I have never had a romantic date anywhere near as good as the dates I have with my friends, by and large female. And that’s not for lack of evidence of trying with men in whom I’m romantically interested. I just have amazing friends, and we do amazing things together. If you’re not taking your friends on regular dates, including just coffee or a last-minute sleepover, I hope I can convince you to do so forthwith.
Let me start by saying I absolutely love dating — it’s one of my favorite pastimes. Not being in a relationship, mind you, but the activity of sitting down with someone over a drink or a meal to exchange ideas, learn about the other person, enjoy the environment, laugh a little, pry a little, and let the interaction flow organically.
Even in college, I loved going out to coffee with people on dates, some romantically and platonically. We were all poor and dinner dates were a pipe dream, but an afternoon in a quaint coffee shop talking about classes and studies and childhood experiences transported me far far away from the dreary nature of college classes and minimum-wage jobs. Those three dollar cups of mediocre coffee bought me ideas and enthusiasms and peeks into alternate realities.
Naturally, there’s a thrill to romantic dates that gives them a unique edge. All the butterflies, the physical primping, and mental preparation make romantic dates (mine, unfortunately, exclusively with men) terrifying in a wonderful adrenaline-and-heart-palpitations sort of fashion. But romantic dates can turn sour quickly for countless reasons, as there remains an unspoken evaluation being performed. Is this someone I could bring home? Would I be proud waking up next to this person? Will I be waking up next to this person? Is that what this person wants?
Friend dates are uninhibited by all the subtext and uncertainty and allow for the purest form of enjoying someone’s company. Sometimes my hair is washed, other times I’m fresh out the bed. We split checks evenly. We know we’ll keep sending each other memes after our time together is up. We don’t feel uncomfortable doing basic things like taking selfies, and we don’t feel uncomfortable getting really deep into stuff, from politics to relationship problems to more.
My friend dates are perfect because they happen when we want them to. We negotiate the time, day, place, and budget so we’re all on the same page. We know going into it what’s important to the other. I’m not nervous about whether they’ll like me or if I’ll be too real for them. And the people I go on friend dates with like doing the things that I like doing. We dawdle through history museums and learn together, remarking on the bourgeois propaganda that is the writing of the history books the whole time. We go to political comedy shows and laugh our asses off. We rally and volunteer together in the City of Lancaster. We hit up diners at 11 PM and just….talk about whatever for hours on end. It’s free and pure and wholesome. Afterwards, I feel like a better person having spent time with my friends.
And because I spend time on dates with my friends, I know them intimately. I can interact with them on deeper levels and buy them better Christmas gifts. I can better anticipate how they’ll react to national tragedies or small-scale heart breaks and offer them the support they need accordingly.
The same way that relationships become stagnant when a couple just “hangs out” and scrolls through their phones in each others’ presences, friendships can suffer from the same malady if they’re reduced to snapping on occasion and passive Facebook happy birthdays. Take your friends on more dates, both food-based and experience-based. See how they react to doing what they love with someone they care about.