10 Queers on How They Figure Out if It’s a Date

Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor

I have never one single time assumed any situation was a date unless I or the other person explicitly said, “Let us go on a date at this time at this place, and once we are there, it will be a date!” Which is a thing that has actually gotten me into a lot of trouble in my lifetime. Everyone always thinks I’m flirting with them because I’m generally warm and engaged and I ask questions and laugh easily and am tender and free with compliments and I make good eye contact and I touch people when I’m talking to them. I have been yelled at about this so many times, after the fact, due to “leading me on” and that is never my intention! I have also been yelled at for “not taking a hint” that someone was flirting with me. My partner Stacy never yelled at me about this. She just said, plainly, “We are going to sleep together tonight.” And I said, “Oh, okay!” And we did and that was that.

Erin , Writer

Rarely do I want to go on a date with someone and them not know it, so I don’t find myself in this stalemate outing scenario much! It’s more often that I find myself in the reverse scenario, where I’m unknowingly on semi-date with someone, which I find out when the person asks “Are we on a date?” out of nowhere and based on no real indicators that it’s a date, which to be fair works in both cases. Just ask if you’re on a date! Clears things up pretty quickly.

Rachel Kincaid, Former Managing Editor

Because I am a fucking dumb dumb and also have a healthy dose of skepticism about anyone’s desire to actually date me, I almost never trust that something is a date until somebody has successfully initiated making out. For this reason, I try to use some pretty clear context clues when planning seeing someone new, like explicitly telling them I think they’re hot or saying “X sounds like a really great date,” and I always really appreciate it when someone does the same. Personally I’m not a huge fan of being called pet names or flirty names by someone I’m not like somewhat seriously dating, BUT adding any explicitly flirty vibes or language can help make the friend hangout vs. date distinction clearer! There’s a big difference between “Leaving work, see you for drinks at 6!” and “Hey cutie I’m leaving work now, can’t wait to see you at 6! 😘”

Carrie Wade, Writer

I’ve always had this question resolved for me, as in “wait it out to see how the other person behaves and respond accordingly.” It’s worked out positively for me at times — but is still not an approach I would recommend (take control of your own life! It’s okay!). If I were in this situation now, I can only hope I’d have the fortitude to just ask and get it over with. I have a lot less patience for weird emotional tension now than I did in my early dating years. I no longer think it’s “fun” or “part of the experience.” So: do I say, not as I did, kids. Save yourself the trouble. I believe in you!

Valerie Anne, Writer

For me, it’s the post-event text. “I had a really great time today, we should do it again sometime” implies to me that they considered it a date. That’s always an alarming text to get when I personally hadn’t thought it was a date to begin with! This happens to me a lot because I can be obtuse when it comes to these things.

Molly Priddy, Writer

I am good at confirming these things because I ask very bluntly: “Is this a date to you? It feels like a date to me.” Also, if I have an inkling, I say, “This is really cool and you’re great, can I kiss you?” If she/they say no, then I say OK cool! There’s my answer, not necessarily to the date question, but about where she/they are.

Sarah Sarwar, Design & Marketing Director

I used to have trouble with this when I was younger because I never asked! Not before, not during, not after! I just didn’t have the communication skills to express that I wanted the outing to be a date, or the observational skills to know if it was. I recently moved to a new city, so I am socializing with new people regularly — people I meet at parties of mutual friends, acquaintances that I’ve hung out with in groups and now hang with one-on-one. The question exists, are these social plans dates? I think asking the “is this a date?” revolves around a few things: Do I want this to be a date? Are the plans are particularly cute or date-like (like a rooftop movie night, for example)? Are they being flirty/doing date-like things like opening doors or offering to pick me up, etc? If it’s a yes for all three, then I usually just work some form of the question “is this a date?” into  our conversation. The only way to find out is to ask! JUST JUMP INTO THE FOGGY UNKNOWN I BELIEVE IN YOU!

Stef Schwartz, Vapid Fluff Editor

I tend to assume it’s not a date. Even if it is a date from a dating app, I’m never quite sure! I’m terrible at knowing whether or not another human being is flirting with me, so I think I end up surprised at the idea that the thing was a date more than the other way around.

I have figured it out by explicitly asking if we are going on a date before we go on the date/not date. I’ve been told that I’m an unusually direct person. I’ve just always thought its less awkward to ask than it is to not. Otherwise you’re stuck going out with whoever it is and spending the whole time trying to decode someone’s behaviors/vibe/whatever while your hormones are doing whatever they’re doing. That’s not a good look for me, so I just ask. It’s been great every time!

Vanessa Friedman, Community Editor

Like so many of us, I have been on countless “dates” with other women and nb folks where I have been left wondering if we were hanging out as friends, potential romantic partners, or something in between. However, this past spring I decided that we’re all gonna die one day and I’ve gotta get real honest about what I’m doing on this planet and how I’m spending my time. Then, a mega babe DMed me on Instagram (my favorite dating app) to compliment a cheese board I’d made myself for dinner (see: we’re all gonna die one day, live your best life etc.) I asked if she’d like to come over one night and have me make cheese boards for both of us. She said yes. We picked a Monday evening (is Monday evening a date night?) and she left a cute comment on a selfie I posted that day. She showed up with sparkling water and a bouquet of purple flowers, to match the lipstick I was wearing in the selfie. I made us two elaborate cheese boards and we set up a blanket in my backyard and ate, drank, and talked for a few hours.

I didn’t get very flirty vibes from our conversation, and we weren’t physical at all, but we did have a nice time and she is a flirtatious person in general. Plus, she brought flowers? And we talked about astrology and our exes? I dunno, we’re gay. What does anything mean?!?  I could’ve just left these questions in the void – I wasn’t really in a place where I was looking for a serious girlfriend or anything – but I was curious. So I asked her! Y’all it was so wild! I just texted her, “can I be blunt? I’m curious if you felt date vibes tonight or if it was just a friend hang. Either is fine with me, just trying to be intentional with my communications and actions!” She wrote back immediately and clarified that for her it was a friend hang. Then we texted a little more about various things, and that was that! It was so nice to know! It wasn’t awkward when I saw her out dancing the next weekend! She was still flirty with me sometimes, but it was really helpful and soothing to my Capricorn brain to know definitively what our hangout had been for her and how I should categorize it for myself. 10/10, I would strongly recommend blunt direct communication when trying to figure out the answer to this age old queer question!

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  1. I had so many times where I should have just asked if it was a date. Like I remember this pretty redhead came over for a late night movie night and I was hopeful it was a date. Yet I didn’t make a move and neither did she. Then months passed by and she was dating someone else. I should have just asked!

    I was on the other side when I met my husband for the first time. We met on a dating app and he assumed we were just talking shop (since we both worked in the same business) while I thought it was a date. Funny how that one turned out!

    • Ha. My husband and I have different versions of our “first date”. On his first date with me, I thought I was having lunch with a work friend.

      Later, after I realized how much I liked him, I bravely asked him to dinner and a movie. He accepted but spent a lot of the evening wondering if it was a real date. At some point before the evening ended, one of us used our words and we declared it a date.

  2. Vanessa, living this platonic romcom we all wish we could live.

    I want this in a theatre near me soon!

    • Right?! Now I’m trying to see who I can hit up for some platonic cheeseboards and introverting in NOLA, for real.

      Gotta step up my ig game.

      • I’d offer, but I have food allergies and stuff like only feta tastes edible as an individual cheese. Everything else is supposed to be on or with a red sauce based dish or is just completely inedible it me.
        However I will advise you try taralli crackers, the best crackers.

        • The only feta thing is kinda wild, but I’m gonna trust your cracker recommendation anyway.

          🤔 There’s always tea.

          • My taste in cheese is admittedly wild, but my taste in carbs is that of a lifelong connoisseur. Taralli crackers are very cheeseboard friendly…unless you like to make lil sandwiches of cheese and crackers.

            But what to pair with the tea is an issue unless I bring my own nibbles, like seriously I’m currently recovering from a reaction to damn jello shot.

  3. I asked a girl once what would you consider this, she replied I dunno two people who like each other out for food. Then a few weeks later asked are we dating, and she replied maybe?

      • I’m sure I’m not the only lbtq person to say this, but still are in that queer grey area of best friends who get intimate all the time. I’m single she is non monogamous. Ahhh

  4. 1. I will second Molly, “Can I kiss you?” is a strong A+ move that I utilize often, usually to good results (when it’s a date).

    2. I’ve just started asking, because my ego can take it. It has saved me so much anxiety! I used to spend YEARS in friendship with women who I was like, do they like me? Is this a date, every single time we hang out? JESUS JEANNA GET YOUR LIFE TOGETHER. The time I could have saved. It was so deeply inefficient.

    Anyway, I ask now. Saves a lot of time.

    • just here to third the fact that “can i kiss you?” is a STRONG move and (in my experience) has always resulted in affirmative answers! (although obviously negative answers would also be fine and legitimate!)

  5. My wife and I hung out and watched movies/tv together while cuddling for two months before she finally got annoyed and kissed me. I had absolutely no confidence that it was dating until then, even though I really wanted it to be.

    • Whoa there! Let’s not get carried away with ourselves! I am still unable to chair properly, I certainly am not about to try for mature adulthood.

  6. Possibly this is just my browser doing a weird thing, or possibly Valerie Anne and Molly Priddy are actually a hive mind who forgot to put two different responses under their bodies’ different names. Or possibly an edit is called for? I like the hive mind explanation myself, but if that’s true I wish you’d just be honest about it. It’s ok, really. You do you. Even if “you” is one mind in two bodies. We’ll still support you. (See, I’m taking everyone’s advice and using my blunt communication skills, so that I don’t have to spend the rest of the evening wondering if this was supposed to be a hive-mind thing…)

  7. “Everyone always thinks I’m flirting with them because I’m generally warm and engaged and I ask questions and laugh easily and am tender and free with compliments and I make good eye contact and I touch people when I’m talking to them.”

    Heather, I am like this, too! Coupled with my total inability to tell if someone is flirting with me, my friendliness has landed me in lots of mixed-signal situations. 😬

  8. hi somehow i didn’t contribute to this roundtable which is funny b/c i have thoughts, mostly that i have never really thought about this! i would think that you go on friend dates with… friends. like people you already know? unless there’s a potential professional connection there and then it might be a stranger, but i would assume it was a potential professional connection. sometimes i wonder if i have made subconscious assumptions based on gender presentation or other elements of somebody’s “type” w/r/t hanging out with somebody who knows my general type or I know theirs, and if they match up it means one thing and if they don’t then it doesn’t.

    the thing is if you’re hanging out with somebody and it might be a friend thing or a date thing and you’re not sure, just approaching it as a friend thing doesn’t preclude the possibility of a romantic/sexual spark happening, right? if that’s gonna happen it will happen whether you thought it was a date or not.

    • In my experience it does not just happen even if there are plenty of sparks in a case of two Heathers. But it’s cool because a Heather needs a Stacy.

      So I guess I agree that it’ll happen if it’s supposed to.

  9. I…figure everything is just being with another/ other humans and seeing how things go?

    But…if there’s already been more-than-platonic time together once, that’s when I’d wonder on another meeting up if they are thinking date or not, and want to see if there’s expectations/ anticipation!

  10. I’m currently not dating someone but going on a lot of not dates that feel a lot like dates. And texting/snap chatting/going to happy hour with her all the time. And we are going on vacation together. And yes I should just ask her but life is hard 🤷‍♀️

  11. see i *hear* you all saying that direct communication is the way to go and that literally just asking if it’s a date is rockin’

    but i know, deep in my oblivious bad-at-romance soul, that the words ‘so is this a date?’ have approximately a 34% chance of leaving my mouth in the next year. check in 2020 and see if my vision has improved (rimshot)

    • I’m a fan of the follow up text! It can be hard to say it out loud in person but a casual “I had so much fun, just wondering if you had date vibes or friend vibes feelings” is way easier and just as effective! <3

  12. Once a friend asked me where I got my socks at the beginning of an outing, and I realized she had gone on a bad date with someone has the same socks ( I know the person and had seen her wearing the socks). She then said, “I hope that’s not inauspicious,” which made it clear it was a date. Haha.

  13. “I have a lot less patience for weird emotional tension now than I did in my early dating years. I no longer think it’s ‘fun’ or ‘part of the experience.'” This.

  14. I love asking / being asked, “Can I kiss you?” It’s the best! 100% recommend it.

    If I already think I like someone romantically then I try to ask, “Do you want to go on a date?” so that they clearly know beforehand, and I’ve asked before we met, “Would this be like a date or a friends thing for you?”, but it’s often this in between situation you have when you met online, and nobody’s sure, and it’s kind of developing while you’re together, and then I don’t have a strategy. I need to start getting comfortable asking in person, I guess. Thanks for the encouragement!

  15. I used to have a really hard time being direct but then decided fuck it & asked my crush who I met through professional things to get a drink to see if there were more flirty vibes. At the end when we were walking to our cars and I was like, “So just throwing it out there, I think you’re super cute and would be really down to go on a date-date sometime if you were!” And she was like “Yeah! Can I kiss you?” and we kissed & fell super hard & fast & a year later it’s still perfect! Would recommend 10/10!

  16. ok maybe i am being reductive but i just don’t understand how this is such a THING. like, in my mind there are implicit rules governing dating that you can learn such as:

    -if you usually don’t hang out one-on-one & they ask you on a date-seeming thing (dinner, cute activities like mini-golf, any type of picnic), go & see how it feels. notice how close they put their body to your body!!! look out for flirting such as gentle teasing, eye contact, compliments, and question-asking.
    -if u met on a dating service, that is a date unless explicitly specified.
    -order of pre-makeout touching: arms (possibly platonic), low back (not platonic), thigh (ur gonna kiss), chest (run).
    -at the end, if they don’t initiate physical contact or if it’s just a hug, it’s probably platonic. BUT if you get a follow-up text the next day, they might be taking it slow! you could just be like “i had a great time too! Date #2 at [location]?”
    -if you touch their arm and they respond positively (leaning in, big eyes, touching back, etc), do it again. if they touch you back, that’s a promising sign.
    -if they ask you what your plans are for the rest of the night, or suggest a walk or a trip to their place, ur gonna at least make out.
    -if ur dealing with a Known Heather, you just have to ask.

    and like obviously there are exceptions and some people are confusing, but tbh, it’s also not that big of a deal to get turned down? if your friendship can’t stand up to some light sexual rejection idk if it was that strong to begin with.

    • I’ve been pondering this comment for awhile now. I think that it’s not a big deal – IF one is able to identify implicit rules governing social interactions, IF one is able to parse one’s (possibly) romantic and sexual feelings for other human beings and IF one has the awareness to interpret other people’s behavior – and hell, IF one is even aware of having feelings. But those are big IFs.

      I would have to identify myself as A Heather, but you know, back when I was dating (or attempting to date, to be more accurate) I didn’t KNOW I was a Heather. I didn’t realize I was missing out on social cues, I didn’t know I was pretty oblivious to how other people thought about me, I didn’t know I’d shut down some type of emotions as a way to cope with childhood trauma. I didn’t know that 20 or 30 years later, I’d look back and realize that I’d been on a lot more dates and in a lot more relationships than I thought at the time.

  17. I assume everything is a friendly hang until someone clarifies “as a date” or I realize I just agreed to buy her a drink on Valentine’s Day (although honestly even then I was just like “wait a minute…🤔”).

  18. Bear with me, but I don’t actually know what a “date” is for. OK, basically, it’s arranging “alone time” with someone to see if there’s some kind of sexual or romantic spark. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

    But honestly, I can count on the fingers on two fingers where I actually got together with someone in that way. It seems like a lot of us get confused between just “hanging out” vs “potential love interest”. For me, I think they’re pretty much the same anyway.

    One of my “quirks” is considering anyone I know and like as a potential interest – of course, very much only if they’re “available”. I’m not so arrogant or creepy to think that anyone I like would be into *me* (basically, I assume they aren’t), but whether they’re a recent acquaintance or an actual friend, the possibility is possible until it isn’t. (Let me tell you about ALL the friends I have who are actually my exes – boundaries between friends and romance? what boundaries?)

    Related to that quirk, I don’t see much use for dates qua dates. I mostly meet people via mutual friends, parties, at work and so on. It seems pretty much the case that if we’re arranging actual alone-time, it’s really because it’s down-to-business time. The question of whether or not to get sexual has been answered in some way already. (I thoroughly endorse the “Can I kiss you now?” technique.)

    I arrange meet-ups with people I want to hang out with in general, and if something romantic ensues, that’s kind of an unexpected bonus. That was the case with my last ex – we met via mutual friends, and we ended up having “business lunches” because we worked around 200m from each other and enjoyed chatting. Which turned into her eventually saying, “I would like to get to know you better”, and me saying, “Aren’t we doing that already? …Oh!” [Thank god it wasn’t just me with this crush!] And then arranging the, er, alone-time.

    The actual dates I’ve gone on have been when it’s not particularly natural that we’d meet up in some other way – like meeting someone online. Online meetups are obviously more common for more people these days, and going on actual dates makes good sense. Much more sense than swearing utter devotion to someone you haven’t actually met.

    But for dating someone you already know, I’m wondering if it’s somewhat of a cultural thing. There seems to be a lot more emphasis on dating in US culture. Not that we don’t ever go on dates in Oz/NZ (or the UK, where I’ve lived), but it seems like much less of a thing. Or maybe it’s just *me*. (That’s ok, I can take it.)

  19. My problem is generally when I do not want a date (whether it’s b/c of being in a closed relationship, not wanting to date generally, or having zero interest in that person), but the other person wants it to be a date. I’m working on avoiding these situations, but if anyone has tips…

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