Dating Don’ts: How To Tell Dates From Non-Dates

So, I’ve still been thinking a lot about the New York Times’ assertion that courtship has kicked the bucket. I jotted down some thoughts about that. You can read them here. One point that the piece makes that I agree with is that lots of daters out there — men and women both — are unclear about the difference between a date and a non-date. Let’s review a few “dating experiences” cited in the piece…

30-year-old Shani Silver got asked out on a “date,” but didn’t hear from the guy until 10p.m. when he texted her and said: “Hey, I’m at Pub & Kitchen, want to meet up for a drink or whatever? … I’m here with a bunch of friends from college.”


“I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing — going to an event, a concert,” says anonymous dude.


25-year-old Lindsay recalled a “non-date” where after an evening when she exchanged flirtatious glances with a bouncer at a Williamsburg nightclub, the bouncer invited her and her friends back to his apartment for whiskey and boxed macaroni and cheese.


34-year-old blogger Anna Goldfarb complained that she frequently receives the “typical, annoying … last-minute: ‘Is anything fun going on tonight?'”


29-year-old Cheryl Yeoh “said that she has been on many formal dates of late — plays, fancy restaurants. One suitor even presented her with red roses. For her, the old traditions are alive simply because she refuses to put up with anything less. She generally refuses to go on any date that is not set up a week in advance, involving a degree of forethought.”


Yeah, there’s some definite confusion here. I don’t have a clue as to how to solve our socio-cultural dating problems. There’s not  much I can do to revive courtship. But I sure as hell can clarify the difference between a date and a non-date.

Let’s review. Below, the breakdown of a date vs. a non-date and what you should expect from both:

The Characteristics Of A Date:

1. Someone asks someone out in advance. It doesn’t matter who does the asking, or how, but someone does it. And more than 30 minutes in advance. Let’s say at least 24-hours in advance just to be safe. There is an agreed up day and time for said date. Maybe there are no exact plans until the day of, but you know that on Thursday night after work you and Joe or you and Jane are going to spend time together. That’s a date.

2. You go somewhere. It doesn’t matter who plans it. If Joe comes up with a plan or if you do or if you and Jane collaborate, but you plan to do something together. This could be as simple as getting a cup of coffee, or it could be as elaborate as taking a flying trapeze lesson. I did that on a date once. Really fun!! IMO, a date must include a shared activity for it to be a date.

3. You are alone, just the two of you. Unless it’s a polyamorous type of situation, or you agreed upon it in advance, there should only be two people on the date. Not the two of you and his college buddies. Just you and him or you and her being alone together doing something at an agreed upon time. That’s a date!

What You Can Expect Of A Date:

Well, not much really, I’m sad to say. People can be weird. But I think it’s safe to expect that when going on a date both of you are there to see whether or not a romantic connection exists between you. That’s about all.

The Characteristics Of A Non-Date:

1. Hanging out happens spontaneously, or last minute. No one asked anyone. You had not planned to be together, but rather ended up together. You met at a club in Williamsburg. You ran into each other at a party. You got a late-night text asking, “Sup?” And now you are together.

2. There are more than two people. If he invited you and all your friends back to his place for some whiskey and mac n’ cheese, it’s most definitely a non-date. I once found myself on a date that turned into a non-date the minute he told me all of his friends were meeting us at the concert. I went home pretty soon after that.

3. You’ve don’t leave the person’s apartment or dorm room. If the plan for your date was to go over to one of your places and cook dinner and watch a movie, fine. But if you are invited over to someone’s place to hang out and don’t leave or do anything, that’s a non-date.

4. It’s presented as a professional exchange. If colleague/co-worker/friend asks you to get together to talk business, that’s a non-date. It could turn into a date if both people want it to turn into a date, but it’s not presumed. You are there to talk about business until notified otherwise.

What You Can Expect Of A Non-Date:

Nothing. Seriously. Nada. You should not assume that there is any romantic future awaiting you on your non-date. Could romance evolve? Sure. But really, don’t expect it. More likely scenarios to evolve from a non-date scenario: hookups, FWBs, friendships, work connections.

I am committed to making sure we’re not confusing dates and non-dates here. So, let me know if I missed anything.