As we get ready to sign off on another summer Friday, take a moment to think about what's on your schedule for the weekend ahead.
Do you have a date planned? Well, good for you! Have an extra glass of expensive chardonnay for me.
However, if you're anything like me and my friends, your upcoming weekend is going to be filled with more casual outings. A friend's birthday party in the park, coffee with an old college pal, a night out with the girls, another night out with a random assortment of people who have all tentatively promised to "see what you're up to," a round of bocce at the local bar (are my friends hipsters or old Italian men? You decide). And in between all that, you probably have a few emails to respond to and an unplanned Gchat session or two. You're young, you're single, you're suddenly living in a warm climate. Your calendar has all the makings of a truly fulfilling social life!
But is that all? Your social life may be great, but what about your love life? Wouldn't your Mom be worried about you going through a whole weekend without one explicitly romantic event on your calendar?
Forget Mom. As a young, single person, you are living in a post-dating world, remember? Any moment spent stressing over whether you have a date in the works is a wasted opportunity to engage with the romantic possibilities around you. The path to love now involves realizing that you already have guys in your life who, official titles aside, play various roles and fulfill different needs - your gaggle. Instead of focusing on dates, you should be figuring out who these guys are and how they fit into your life, always remembering to keep yourself open to any new men who you may meet and who may make solid additions to your gaggle.
Question: So once you realize that there are in fact guys in your gaggle...what are you actually doing with them? You're not really dating them, but they're definitely in your life and, once you open your eyes to it, in your romantic sphere.
Answer: You're going on Non-Dates with them!
What's a Non-Date?
A Non-Date is an ambiguous interaction, sometimes face-to-face and sometimes involving technology, that is not explicitly romantic but does not feel entirely platonic either.
Your days and nights are likely filled with Non-Dates, and the sooner you recognize that they can lead to romance - and fun - the better. Doesn't your weekend sound more exciting when you look at your plans and see the potential for the following Non-Dates to occur?
Networking-Non-Date - a Non-Date in which both parties meet up for supposedly professional purposes but end up discussing personal and/or flirtatious topics.
Think revealing drinks with co-workers, surprisingly fun coffee conversations with career contacts, and intriguing sidelong glances at networking events. At least you already have something in common, right? Your jobs!
Group-Non-Date - a group outing where you and another member of your group connect, flirt and talk mostly to each other but never actually separate from everyone else.
This is where birthday parties, sports leagues and nights out with the crew (his, yours or someone else's) come into play. If you both have a wide choice of other people to speak to, and you choose to speak to each other for most of the outing...that means something. Even if the words "date" and "roses" are never mentioned.
E-Non-Date - a series of online interactions, during which you and your correspondent share the personal stories, details and feelings that would have traditionally been discussed on the first few dates.
Techno-Romance strikes again! Gotta love it, because you can't escape it these days. Long email chains and getting-to-know-you AIM conversations can cover personal ground that might not have even come up during the first few dates. Allow that to count for something.
Surprise-Non-Date - a Non-Date where you arrive expecting a casual, platonic vibe and are surprised by the typically date-like atmosphere.
That old college pal? Oops, looks like he thinks you were meeting him for a real, live date! Too bad you're still wearing your kickball jersey. Follow Tim Gunn's advice and make it work.
Friend-Non-Date - one of many hangouts with a close guy friend who you know well, feel comfortable around, and are probably cuddling with (despite being "just friends").
"I'm going to just stay in on Sunday and catch up on Mad Men with Scott."..."Haha, oh no, we're totally just friends!" Right. Enjoy your Friend-Non-Date.
Play-Non-Date - a Non-Date that revolves around an inevitable hookup but is not plagued by the shadiness and disrespect of a booty call or one night stand.
Just because you met him at a bar doesn't mean that he can't be cute, smart and funny. You're pretty sure that he's all three! But you're also pretty sure that you're both getting some action tonight. Score.
Safe to say, I'd bet that you have some Non-Dates lined up for this weekend (even if you don't know it yet). Still not sure? Head over to the newly launched interactive "Date or Non-Date?" forum on my website, www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com, where you can upload your exact story and allow readers to commiserate, weigh in with their opinions, and vote on whether you were actually on a "Date," "Non-Date" or "Not-A-Date." Hint: if anyone brings a significant other, the correct vote is Not-A-Date.
And in the meantime, don't let the tradionalists get you down. Your life is jam-packed with romantic potential! Now it's your turn to have some fun with it.
Follow Jessica Massa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jessmassa