They Do Exist.

Making Out Isn’t A Date

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Hilary Sherratt. Last month she wrote “Singleness: They’re Never Going To Like Me” for us, and she blogs here. What is your definition of dating? Do you just ‘hang out’ or do you wait for a man to ask you out on a date? How is this affecting the way you value yourself (or don’t)? – Lauren

Of course it is! I told at my reflection in the mirror after returning from a hours-long, super-romantic, sitting-on-the-beach-where-the-stars-feel-aligned night in early August before college. It has to be!

I told my friends I was dating that guy. The one with the hair that flopped on his forehead, who met me at Starbucks three times, who made out with me more than that, who whispered in my ear that he thought I was sexy {and who doesn’t swoon over that?}. I told myself that it was just growing into a relationship, that the making out, the suggestive text messaging, the thrill of the unknown… it was on its way to dating. It was basically there. Isn’t kissing someone in your car essentially asking them out? Wasn’t his desire to lock lips just another way of saying, “I think you are beautiful and smart and interesting and funny. Can I take you on a date”?

My dating mistake? Calling a lot of things with guys dates that aren’t.

Making out? Not a date.

Running into each other on the sidewalk and talking for what feels like forever about everything under the sun, and staring deeply into each other’s eyes? Not a date.

“Hanging out” on my couch laughing and talking while I bat my eyelashes and he looks kind of oblivious? Not a date.

Shooting each other looks from across the table in poetry class, trying to communicate that oh, my, yes, you look amazing, so do you, what are you thinking, what are you thinking? Not. A. Date.

My story is littered with these encounters. Some of them were fun. Some of them were intense. Some of them made me believe I was really beautiful. Some of them made me believe I really wasn’t. But when I look back on the crumpled notes tied with ribbon I used to get in my school mailbox, or the empty Starbucks cups from the many passion tea lemonades I drank in late summer, or the little black dress I wore to Boston to go out to dinner and walk through the Public Gardens, or even the eyeshadow I picked out that makes my eyes look like thunderstorms and that I wore to impress them…None of that was dating.

Those weren’t dates. I don’t know what to call them, or how to hold them, or what kind of story they tell about my love life in high school and college. But I can tell you that there is a mistake in dating called, “That isn’t a date.” My heart has tried to build more hope in reading between lines, sandy kisses and midnight texts than it has in the idea that I am worth actually asking out.

I have taught myself that guys won’t see me, like me, and ask me on a date. Instead, I have made myself comfortable in the non-date-but-let’s-pretend routine: lots of flirting and attraction, a casual hanging out, a few phone calls, a few passionate moments, a familiar ache in the pit of my stomach that says, “Maybe this one is it” followed by the even more familiar ache of disappointment when he disappears, starts kissing another girl, starts dating another girl, or simply looks at you with a dumbfounded, “But we’re just good friends!”

I don’t know a lot about love. I know even less about dating, about what a real relationship looks and feels like.

I could write a book about the tangled webs of hopeful conversations and flirting and eyelash-batting and playful banter and walking close together to class and catching each other’s eye during a lecture and making out and being salsa dancing partners and emails and texts that I’ve gotten into with boys.

But I can’t write a book about dating, because as weighty and good as some of those things have been (and as educational) – they aren’t dates.

Making out isn’t a date.

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26 Responses

  1. That was my story for much of high school and college. Heck, even grad school! My friends and I called it pseudo-dating.

    October 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm

  2. jenniferbryant

    Um, yes. Absolutely. I've been there…I don't even want to admit how recently I've told myself this lie.

    October 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm

  3. " My heart has tried to build more hope in reading between lines, sandy kisses and midnight texts than it has in the idea that I am worth actually asking out."

    Wow. Right there sums it all up for me. Thanks for this Hilary!

    October 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm

  4. Hahahaha way to perfectly describe my "dating" history for the past year and a half ;)

    October 17, 2011 at 10:13 pm

  5. Katie

    It's amazing how many of us have fallen into the same trap! This was definitely me in high school and in college. What's sad about it is not only are we not living up to our full potential, but we're not helping guys out at all either! When I finally started walking with higher standards and refusing those "pseudo dates" I realized there are men out there that actually want to do it right as well. I haven't found mine yet, but I know for a fact they are out there, and in the mean time I'm running away from all of those "oops..that wasn't a date" situations as hard as I can.

    October 18, 2011 at 8:12 am

  6. I think maybe cell phones and facebook and twitter have made non-dating so much easier to fall into. How easy is it to just shoot someone a flirty texxt and ‘hey, let’s meet up for coffee sometime’ and feel better about it? I think we’re comfortable in this noncommittal world, that we are too afraid to want more because we will lose him to other girls who need less and give more. After reading this, I’m not sure how many real dates I’ve gone on, but I distinctly remember feeling guilty because I wanted to do something simple, go to dinner at a casual sit-down restaurant for my anniversary a few years ago. Granted, we had only dated six months, so it wasn’t even a year yet, but it felt monumental to me. Guys before that didn’t take me on dates. And maybe it’s because I, like others_ settled for less.

    October 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm

  7. ana

    Wow!! It's like you are writting from my heart! Thank you for sharing this!

    October 18, 2011 at 6:02 pm

  8. simplysweet

    I don't get this!!! I guess I've always believed that whomever you actually marry is your best friend. Thus, I don't understand why you can be close friends for years, members of the same church, co-leaders of a small group, know each other's entire family, be invited to family outings, and then it led to what I thought was dating. Hanging out just one on one walks, talking about our hopes and dreams in life, sharing about our crazy families. I questioned his intentions as he tried so determinedly to start kissing me before ever asking me out on an actual date. And I resisted, and communicated that I felt like God was telling me that we weren't ready for the aspect. And he turns around and pulls the, "you've always been a good friend" card. I'm sorry, but what the crap was all that then?!? I DON"T GET IT!! He continued to act towards me in a way that made everyone around us think we were dating, and I called him out on it; where he just proceeded to tell me that "I just get him and he just gets me and we just know what buttons to push with one another and that i'm too nice and he takes that the wrong way" Since that moment, i've avoided him entirely for four months, he attempted communication again and his family roped me in to a family dinner and a few run ins, where I was fine as long as I didn't ever look directly at him or give him the hugs that I did the rest of his family. I'm sorry, I just don't understand where I went wrong. I thought love was a friendship caught on fire. And now more than year of trying to move on and make healthy choices to move on and focus solely on my relationship with God it still sneaks up on me and I realize that I'm simply still frustrated with the whole thing. And I'm sorry if I got off topic, I understand the whole point of the earlier scenarios, but I guess I just don't understand what is defined as a date, b/c Lord knows i'm the overly cautious girl that prays about everything before I take one step that could lead to getting my heart broken with the understanding that that is sometimes necessary in the growing process.

    October 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm

  9. thegetalifeproject

    I find that even if I'm going on what seems to constitute a date, I'm afraid to ever call it that for two reasons: 1. I don't want to "scare him off." And 2. I don't want to potentially fool myself into thinking it's more, and then get hurt later when it turns into one of these scenarios. I don't think I consciously realized this until reading this blog post.

    I heard somewhere that girls are always worried they're "too much" and guys are always worried that they're "not enough." I know I definitely always try to play it cool (even if I don't feel that way), to act like I'm not as invested as they are (even if I am), lest I seem like I'm too much, lest I get my hopes up and end up looking and acting the fool…again. But no matter how cool I act and how much I tell myself how aloof I am, I wind up getting hurt anyway, and in the process I do myself harm by invalidating my own feelings and being dishonest with myself.

    Sorry for the long comment. So much good stuff on which to ruminate here! Thanks, Hilary.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:30 am

  10. Ruthie D.

    Great post! It's so easy to let boys & men get away with pseudo dates when we believe lies about ourselves & what we deserve. Midnight texts=not a date. Midnight kisses=not a date. Anything in a hottub=not a date. I wish I could have started sooner telling men, "Sorry that just won't cut it. You're going to have to give me more." Thanks for the great post, Hilary!

    April 23, 2012 at 11:46 am

  11. jaysuzanne

    Ugh. This one hurt to read. I can relate to so many things all of you are saying. The fear of being "too much" or letting him slip away to another girl who will take less and give more; the shame that comes from invalidating my feelings, pretending being so casual doesn't bother me, but hurting even more in the end; and even being frustrated over the fact that not only are we hurting ourselves, but we're enabling the type of behaviors that disappoint us by allowing them to continue.

    It's exhausting just thinking about it.

    I don't think there's an easy answer either. I think it takes a lot of willpower to start believing that we're worth an actual date when we've gone through this type of situation (over and over again for some of us), especially in our casual hookup culture. It's so difficult to repel the negative thoughts surrounding the subject — "Why am I not worth being treated with respect?" "What's wrong with me?" "What do I need to change about myself in order to be more worthy?" Etc, etc. I'm willing to bet many of us have traveled down the same path when it comes to accommodating our "dates" and we all know where it leads: a place of self-doubt, pain, and shame.

    I don't know how to effectively turn the tables in the easiest way possible, but I do know we're all worth the dates we long for. For me, my hope is to find the strength to carry out the behaviors of the woman I strive to be because I think that's the most important — to value and love who I am enough to stop the pattern of non-dates in its tracks.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:59 am

  12. ms1990

    This really hits home. I met a guy recently that sort of falls into the fun flirting category, and I keep wondering if there will be more… and then this article really stopped me dead in my tracks. I even talked to someone today about if I am just too intimidating and scare guys off or what the problem is. Thanks for reminding me that the right guy will want to actually ask me out and be up front about things, not act like this.

    July 8, 2012 at 6:46 pm

  13. Marty

    All these posts and not one describing what IS a date. Let me know what you expect and I’ll let you know if I am interested. One woman I know declared that if the man spends less than $100 it is not a date. I do not provide my good company to mercenaries. I think far better of myself that to believe that I need to pay for a woman’s attention.

    The best date I’ve had this year started with us attending a lecture on wine making and ended with walking through a classic car show.

    July 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm

  14. Jessica Eve

    Oh, my gosh. Wow!! It's crazy how I can be thinking about/working through/praying about an issue and then boom!! A blog post like this appears, with perfectly synchronous timing.

    With my experiences and at this point in my life, I'm actually coming from an opposite sort of place. I was homeschooled, homechurched, and not allowed to date (or even make friends!) until I was 19 years old. At 19, I got into my first serious relationship with a really nice guy – he wanted to marry me, we even got engaged, I was totally confused, and after a lot of heartache we called it off. Two months after that breakup I was with another great guy in a relationship who I had worked with for a year. He turned out to be pretty confusing and I was hurting waaayyy too much, so two weeks ago I broke up with him. And part of the reason (most of the reason) I did it (besides the issues in the relationship) was because I NEED TO EXPERIENCE BEING SINGLE.

    I have always wanted to do the flirting, the non-committal going out, the excitement of the attention and getting to know someone, maybe even the making out… all things I never, ever got the chance to do. And I don't think those things are a good idea for high-schoolers who are still just trying to figure out themselves and life, but I am about to be 24 and have never had anything like those experiences. At this point, I don't WANT another serious relationship. I know I'm not ready and they have been, frankly, exhausting.

    So I've decided to give myself permission to have a season to experience some of the things I never got to – freedom, making my own decisions, exploring a little bit. And it's gotten off to a great start. But the homeschooled, homechurched, no-dating-allowed mindset I've lived with for 23 years now has me struggling. All my life I've lived with mis-placed guilt and as I've become healthier, I've been learning not to fall into that trap of feeling guilty over things that really aren't sinning at all. But on the other hand, I don't want to become numb to things that SHOULD make me feel guilty.

    Last night I went on a date with a nice, cute guy (our second date) and he was absolutely determined to make out with me. (Actually, he was determined for more than that, but it was out of the question on my part.) I let him kiss me. I HAD NEVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE. I basically let a stranger kiss me. We made out. And it wasn't because I was overcome by passion (I am too uptight at this point to be overcome by passion with somebody I don't even know. lol) It was because I was wondering what it was like. That's all.

    Today… I've bounced back and forth between thinking it was pretty awesome and thinking how wicked I am.

    I'm struggling to find the balance. To negotiate this area of life BACKWARDS from the norm — as in, for the last 23 years of my life, my views on dating/relationships could have matched your great-great-grandmothers. So I've got the "wisdom" part of relationships down. I've done the whole mature and serious thing. For real. But something inside me is telling me I've GOT to have this other experience, too, or I'll never be what I could be in a relationship when I do find the right guy…. does this make any sense?

    So yeah… this post is good, and directly related to things I'm working through right now, but coming from the opposite end of the spectrum, with questions like, "Is flirting wrong?" "How do I make sure I'm not leading someone on?" "Does casual dating really mean I'm gonna end up divorced?" "Is making out just as bad as having sex?"… all these things I feel like I should know already at 24, but never really got the chance to learn.

    I am NOT about to throw my morals and standards out of the window, but at the same time, the limitations I've had on myself and the super-seriousness of my relationships thus far have been choking me and I want to be free. Any thoughts on this would be very carefully considered!!!

    July 9, 2012 at 12:47 am

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