How to Go on an Actual Date

Mastering the art of the proper romantic evening.

Ask 20 people what a “date” means or looks like and you will get 20 different answers —different etiquette, different expectations, different experiences, different everything.

Apparently most of us are just making it up as we go along.

Done well, a date is an art and a mystery. Few things are more intoxicating and memorable than a truly great date. Unfortunately, it seems the proper date is becoming a lost art.

Currently our culture seems to be caught in a paradox of not wanting to make a date that big of a deal (“it’s just coffee!”) yet still wanting a date to mean something special —for someone to make a big deal for them.

Strong desires for romance and equally strong fears of hurt, commitment or “missing out” clash and confuse. Often materializing as very weak behavior, as explored in a recent New York Times article on the end of courtship.

It seems the proper date is becoming a lost art.

Perhaps there is no better time than now to resurrect the art of the proper date—dates that matter, are brave and are done right.

A Date Should Matter

Like art, a date is the pursuit of something meaningful.

More than just semantics, making the word “date” mean something specific is important to hold onto. Otherwise, we end up the laziness, veiled intentions, all-or-nothing pursuits, hook-up culture, loaded expectations and all the rest that modern dating is so easily critiqued for.

Fortunately for Christians, the solution is clear. As the body of Christ, just because a man and a woman are together doesn't mean it is a date or their intentions are romantic. In fact, it is vital to this theology of relationships that it not be seen that way. Therefore, a date needs to be a clear, intentional act of pursuing a relationship.

What a relationship “is” matters. A proper date is the clearest way to avoid needless confusion or the ridiculousness that is constant defining-the-relationship conversations. Instead, we should be living and communicating with such conviction that a “DTR” is never needed.

Most importantly, a date should matter simply because people matter. Making a date meaningful is an act of showing others their immutable value. Anything less is just selfish.

A Date Should Be Brave

Like art, a date is risk to be embraced.

A proper date takes courage and the risk of personal investment. Many of the problems with modern dating are a result of being afraid to dive fully into the experience. Mistrust is winning out over decisiveness.

As a contrast, Christian romance should be a spectacle to behold. Our identity is in Christ, we are secure in the family of God, and we are to treat one another with a Christ like level of love, respect and sacrifice.

Freed to give and receive generous action with no thought of return, we get to and should be brave with our romantic gestures. We have opportunity (if not an obligation) to boldly show the depth of our love and vulnerability to others.

Our passion for life and treatment of one another should make a statement that what you are pursuing is worthy of great personal risk. Anything less is just fearful.

7 Ground Rules for a Proper Date

A great date truly is an artform. Attempting to orchestrate such a thing would be folly. No formula. All chemistry. That said, some ground rules help. For (at minimum) the first proper date:

  1. Is inspired: Art is original, not copied nor recycled. Going through the motions is cheap and disrespectful.
  2. Is asked by name: Be open to getting to know someone as friends outside of a proper date, but reject the “sneak-a-date,” which is the lowest form of pursuit.
  3. Is asked in person: If you are not ready to ask in person, then you aren’t ready for anything that follows anyway.
  4. Is asked well in advance: You have no obligation to respond to last minute hang out requests and lazy nondescript invitations. See #2.
  5. Is asked one at a time: No good can come from trying to cultivate romantic feelings for more than one person at a time.
  6. Is a three part date: This means “coffee” is not a proper date and never was. Sorry. If there is no plan the date is void. See #2.
  7. Is followed up the next day: The rest is up to you, but let nothing stop you from at least thanking the person for their time, no matter how the date went.

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Don’t settle for mediocrity. Pursue something meaningful. Embrace the risks of romance.


Anything less and I’m not sure what you are up to, but it is not a proper date. Let’s put it this way: If you ever have to analyze whether or not it was a date, it wasn't.

Stop trying to acquiesce to lame social-norm mating dances that aren't doing anyone else any good anyway. A proper date is the perfect opportunity to take charge and creatively show something unexpectedly greater to people in your life and to the world looking on.

Go big. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Pursue something meaningful. Embrace the risks of romance. Elevate the proper date to the artform it can be!

A version of this article appeared in September 2013.

Top Comments

Henry Michael Imler

1

Henry Michael Imler commented…

There seems to be a good bit of useful, constructive advice in there. (Unfortunately, it wasn't framed that way.) So I can see how some people would find the article helpful. Here is what I found helpful in the article:

1) Be an adult

2) Pursue what you want, don't be haphazard
BUT if you don't know what you want... I guess that is fine. Life is a process, not an abstraction, afterall. I'm willing to listen here.

3) Try to be creative
If that's your thing. See #1 below

4) Dating should pursue and end
(perhaps it doesn't, I dunno. I don't see any other point to dating (but I'm a married person, so my viewpoint is limited). Who the hell has time for time for anything else? I'm willing to listen to viewpoints here. I will say that courtship is a pretty screwed up patriarchal property transfer that should be burned with fire)

In addition to the helpful aspects of the article, there were quite a few problems from my vantage point (which is, admittedly, limited). Which mostly centered around

1) a false view of the special
Not everyone is a manic dream pixie girl - if you are, that is AOK, but some people like the mundane and these rules don't allow for that.

2) YAVMFAA
Yet Another Viewpoint Mistaken For An Absolute

3) where are the women?
Sitting on a bench passively waiting for Mr Nice Patriarch to take charge and be creative. Presumes a Marky-D "boys who can shave" worldview.

4) a confusing use of the term "the Culture" (see point 2)

5) a conflation of dating with art
for other people - did you all catch that? See below

6) clumsy legalism
7 rules? Only a 3-part date is a date? - Hello, Christian College, good to meet you.

Perhaps the most troubling part of the article was this quote:

"A proper date is the perfect opportunity to take charge and creatively show something unexpectedly greater to people in your life and to the world looking on."

No it is not. A date is primarily (perhaps solely) a cultivation of a relationship with the person you are with. It is not performance art nor a means to any other end. Screw "the World" looking on. Screw the other people in your life.

Stop worrying about what "the Culture" or "the World" is doing, saying, or watching. Grow up and cultivate a good relationship, I say.

So, that's my point of view and thoughts as a person with a limited viewpoint. I'd love to listen to what others have to say.

Matt Siewert

9

Matt Siewert commented…

I agree on principle with everything the author said. I think way too many people, myself included, intentionally leave a "date" ambiguous because they haven't done the hard work of having to figure out if it's worth in the first place. In my experience though, I think we need to be careful of pursuing a first date as an "art form" because that approach can actually backfire. I've gone all out for initial dates before, and what ends up happening is that I confusingly communicate an emotional seriousness with my actions that I haven't actually attained on a heart level with the other person. On the one hand, there's no doubt about whether or not I care. But on the other hand, it's left the girl feeling like I'm more interested than I am. It's a first date and you don't always know those things yet! The mentality in this article can lead to a "too-much-of-a-good-thing" syndrome, IMHO.

25 Comments

Nate Clark

1

Nate Clark commented…

Great Article, it was very helpful and makes me really think about pursuing a girl in the future.

I did have a big problem at the very end. Using the word "lame" is giving into culture, describing something as if they were a person who cannot walk properly. This word is so engrained in culture, like describing things as gay or retarded. If we are truly Christians, we should not be using these demeaning words to describe other less than cool nouns.

We are all created in the image of God, and loving others who are homosexual, have a disability, or a learning disability is essential. Please help us to love others by not using these words, especially in a Christian magazine. Thanks

Liz

1

Liz commented…

I wish I could find this magic dating dust that Relevant is trying to sell. I think the fun part about dating is that there aren't rules. I mean, maybe calling 3 days after the 1st date (NOT THE NEXT DAY). Relationships and getting to know people isn't some fixed thing.

P.S. Not having to have a DTR? I'm not entirely sure what's wrong with a DTR. I think a DTR is communicating and being honest.

Matt Siewert

9

Matt Siewert commented…

I agree on principle with everything the author said. I think way too many people, myself included, intentionally leave a "date" ambiguous because they haven't done the hard work of having to figure out if it's worth in the first place. In my experience though, I think we need to be careful of pursuing a first date as an "art form" because that approach can actually backfire. I've gone all out for initial dates before, and what ends up happening is that I confusingly communicate an emotional seriousness with my actions that I haven't actually attained on a heart level with the other person. On the one hand, there's no doubt about whether or not I care. But on the other hand, it's left the girl feeling like I'm more interested than I am. It's a first date and you don't always know those things yet! The mentality in this article can lead to a "too-much-of-a-good-thing" syndrome, IMHO.

Kenneth Mick III

6

Kenneth Mick III commented…

I disagree with rule 5. A date is not a commitment, thus there is nothing wrong with pursuing more than one person at the early stages. My dad wrote to two women he was interested in - the one who wrote back, that's who he continued seeing (and eventually marrying).

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