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March 21, 2005


I have been privy to many speculative discussions about what constitutes a "date."  This is something that many guys are never quite sure about because it is one of those areas where if you agree with women you will probably be right for all practical purposes, but in which it is nearly impossible to discover the exact principles of the calculus by which they make this judgment.

I found an interesting answer listening to a program on NPR the other day wherein a reporter was interviewing sailors on an aircraft carrier in order to discover what the Navy life is like.  Of course, women are permitted to serve on board (they made up about 12% of the crew of that particular ship) but as a matter of discipline (as is eminently understandable) there is to be no "fraternizing" between the sexes (that is, behaving in a way decidedly different than one would treat one's actual brother or sister).  The captain explained this as "no dating."  He said that if he saw two sailors getting a little closer than duty permits, he would ask them if they were on a date, then when they said "no sir!" reply, "then don't make it look like it!"  When the reporter asked what was the line at which interaction began to count as a "date," the response was "walking close together, possibly with heads leaning towards each other" or sitting "closer than two butt-widths apart."  That makes perfect sense in the context of Navy discipline, but could produce some amusing conclusions when applied to civilian life.

By this standard, Mike and Sierra have been on many, many dates.  In fairness, that time when Lacy and I were sitting on the couch in Michelle's office talking to Michelle technically counted as a "date;" however, the "pillow of chastity" having been deployed between us, I don't think even the good captain would have counted it (sorry, inside joke).

Posted by Thomas A. on March 21, 2005 at 03:49 PM | Permalink


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I must say, it is quite amusing to discover that at least some of the substance of "boy talk" is the same as that of "girl talk."

First, a qualifier: The boys at the CSC (and the ones I imagine Thomas to have had these discussions with) are wonderful, treat women as the deserve to be treated and are all around good men.

But I think what constitutes a date would be made much clearer to them if once in a blue moon they actually asked women out on something resembling a date (dinner and a movie, for example. Making her pay for dinner at Chipotle and and then taking it back and eating while watching a movie at the CSC with 12 other people does not count).

The women of Catholic Girl Talk (www.catholicgirltalk.blogspot.com) are happy to announce that they are soliciting thoughts from both sexes on what constitutes a date.

Posted by: Therese | Mar 21, 2005 5:51:18 PM

"I usually can't stay good friends with guys who ask me out."
"I need to know a guy really well before I'll go on a date with him."

These are just a couple of the comments I have heard from CSC girls when discussing dating. So, I always laugh when I hear girls complaining about guys not asking them out (see Therese's comment above). Maybe if guys weren't scared of losing a girl's friendship, they'd be more likely to ask them out. In the case of the second quote, the girl was saying that she'd rather hang out with a guy to talk and get to know him better before going on a date. However, according to the rules in the original post, she's already dating him.

Another thing: Although I agree that the guy should do the asking, IT IS OK FOR A GIRL TO SHOW SHE IS INTERESTED. This may mean doing more than checking his away message 90 times per day,or putting in yours that you enjoy a restaurant he's mentioned going to. It often seems the opinion of many CSC girls that actually doing anything is being too forward. The following is an actual conversation I've had with one of them. I've had similar conversations with others. Me: "If you like him, why don't you do something?" CSC girl: "I walked by him twice."

Posted by: Mike | Mar 21, 2005 6:58:02 PM

I must be wary how I respond to these posts...the Internet has eyes you know...

First, I will solve everyone's problems by issuing what I consider to be the ideal working definition for a date. A true "date" must consist of three action components: 1) food, 2) a cultural event, and 3) a social outlet.

Food may consist of dining out or in (though I recommend the latter only if you are capable of preparing something). Food is key because it shows the ability to provide for a date's needs (this is necessary for basic, primal dating schemas) and also so that people just don't get cranky halfway through the cultural event (I learned that playing the Sims).

A cultural event may consist of cinema, film, concert, a special museum exhibit, dancing, etc. The clever date-planner will find which of these his or her date prefers, and will find a showing which matching the date's particular tastes. Note: I can't stress how important it is for the person doing the inviting to plan something around what the person being asked would like. There's few things in life worse than being invited as a third wheel to someone and their own ego.

Finally, the "social outlet" may mean going out for dessert, coffee, or a leisurely stroll through a scenic location. What is important here is the opportunity to communicate with one's date -- and, hopefully, the cultural event will provide ample topics of conversation. This is by far the trickiest part of the date. My only advice is to ask lots of questions, and don't mention your action figure collection!

Of course, there are qualifying factors. For instance, I would argue that both parties must be aware they are on a romantically inclined-date prior to commencing the date. The platonic date is only a date in name.

Finally, some tidbits:

MEN: Be polite. Be chivalrous. But, by all means, if the woman tries to pay for something, don't refuse her if she insists a third time. Chivalry is no longer chivalrous when it denies a lady her choice to show her appreciation through mutual generosity.

WOMEN: You have the hardest task. You will never find Mr. Perfect, but you should never sell yourself short either. You're going to have to decide what habits you can live with (like action figure collections) and what habits you can live without (like being a jerk). Guys are generally too stupid to know when they are in bad relationships, so they are pretty much at the mercy of the woman.

Posted by: PeterTerp | Mar 21, 2005 10:34:55 PM

I think many men at the CSC would do well to read Peter's post for pointers, and I think many women at the CSC would do well to read Mike's post and recognize the ridiculousness of much of what we do.

As for the first quote in Mike's post, I agree that it's pretty silly and I've never understood that mentality. Either you're mature or you're not. Either you can handle being civil and friendly with exes or you can't. Granted, some relationships end badly, and it's best in those cases for all parties to leave a lot of room. But both men and women in this respect generally just need to grow up, recognize that relationship sometimes end and move on without treating the ex like some sort of virus. After all, you did love the person for at least a while; they deserve to be treated like it.

In regard to women showing they're interested, CSC women could, I agree, do a better job of it. The problem, I believe, is that some women who have boyfriends have said they were forward with their interest at the beginning and now they feel they're left with all the weight of the relationship - planning dates, initiating conversions, etc. Plus, men, if you learn nothing from this discussion, learn this: Women need to be reassured. We're very affectionate, emotional people and we want to be wanted, not just tolerated.

As for the second quote, I agree with it generally. I would rather know a guy before going on a date with him. At least for me, as a woman, I'd like to know before getting in someone's car and being alone with him for several hours that I can trust him, I know others who trust him, that he doesn't expect "compensation" at the end of the night, etc. But I think the fact that the quote includes "really well" should be a wake up call to both women and men.

I think that CSCers (and women especially) have lost focus on what dating is really supposed to be about. It's OK to date a number of people before you find the right one. It's OK if we're not married and pregnant by 25. It's OK if things don't work out. Dating IS NOT meant to be an engagement - that's what engagement is for. You shouldn't date every person who walks in off the street, but you shouldn't hold people to some impossible standard only met in your dreams. It's OK if you don't know someone thoroughly before dating. That's what the whole process is for. It's OK to let dating teach you what you want and don't want in a future spouse and relationships in general. Women need to stop planning their weddings before they become engaged and men need to stop being scared that some day that'll actually happen. Dating is an important part of discovering one's vocation (this includes to the married, single and even religious life). Maybe we should stop spending so much time deconstructing it and start spending more time actually doing it.

Posted by: Therese | Mar 21, 2005 11:01:44 PM

I see that Therese throws down quite a weighty gauntlet.

It is not easy to "date around" in our day and age. I imagine that a lot of the problem has to do with modern pressures to become more "intimate" sooner in the relationship -- pressures which, no doubt, arise from the greater facility which dorms and apartments provide to those who are young and an amorous.

But back to my point...perhaps the biggest mistake I made in my undergraduate years was a protracted and unhealthy relationship with one girl. I know, I'm getting all squishy and personal...pretty soon I'll start using emoticons...but anyway...I had tried to prevent the inevitable trap of getting sucked into a first serious relationship, but I failed...even with an entire lexicon devoted to avoiding getting in a serious relationship. Ask me what a "female associate" is sometime.

One of the top twenty best things that ever happened to me was getting dumped. It was utterly liberating, and my life improved immensely, even if it was a less than pleasant ordeal at first. After three days of mopiness and a McDonald's milkshake, getting dumped could prove to be one of the most formative experiences of your life.

Breaking up is great--I recommend everyone do it at least once in their lives.

And don't be afraid to date around.

Don't be afraid to not get too serious too fast.

I'm not suggesting that it's a good idea to be a player. One of the benefits of maintaining a chaste lifestyle is that if you aren't doing anything you would regret later, then you don't bring any baggage with you when you date someone else.

Of course, these recommendations are aimed at the college undergraduate based on years of thorough investigative and experimental research.

At my age, many of these guidelines change...mostly because the purpose of dating starts to take a graver countenance.

Posted by: PeterTerp | Mar 21, 2005 11:45:11 PM

"Graver countenance"???

Posted by: Isabel | Mar 21, 2005 11:47:51 PM

I mean...er...it yields an even greater joy with even deeper personal connectivity demanding greater responsibility on the part of the lover...and lots of...warmth...and...goodness...and flowers and stuff...definitely lots of flowers...I wonder if flowers.com is having a sale...I think I'll have look...

Posted by: Peter Terp | Mar 21, 2005 11:50:39 PM

Flowers are nice.

Posted by: Isabel | Mar 21, 2005 11:51:22 PM

Leave it to our website to discuss theoretical dating instead of applied dating. Like does anyone know a good Chinese place in Bethesda?

The nice thing about limiting yourself to applied dating topics is that you tend not to use phrases like "graver countenance."

I spent most of last night laughing over that one...

Posted by: Al T | Mar 22, 2005 9:52:22 AM

"Leave it to our website to discuss theoretical dating instead of applied dating. Like does anyone know a good Chinese place in Bethesda?"

Finally, something I have the authority to comment on - Chinese food near Bethesda
4457 Willard Ave. Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Posted by: Boethius | Mar 22, 2005 12:55:27 PM

As a seminarian, I do not date. But, I think that I can add a unique perspective to this discussion. I would like propose another way of looking at dating and I hope that Thomas will step in and help me to develop this.

First, we must distinguish between dating and a date. Dating, I believe, can be seen as the participation of two individuals in a series of dates with the purpose of learning more about each other and enjoying each other's mutual company. It can be done with the purpose of seeking out a potential spouse, learning more about human relationships, or simply enjoying the consistent presence and companionship of another person.

A date is a specific event which possesses certain characteristics. I suggest that this event can be analyzed in terms of three components: form, matter, and intent. (Yes, I know, this is classic sacramental theology...but, hey, it could work.)

We begin with intent. In order for the event in question to be a date, there must be proper intent on the part of both parties. (Sorry guys, pretending that the event was a date doesn't work.) To this end, both individuals must acknowledge that the event has a romantic connotation. By romantic, I mean that there exists a healthy and appropriate sexual and emotional interest. (Remember, it is possible to be sexual without any sort of genital contact. – I should also note that I believe that inappropriate sexual components actually damage the relationship and turn it from situation of mutual self-giving into a situation of mutual self-gratification.)

Next we take matter. Matter can include: food, music, visual entertainment, or some combination thereof. In general I believe that date must involve some sort of sensory stimulus, be it auditory, visual, gustatory, etc. I think that part of dating involves the mutual sharing in a common experience. So, for instance, if food is present, in only one person is eating and the other simply watching, then it is really hard for the to be considered a date in any ideal sense – both must be eating.

Form is also important. Simply having the matter of dating present is not enough. Food is present at a grocery store, but this is hardly a date. Rather, with food, it seems much more date-like if one of the partners has prepared and served the food them self or if the food is being served in a restaurant. Another possible permutation on the food theme is that both partners have purchased food and they are eating together in a pleasant place such as a park. So, form would involv the matter being present in a way that both are enjoying it.

As I reflect on the issue of form and matter, what I have said may not be sufficient. Perhaps it can be formulated differently. Perhaps the matter is some sort of experience (food, movie, music) and the form is that it is experience together. Thus, even purchasing food at a grocery store could be seen as a short of date because it is a shared experience. Although, if you ask me, a grocery store would not be a very romantic date unless it was part of a larger event, such as the planning and cooking of a dinner together.

Another element of a date which seems necessary is that it is a unique event. Thus, just going over the other person’s house like you do everyday would not be a date. (That's right, your house and the other person's house should not be the same thing.) But, a Friday evening with a movie and some sort of special food would be a date. So, perhaps form would include the fact that the event must be unique or special in some way.

These are just some thoughts. I hope you enjoy them. As for me, I’m dating a Jewish Carpenter from Galilee.

Posted by: Joseph | Mar 22, 2005 3:04:15 PM

On a related note, this place is right next to us and apparently has good dim sum.


Posted by: Al T | Mar 22, 2005 3:42:19 PM

On a related note, this place is right next to us and apparently has good dim sum.
-Al T

Considering the context, I'm not sure I should say let's make a date of

Posted by: Boethius | Mar 22, 2005 4:05:52 PM

All the complaining about the courtship practices of men and women of the CSC is entirely unjustified. There are many good Catholic men and women who do not regularly habitate the CSC. If you don't like how CSCers do it, go elsewhere. I think the ideal way to meet a spouse is at some event that you both enjoy, like for me, a race, and then find out he/she is Catholic. I seem to remember one English grad student telling us how catholic means universal so everyone should be catholic. Indeed I've met two very nice catholic girls on the cycling team, though both have had boyfriends.

I'm inclined to think that if you share values beyond Catholic values the exact manner you express your affection will become less tricky(you should have a better idea of what kinds of dates your date likes, etc) since you already have a little bit deeper connection.

While it is acceptable to meet someone at the CSC we ought to keep in mind match making is not the purpose of any of the programs there.

Posted by: Neil | Mar 24, 2005 10:00:11 AM

"While it is acceptable to meet someone at the CSC we ought to keep in mind match making is not the purpose of any of the programs there."

Actually, when restructuring the over-21 groups at the CSC, one of the proposed names was GMM, or "The Graduate Meat-Market." Of all the graduate students who started at Maryland the year I did and went to the first graduate student event, I am the only one who did not end up marrying someone else who attended that first "boardgame night."

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least four marriages that came out of CSCers dating each other, and
a fifth one is on the way.

In all my six years at Maryland, I have never dated anyone from the CSC, the gossip-mill that it is.

Though the CSC trip to Blob's Polka Park has been good to me...

Posted by: Peter Terp | Mar 24, 2005 10:26:49 AM

Though none of the programs are specifically "match making," all of them are geared, in some way, to helping you discover your vocation. And dating, as we've already discussed, is one avenue of discovering one's vocation.

As for meeting people at outside events, that's fine, but limiting dateable people to those who only share your exact interests may put a limit on how many good people you get to meet. It's a great idea, but not one that works for everyone. Personally, though I love doing it, I have enough of journalism after dealing with it for 8 to 10 hours a day that I'd rather not date someone who's as into it as me. But I'm open.

And since no one's said it yet, I will. I think it's safe to say this discussion indicates, in one way or another, that there are CSC men wanting to ask CSC women on dates and there are CSC women waiting for the question from CSC men. Hopefully all this theory will be applied in some way upon return from Spring Break.

Posted by: Therese | Mar 24, 2005 11:29:22 AM

On dating someone with the same interests, I have this to say...you don't run into that many attractive women in the Target toy aisle.

It can be great to date someone who enjoys the same things as you, but, on the other hand, dating someone with different interests can also help you put your particular hobbies in perspective. I don't think I'd want to date a female version of myself. The hair alone would gross me out.

I think it's much more important to agree on the big topics, and reserve dramatic conflict for deciding where to get dinner.

That be established, can I just say you kids are starting to sound a little...I dunno...creepy?...odd?...bizarrely suggestive, maybe?

I mean, I know we're all running around with pseudonyms on here, but all this indirect flirting is starting to weird me out.

Posted by: Peter Terp | Mar 24, 2005 12:12:33 PM

Peter's the one who has posted more than anyone else - 5 times! - on this subject and we're weirding him out? Not to mention the doll - er, action figures - collection he has.

Posted by: Therese | Mar 24, 2005 1:36:42 PM

As for big topics and outside interests, I think there is some confusion. I'm not too gung ho on marrying a physics major cyclist, but I'd like to share something besides being Catholic with my wife. Even if we just really enjoy the same kind of music and meet at a concert that's a decent start. My contention is not that you can't or shouldn't find a mate at the csc, but that you should use all (or more than one of) your interests to look for a spouse.

We need not start a tally of who met whom where, but rather keep an open mind. You may meet a commuter someplace who regularly attends his or her home parish. And if you did meet a nice lady in the toy isle wouldn't that make for an interesting relationship? No one said she had to be exactly the same, just have something besides Catholism and physical beauty. No doubt, differences are mandatory as well though.

And as for people who meet at the csc, I'd imagine it's not a random Catholic guy gravitating toward a random Catholic girl, but rather there is probably some common interest besides Catholism. Music, action movies, who knows? I did make it clear in my first post that I thought meeting at the csc was acceptable.

I suppose I'm assuming that who ever will try my advice has interests besides a major and a religion.

Nonetheless, to get back to the bottom line if you don't like any of the guys or girls at the csc, you can find nice catholics elsewhere.

Lastly, I can never keep these stupid screen names straight, so I don't have a clue who's going to ask who out, so if anyone else is as clueless about such things then they are not alone.

Posted by: Neil | Mar 24, 2005 4:21:19 PM

Oh my, Thomas A! I just read this only today! So so funny!

Posted by: Lacy | Mar 28, 2005 10:16:13 PM

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