As a perpetually single 20something, me claiming that dating sucks/is hard/is the worst/makes me want to become a nun isn’t anything monumental. We all know this; It’s a universal truth. And the uphill battle of finding compatible prospects has only become shittier with free dating apps that more or less track targets who are in heat.
But the absolute worst concept to come out of the single world in the last few years, by far, is the “hanging out” epidemic. Our generation of 20somethings has single-handedly taken the concept of traditional dating and whittled it down to a pile of “just hanging out.” We have, somewhat unknowingly, pigeon-holed our dating experiences by all somehow contributing to the livelihood of this terrible concept. So, next time you see a new dating situation going down this dark, casual, unforgiving road, try these tactics to ensure you don’t get stuck “hanging out” ever again.
1. Deactivate your free “dating” apps, like, yesterday. Tinder, Hinge, even Lulu (because, really, how much is that crap gonna help you?). If you’re seriously serious about wanting an actual chance at a relationship with someone, chances are very high that trying to find such a thing by way of these free apps is a huge waste of your efforts. Not saying that single individuals haven’t actually found true love or at least intense like from using them, but I’m sure the ratio of weird and mostly sexual situations to long-lasting, fulfilling situations isn’t even close to even. People on these apps are most likely bored, horny, and unwilling to put in any real effort. They’re time-passers, so don’t get all pissy when your new prospect’s idea of a date is “coming over” or the promise of you two “chilling and watching a movie.” That’s all on you, baby boo.
2. Run at the first “if you want.” Someone ending a half-ass date invitation with “if you want” or “it’s up to you” is basically a huge construction sign that reads “HANGING OUT AHEAD. EXPECT DELAYS UP TO A FEW YEARS.” I know men can’t read our minds (they remind us of this fact all the time), but if they actually still throw these phrases on the end of invites, they are dumb. Which means they are dumb enough to think they can trick you into entering their “hanging out” world. Don’t prove them right. Have enough self-respect that you expect a solid, hard time for a date, and a somewhat heartfelt invitation. Otherwise, you’re just blatantly ignoring that huge warning sign and are gonna get lost on your way to Real Relationship Road.
3. Avoid the couch at all costs. At least for the first few weeks, if you can. I consider myself the number one offender of this rule. I love my couch. Nay, I love my home. I am a person who feels the most comfortable when surrounded by my things and, because of this, have made the blunder time and time again of inviting males into my comfort zone way too early. I’m not talking about sex; I mean I literally let guys step foot through my front door and sit on my couch with me too soon into things. The first time you cross that line and allow a guy to sit down on your couch inside your home, there’s no working backwards. To him, it’s you nonverbally saying “This is chill. We’re casual. Come hang.” There’s plenty of time to veg on the couch later down the line when things are more established, but in order to avoid the “hanging out” label, you must also avoid “couch dating.”
4. Don’t settle for anything less than a real date. “But what’s a ‘fake’ date?” You ask. A “fake” date can be any number of things: sitting on the couch watching TV or a movie, meeting for a drink then going home to sit on the couch, meeting up with him and his friends, going to a really super casual and inexpensive sandwich shop. The list goes on. By societal definition, a date is a pre-planned, pre-meditated activity, in which two people who are definitely at least somewhat romantically interested in one another partake in together. It’s not a spur-of-the-moment or last minute “if you want” kind of deal. A time is set, a place is chosen (either shared or kept secret by the chooser), best feet and faces are put forward, dates are picked up in a real life car, doors are opened, and flirty/laughy times are had.
5. Call him out on his bullshit. Once you’ve been in the dating game a while, you should reach a point where you know what you’ll put up with and what you won’t; You’ll be able to sniff out a “hanger outer” from 20 feet away. Put to use all you’ve learned from your various dating adventures, and don’t be afraid to call a dude out on his crap. It’s not the most fun thing, and you never want to look like you’re being a bitch, but it’s only because you’re acting like a bitch. But a bad bitch – not a regular bitch. There’s a big difference. Example: “Hey Bob, it’s been fun ‘hanging’ with you these last few weeks, but TBH, I’m not into the whole couch dating scene. I like to be courted and go on real dates and maybe get to really know someone in order to gage whether or not I want to get naked with them and only them for an indefinite amount of time. If that’s not what you’re looking for, that’s totally cool. I just want to be upfront and on the same page. ::insert some sort of tension breaking emoji here::” Or something along those lines.
6. Be upfront about what you’re looking for. Seems like a no-brainer, but the majority of us are so desperate to have romantic attention at all that we quickly and easily forgo our heart’s true desires. Can we all just stop feeding ourselves bullshit for two seconds?!? If you know you’re not the casual type of dater who can “hang out” for an undetermined amount of time with no real promise of commitment or a future, then fucking own it. State what you want right out of the gate, and don’t renege on it. If you want real dates, and real conversation, and real courtship that all leads to a real relationship DO. NOT. SETTLE. FOR. HANGING. OUT. “I’m not looking to date around. I want a relationship” or “Instead of me coming over to sit on your couch and awkwardly sweat until we start making out, let’s go grab dinner” or “I don’t hang out. I date and become a ‘girlfriend.'” If any of these statements send a dude running, let ’em.