As far as I'm concerned, there are two types of pseudo-relationships you can be in that aren't real, bonafide relationships: You're either "hooking up" (casual booty calls, probably not going anywhere) or you're "dating" (going on dates, getting to know each other, hopefully going somewhere).
I would say my boyfriend and I were "dating" long before we were in a relationship.
I say we were "dating" in the beginning because we were regularly going on dates right off the bat. They started off as casual, and then things got a little more serious when we became exclusive. Then he asked me to be his girlfriend, and boom: We were in a real relationship.
So, the way I see it, "dating" is what happens before you're boyfriend and girlfriend.
Of course, life has a cute, charming way of making things unnecessarily complicated, so there are about one million different stages you can undergo within the "hooking up" and "dating" stages. But overall, odds are you're doing something that falls under one of the two umbrellas.
I thought I had a pretty good grip on this whole "what does dating mean" thing. I thought it was pretty self-explanatory: "dating" is the act of going on "dates," right? Wrong.
The other day, my friends and I were talking (read: extensively gossiping) about an acquaintance and her new boy.
I tried to say they were "dating." Someone else said they weren't dating because they weren't exclusive. Then someone else argued they were going on dates and they were, in fact, exclusive, but they weren't dating because he's not her "boyfriend."
Apparently this is not as simple as I previously thought.
What do you say if someone asks if you've been "dating" that guy you've been with the past couple of months?! What are you agreeing to when someone asks if you want to "date" them?!
These are all questions we need to have answered if we wish to go forward as INFORMED LOVERS.
For the greater good of humanity, I decided to ask one simple question: When you say you're "dating" someone, what does that mean to you?
Shocker: Every single one of the 23 respondents had a different definition.
It means doing activities together WITHOUT sex.
— Sara, 29
It's hanging out in a "boyfriend/girlfriend type of manner."
— Drew, 24
It means you are in a relationship.
— Camilla*, 25
It could be exclusive... it could also not be exclusive.
— Alexia, 23
This is what I like to call "dating purgatory." It's also exclusive.
— Libby, 32
It's hanging out consistently.
— Emma*, 22
It's not exclusive.
— Emily, 23
Wait, no, it IS exclusive.
— Rich*, 23
Again, it's dating purgatory. Exclusivity TBD.
— Lucy*, 23
It's consistently hanging out with just them.
— Jessica*, 23
It depends on the tense.
— Dani, 24
It's not exclusive.
— Steff, 52
It involves any sort of hanging out.
— Mel, 32
It involves any sort of hanging out, PLUS sex.
— Claire*, 71
Here we've got dating purgatory as a definition AGAIN.
— Brian, 24
It's the "getting to know you" period.
— Zara, 30
This is the FOURTH time it's described as dating purgatory.
— Sean, 25
He's your boyfriend. You're his girlfriend.
— Kelli, 23
It's one step before a relationship (again, erm, PURGATORY).
— Tina, 24
— Anna, 24
The act of going on dates.
— Jasmine*, 27
It's the act of going on lots of dates with one person.
— Sharon*, 30
It's... doing someone's laundry?
— Taylor, 27
All right, so if we're looking for a trend here, a few people from this roundup seem to agree with me that dating is the hanging out period that takes place before you're actually in a relationship.
While hooking up involves a bunch of late-night booty calls that don't necessarily need to lead up to anything, dating is time spent getting to know someone, trying to figure out whether or not you're going to take the next step and pursue a real relationship.
But, as you can see from these answers, people have some pretty different definitions as far as what that "getting to know you" period entails.
To be on the safe side, ASK your partner what he or she thinks you're doing.
Novel idea, I know.
*Names have been changed.