Transitive property
August 1, 2010 5:30 AM   Subscribe

Sharing a fork on a coffee date. What's up with that?

I have been on several first dates recently, and on a startling percentage have been offered a chance to "touch lips by association": either taking a sip of her beer, sharing a fork (on a cupcake!), have a bite of a half-eaten (!!) apple, or a bite of her icecream. Now, some of this is good natured, would-you-like-to-taste-my-interesting-dish, but I'm pretty sure there's some flirting here [on the other hand, I said several. recently.] Maybe this is a way to nudge things physical on the first date?

Should I always accept? Is it a sign of attraction, or a test for me? Do you use this? Should I? Is this Cosmo tip #57? For what dishes / places / circumstances would this be inappropriate? Please be my big brother (sister) and tell me all about it!
posted by tintexas to Human Relations (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
sorry but that's a bit odd, and could signal a boundary issue. I mean, this is a first date, right? A first meeting? Did you know her before asking her out? If there's been little ground work laid, this is odd to me. She may be super attracted to you so take it as a compliment, politely say "no thanks, I'm good" and change the subject and move on. Only do things you are comfortable doing!!!
posted by dmbfan93 at 5:37 AM on August 1, 2010

but I'm pretty sure there's some flirting here

posted by atrazine at 5:37 AM on August 1, 2010 [13 favorites]

My god, ease up on the overthinking.

Anytime someone is willing to share germs with it's either good or at least neutral. They might really like you or just being friendly. Whatever. Try not to get hung on one specific act or detail, put it in context of the whole date and person.
posted by nomadicink at 5:40 AM on August 1, 2010 [12 favorites]

I don't think that you should think of these things as a way to nudge things into physical territory on the first date -- for some people sharing a glass or a bite of ice cream just isn't such a big deal. I would offer people sips of my beer without thinking twice about it -- here, try this, it's really good. In fact I went on a first date recently where my date ordered a beer and I didn't and he offered (and I accepted) several sips. I might not do some of those other things -- sharing apples, bites of ice cream -- on a first date, not because I think those are so very crazy, but because I don't know this person's boundaries that well on a first date and they might be germaphobes. Still, I think you're reading too much into this.
posted by peacheater at 5:41 AM on August 1, 2010

Are you serious?!

It's a willingness to swap spit. If you want to go straight to the source, accept.
posted by codswallop at 5:45 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like in most of these cases it's just been a method of generating a kind of non-threatening intimacy. I wouldn't go so far as to say they're trying to "nudge things physical", but maybe the inherent closeness of sharing a meal is just a good way to fast-track the creation of a bond. Having said that you should probably judge each of these instances on their individual circumstances. Offering a sip of beer sounds quite flirty, and sharing something small like a cupcake sounds fairly normal for a first date. But god knows why anyone would offer you a bite of half-eaten apple, that is quite weird.

I think as long as you have no real objection to sharing food or drink in this way you should usually accept an offer to share. It might seem rude or create an awkward situation if you immediately turn them down. But as for whether or not it is a test for, I think a woman would have to be fairly calculating and manipulative to offer food purely to make a judgement on you. I think a good way of looking at it is just to see sharing a fork as a simple, non-threatening way of getting close to someone, but if you think they were merely testing you or if they offer you a piece of half-eaten banana, maybe avoid a second date.
posted by Spamfactor at 5:47 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sharing food is a sign of affection. We're animals, after all. Sometimes people are going to use this as a test, it's true - if a guy is too wary to have a lick of my interesting ice cream or obsessively never double-dips a chip, I worry that he's not going to be able to handle my generally messy nature. But normally, if a person is offering you food, that means they like you enough to want you to share their experience, that they trust you're not going to get them sick, that they want you to trust them that they're not going to get you sick, and probably also that they'd like to consider you at least a friend. Friends share food.

Now, if the date is feeding you, that's different. That's absolutely direct flirting, with a sexual tinge. If they're popping something into your mouth with their hands, or holding the spoon while you take a sip of soup or something, that's definitely a direct invitation to more physical activities.
posted by Mizu at 5:55 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is significant. I think Mizu's got it right. You're not overthinking, but maybe overworrying.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:26 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I guess the disconnect is that I don't double-dip [not at parties, but not even at dinner with friends]. On a date I guess I should. I'm glad you brought up the banana. I think maybe it's a little clumsy on a first date, but it would be hot after that. Cupcakes are made to be fingerfood, so a fork is conspicuous. Maybe that's what makes it an obvious winner.

I think from now on I'll double-dip, and offer on anything I consider a date. Life's too short.
posted by tintexas at 6:26 AM on August 1, 2010

While I agree that it is a little offputting, no, I don't think it is boundary pushing.

I'd bet significant money that it is listed in one of those "10 First Date Secrets and Tips!!" lists in some magazine or blog somewhere. 'Offer him a bite of your food- if he flinches, run!" kind of thing.
posted by gjc at 6:32 AM on August 1, 2010

I think from now on I'll double-dip, and offer on anything I consider a date. Life's too short.

Go ahead and share if you want, but don't double-dip. That would be a turn-off.
posted by peacheater at 6:38 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

For some folks, this is not a big deal at all.

On Friday, I offered a sip of my very interesting beer to my (platonic) friend, the bartender, and a perfect stranger. They all accepted, and we discussed the beer.

Sharing a fork (an item that goes in the mouth) is definitely an attempt to create intimacy. Not necessarily an attempt for physicality, but definitely intimacy.
posted by Netzapper at 6:39 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

While it's entirely possible you're not overthinking this, it certainly seems like you are. Sharing food and drink is not the least bit odd for many people. I'm married, and I've shared beers and food with friends without thinking anything of it. Get to know your date so you can determine whether this is the kind of person they are. Don't extrapolate what you learn for future dates, since that future person could be entirely different.

Double-dipping is not relevant - it's a different thing entirely from sharing your own food with someone else.
posted by odinsdream at 6:45 AM on August 1, 2010

Think about what you want from this person. If it is to touch lips, have a forked cupcake. If not, then hey! You just learned that you don't really want a second date. Major time-saver.
posted by thejoshu at 6:49 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a dude, and at least for me, there's no big deal about trying someone's ice cream or a sip of their drink. I know plenty of people aren't like this, but I don't think it's a sign one way or another.

I n-th the notion that it is nothing like double dipping. In the fork sharing/sip taking scenario it's done will full knowledge and consent of all parties. Double dipping kinds throws your cooties in there for everyone regards of their feelings. Of course when I share peanut sauce for spring rolls with Mrs. Advicepig, you better believe we double dip. None of that stuff is allowed to remain uneaten.
posted by advicepig at 6:59 AM on August 1, 2010

Just last week when I was out, I had two separate strangers offer my friend and I tastes of their cocktails--in one case before, one case after they tried it. I'll offer a taste of a finger-food appetizer to a stranger who's struck up conversation. Now, if he/she is trying to FEED you with his/her fork (or fingers!), things are getting heavier.

My reaction was to say "it's just food!" but if I offered you a sip of my beer or a bite of my cupcake and you declined, you would be immediately written off, so maybe there's something subconscious there. If I offered you a spoonful of ice cream and you LEFT SOME ON THE SPOON (ew ew ew), you would have some serious damage control to deal with.

I had a boyfriend ask to try a bite my dad's meal when we were out for dinner with my parents for the first time. My family would NEVER touch each others' plates at home, especially my dad. He didn't know what to say. It was tres embarrassing/awkward. If you want to play it safe, wait for someone to OFFER first. If you want to be friendly or flirt, try "omigosh that looks great, I might have to steal some" which I've used with everyone from my boyfriend to my mom.
posted by ista at 7:17 AM on August 1, 2010

sorry but that's a bit odd, and could signal a boundary issue.

Be sure to blurt this out immediately when the offer is made. It might really cool things down in the moment, but later on, maybe even weeks later, when they're alone in their bed contemplating their personal problems, they'll thank you for the observation.
posted by hermitosis at 7:46 AM on August 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

How old are you?

Most of the time, when you go out on a date, the other person wants it to get physical. That's the whole point of going on a date.

As to the sharing food/drink/fork/whatever - I'd guess that it signals that she feels comfortable enough around you to not care if you mix cooties. It doesn't seem weird to me at all - I do the same with friends, S.O's, etc. It also implies that it doesn't matter if you swap germs, because you're going to be swapping them in much more significant ways very soon.
posted by Sara C. at 7:59 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are way overthinking this.

As to the sharing food/drink/fork/whatever - I'd guess that it signals that she feels comfortable enough around you to not care if you mix cooties. I do the same with friends, S.O's, etc. without putting any thought into it.

On the other hand, it's a highly individual thing. Either way, I wouldn't read anything into it beyond "this person is clearly not a germophobe".
posted by Sara C. at 8:13 AM on August 1, 2010

This thread is interesting to me because I do this kind of thing (well, at least, offering a sip of something or a taste of something else on a fork) all the time. I mean, if the person is obviously sick, that's one thing, but I figure I've got a pretty strong immune system and they probably do too. I guess I never thought of it as sexual flirting, more like low-key friendliness - if I'm having beers with someone and they ask me how mine is, I'll offer them a sip. I should also mention that I am not really one to push the envelope as far as intimacy goes, so if you were out with me and I offered you a sip of my beer, it would not be an indicator that I was trying to speed things up.

I guess offering them a sip without having been asked how it is is more clearly flirtatious, but again, not something I would think of as a come-on or anything. So it's definitely possible that some of the women you've been out with feel the same way and would probably be surprised to hear someone say they thought it was more meaningful.

Offering a bit of a half-eaten apple to someone you barely know, on the other hand, just seems a bit kooky. But again, people have all sorts of different attitudes towards this stuff. Maybe she grew up in a family where everything was shared, for instance.
posted by lunasol at 8:54 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow. Pretty interesting conclusions being drawn in this thread. Here's mine....

On a date, especially an early date, you're trying to establish common ground, find out where you stand, find out what makes the other person tick and see if there is a spark there. And, while there are a lot of dating tip lists out there, I don't know of a single person that keeps those tips in their mental Rolodex and uses them on an actual date. (Perhaps you do?) So, let's strike that off the list as it makes the people involved look like boobs.

For some people, as has been said, food sharing is no big deal. If you're sipping interesting beers or at a restaurant with interesting food, sharing and discussing that is just another way to connect. Why do people like to go to wine tastings in a group? Because they want to try similar things and connect with others about them -- have a discussion that brings people together -- it's less socially awkward to discuss the wine in front of you than politics or sex.

Also consider if you're leading your date on with something like: "Wow, that looks really good!" Whether they want to or not, they may offer you a bite out of a feeling of obligation. I'm amused that you've been offered so many different kinds of foods that I'm thinking you're not a totally innocent party here.

So, I wouldn't necessarily call this a tactic in flirting which seems a little rote here. If this is flirting then they are flirting already and it's obvious. If they aren't flirting and they offer you a bite, it's not necessarily an escalation of flirting. In fact, I consider it no escalation whatsoever beyond "let's connect" which is what you're doing already because you're on a date. If a woman offers you a bite of her cupcake, it doesn't mean "kiss her." Sorry. You'll have to look for other clues.

Also, feel free to decline. When among friends, there are things I will sample and others I will not. This depends on a lot of factors and how drunk I am. But, have a friendly excuse: Oh no, I'm stuffed. I'm saving room for my dessert. Etc. But always take a sip of beer unless it's something lame like Labatt's.
posted by amanda at 9:01 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have seen this lately on eharmony type commercials--where the date is "sharing food" it's an advertising trend... in the 50's there was the 2 straws in the milkshake thing. Dating is not meant to be's "historically" supposed to be fun and funny and flirty. Share the food, but if you don't have any spark with the person sharing food might send a mis-signal.
posted by naplesyellow at 9:22 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't know, I wonder if you may well be overthinking. If we go out for cupcakes, and I get a chocolate cupcake and you get a vanilla cupcake, I'm going to be very inclined to offer you a bite of my cupcake in the name of this shared cupcake experience.

Whether I offer it to you on my fork or your fork is entirely about me an not you - I would offer mine, because I'm a very relaxed, informal person with no germ-phobe issue and not a single anti-bacterial product to my name. My sister, however, would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS offer her fork to you, to me or to anyone else, and would probably pre-clean the table with wipes.

posted by DarlingBri at 1:35 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing that it's a friendly and comfortable gesture. At my workplace (the firehouse), and my second home (the CrossFit box I frequent), we think nothing of sharing food and drink with each other. Rarely, if ever, are there sexual overtones; mostly because we're all family and want everyone to enjoy the same level of gastronomical delight.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 8:49 PM on August 1, 2010

It's flirting and a major green light. If you don't fuck it up, kissing will happen a few hours after observing this behavior. Seriously. Like with tongue and everything.
posted by Muirwylde at 11:44 PM on August 1, 2010

In my loose group of friends, we tend to be pretty open about this kind of thing. Like, even someone I barely know at a party will offer me a sip out of their pint glass if I express interest in the beer they're drinking. It's not a big deal.
posted by statolith at 10:08 AM on August 16, 2010

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