
posted by languagehat at 10:53 AM on May 19, 2004


There is no such thing as "dating" and "dates" in Europe, including the UK. Hence the confusion!

Could you explain what you mean by this? To me it implies that marriages are arranged by third parties, and that men and women have no social contact other than as fellow participants in mass cultural outings or the like. Dating is basically getting together repeatedly with someone you like and are (potentially at least) sexually interested in with a view toward more intimate (potentially exclusive) involvement. Do you not do that? If not, how do you find a partner?
posted by languagehat at 11:05 AM on May 19, 2004


Oops. Ignore first draft.
posted by languagehat at 11:06 AM on May 19, 2004


There is no such thing as "dating" and "dates" in Europe, including the UK. Hence the confusion! ... Could you explain what you mean by this?

I suspect Portugal is a lot like, say, Spain, where (assuming what I learned in high school Spanish class was correct) young people tend to go out in groups ("en grupo") rather than pairing off from the get-go. Once you start doing things as a couple, things are rather more serious than mere "dating" -- you're committed, possibly engaged.
posted by kindall at 12:02 PM on May 19, 2004


Languagehat, FWIW, a girlfriend of mine from Sweden: expected her dates to be dutch, each person sharing the costs. She said for her, I guy will not pay all until they are living together which was also the same for her. Add, as far as paying went for us, we planned the dates never thinking whom pays for what.

Now opening the door for her was another story...
posted by thomcatspike at 12:13 PM on May 19, 2004


Add: languagehat, my Swedish girlfriend was able to make more money in the USA. So her dating scheme may have been tied in to a couple lacking money individually.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:16 PM on May 19, 2004


ah! kindall makes sense. but that doesn't happen in the uk much (you can identify foreign students by this behaviour).
posted by andrew cooke at 12:28 PM on May 19, 2004


No, he's right, there aren't any dates in the UK. At least, I haven't had any. Other people talk about them all the time, but I think they're bullshitting.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:39 PM on May 19, 2004


I got engaged to my husband the day before our first date.
posted by konolia at 12:46 PM on May 19, 2004


Did he get to first base?
posted by bingo at 12:55 PM on May 19, 2004


Oh, careless typing! I shouldn't have said disagree, Mischief. More like, my life—young, northern—seems to be different. Because of course you can't be wrong about how things have worked for you. Mea culpa.
posted by dame at 1:19 PM on May 19, 2004


No prob. ;-)
posted by mischief at 4:12 PM on May 19, 2004


languagehat: on the contrary, boys and girls are always together so relationships develop naturally. Also, there is a high amount of chance encounters where two strangers get talking and it proceeds from there. Engaging someone in conversation (or trying to) is a skill acquired early and people learn to deal with polite (or rude!) rejection. 1 yes in 20 nos is considered a very good rate.

It's funny that a man of the world such as yourself should imagine that a sunny, sexy Latin country like Portugal could ever be repressed. Or perhaps you were pulling my leg... :)

Thank you all so much for the careful explanations. I now have an idea of how broad a deal this dating thing is - there goes another stereotype! That's always so liberating. Thanks again!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:39 PM on May 19, 2004


Miguel, what would you do without your stereotypes? I think you'd be quite lost. Of course we date in the UK, or at least some of us do. To think that we are defined more by our country of residence than by our individual differences as humans is to make a very basic mistake. There is a hugely greater difference between a boy from Hicktown, Bornagainstate, USA and a girl born in the same street than there is between the boy and another male born and raised in Largecosmopolitancity, Europaland.
posted by cbrody at 6:30 PM on May 19, 2004


A date is when my husband takes me out to dinner and the baby stays with a sitter for a couple hours. It doesn't happen as often as I'd like.

Honestly, the formal "date" is something I only see couples that are already together do, not couples getting to know each other. I don't think I ever dated in that sense. There were people I met and slept with, people I met and didn't sleep with, people I was friends with and sex got involved, people I was friends with and love got involved....

No one ever phoned me up and said "hey, how about a dinner and a movie on Saturday?" and then I slept on curlers the night before and was fifteen minutes late getting ready so he had to suffer downstairs under my parents' watchful eyes. Then he drove me somewhere and paid for me and put his jacket over my shoulders when I was cold, and drove me home and kissed me at the door and asked to go out again next weekend.

Yes, YA novels failed me for "real world" info. It never, ever happened remotely like that.

I just kind of meshed with people, or I didn't. I find this to be true with most people I know my age, and true here or the times I've been abroad. In Panama you're always in a group, that's how you get to know someone; in Spain, I fell into an affair. Spanish for "boyfriend/girlfriend", until recently, had the connotation of "engaged". There really isn't the "dating" step.

The rules (or "The Rules" book) of first date, second date, third date and so forth seem very archaic to me. The most formal method I've seen used is "hey, want to go get coffee?" or "hey, can I get your number? Let's hang out sometime" and it always felt sort of awkward to "structure" it like that. I was supposed to hold out for a free dinner before I went back to his place? Just an extra step, isn't it? What's the point?

My brother is ten years younger than me and "going on a date" is a more serious thing in his set. In fact, it's got pretty much the form of old-style dating. On his first date, he even gave the girl a flower when he picked her up. This gels with my idea that when I was a teenager (early '90s), male/female was less of a divide as it was before then, and it's swinging back to being a divide again. Dating is a way of bridging the guy/girl gap that isn't necessary when the opposite sex is less mysterious.

On sexual baseball: The last time I used "bases" was when in high school I was forced to tell my mother more about my sex life then I ever wanted to - or she ever wanted to hear. (It's a funny story.) I used the euphemism "third base" because I didn't want to say "blowjob" to her, but she made me explain what it meant anyway. I don't think "bases" are something adults track at all. It's very.... locker room. Junior high locker room. And it was already going out of use in my time. Most pre-coital activity didn't need those distinctions since it fell under the (sort-of Catholic) line of "if it can't get you pregnant, it doesn't *really* count" - as is shown in other posters' relating that these days, oral sex is just making out. The popular term is "fooling around" and it can encompass anything from lots o' smoochin' to naked groping to sex itself.
posted by Melinika at 7:05 PM on May 19, 2004


I think internet "dating" is bringing back the old-fashioned date, at least for some people.

You make plans to go out with someone you've read about, talked to on the phone, seen a photo of. You want to be your best, maybe even put curlers in your hair. You don't really know this person and the internet is still sometimes a scary place to meet strangers, so you take your time until you're sure this is not an axe murderer.

That's how it worked for me. Then we moved in together. Now we are both so busy we have to make dates in order to go out and have a good time together as a couple.

Also, as far as sex goes: I think there's a lot more variation than people are letting on here. My friends are all pretty much mid-20s, politically moderate or liberal. Some of them will sleep with anyone they like. Some will make out with anyone. Others will have oral sex with anyone. Some will avoid oral sex until they know a person well, even having sex first. Others don't distinguish between oral sex and making out at all. Some like to cuddle. Some won't have sex with people unless they're in a serious relationship. Some are never in a serious relationship. Some are in committed non-monogamous relationships. Some are in monogamous non-committed relationships. None of them are married, yet, although that's changing soon.

There are a lot of media depictions of how people are and how people should be, sexually. Within the individual relationships that I've navigated and that I've seen friends navigate, it seems like we're pretty much all free to sleep with or not sleep with people according to whatever rules we are most comfortable with. To be slutty or prudish without being sluts or prudes.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:58 PM on May 19, 2004 [1 favorite]


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