Why is dating so confusing? There are, like, a million different shades people use to define dating, and each has a different meaning.
For example, here are a few things I've heard my friends say they are doing that are, apparently, NOT "dating":
"We're hooking up." "I'm talking to a guy." "We're kind of a thing." "We're just hanging out." "I'm 'seeing' somebody."
Because of all of this ambiguity, it can be really hard to tell if you're actually even on a date with someone at all or if you're just warming up to be the booty call of the month.
So how can you tell the difference?
Here are a few key things to look out for that signal you're on a real date, not just a pre-hookup situation.
If it's a daytime date
Take the beaming, broad daylight as a sign you're not about to end up anywhere dark, sexy or mysterious.
A date scheduled during the day is a surefire way to tell your date is there to actually get to know you (and not just the "you" between the sheets).
This also likely puts you in a situation that forces conversation, rather than relying on something like sitting silently through a movie as an "activity" so "you technically went out first before hooking up."
If you go to a second location
If you have a great time doing the first activity, and your date suggests a second one (that is NOT going back to his or your place), then you're on a date, and it's GOING REALLY WELL, girl.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of a date-date is genuinely enjoying one another's company and feeling no rush to get naked together.
A second location extends your evening OUT instead of pushing it IN (bed).
If booze is nowhere in sight
I hate to say it, but booze is a social AND physical lubricator, revving up people's sex drives and confidence. And it's one of the biggest ways to foreplay actual foreplay.
But if your date isn't drinking, or you're at a location where booze isn't part of the equation, chances are, you're on a real date.
Whatever happens between the two of you after the date will be a totally sober, clear-headed decision, leaving impulse at the bar.
If the conversation lasts
Similar to traveling to a second location, a long, LONG conversation can only be a good thing for building a real connection.
Often, you hear about the best relationships starting by someone saying, "We talked all night, and the rest is history."
Plus, depending on how late that conversation goes, it will likely be exhaustion that finally puts you in bed, not the burning desire to rush into sex.
If there is clear thought or effort behind the date activity
There is a big difference between deciding to meet at a bar for happy hour and going to a specific art gala with a guy who paints and recites poetry.
One activity is something you can do with literally any human, and the other is something you can only do if you specifically invited someone who might enjoy that kind of thing to go with you.
A good rule of thumb to remember is that effort equals interest and intrigue, whereas $2 PBRs and some hot wings means your date is probably bored and horny.
The biggest takeaway is gauging what about you the person you're dating seems most interested in: your mind, interests and jokes, or your outfit and your body.
Regardless, keep an eye out for these clues, and happy "dating" — whatever that means.