When did dating become so repetitive? Dinner and drinks? How novel. Drinks, but not dinner? Someone's hedging their bets, or — just as likely — their wallets. I’m not complaining, necessarily. I love drinking wine, and I love to chat, and the combination of the two is the real love of my life at the moment. But this makes it harder to assess compatibility. I’ll have enjoyed myself thoroughly, yet remain unsure as to whether I thoroughly enjoyed my date. Do I really like him, or am I just easily amused? I figured it was time to mix it up. When the guy I’d recently started seeing suggested the most basic date of all time, apple-picking, I readily agreed.
It all began inauspiciously one October morning, with the two of us rushing to the train. Penn Station is not the most romantic of meeting points, and I'm not a morning person. We weren’t meeting at the top of the Empire State Building Sleepless in Seattle-style, and instead of a single rose, he carried a single coffee. Strike one, I thought ungenerously, as we rode 45 minutes outside the city to spend a day in "the country" — though a cluster of trees is considered "the country" when you’ve lived in downtown New York City for several years.
When we pulled up to the station, the date already felt like a mini-adventure. So, like all intrepid adventurers, we headed to the farmers market where — within a matter of minutes — I revealed myself to be woefully undomesticated. Not only am I not a foodie (that’s a kumquat?), I don’t cook. Ever.
"How do you survive?" he asked.
That’s OK. He cooks.
Afterwards, we boldly went where many basics have gone before: apple picking. If you go apple picking and didn’t gram it, did you even go apple picking? Perhaps the reason it’s so heavily Geotagged is because, in actuality, it’s hell, so you may as well get some likes out of it. We were clearly in the apple mecca for day-tripping New Yorkers, and we were there on a Saturday during peak season. Surrounded by screaming babies and disgruntled parents, I felt like I was in Times Square. Abandoning our original plan, we headed to the small downtown area, which is how we found ourselves (accidentally) antiquing. I was living and breathing the lyrics to a Taylor Swift song — the Jake Gyllenhaal era, pre-snake.
Accidental antiquing is highly recommended as a means of gathering information about your date. The very nature of it brings to mind the living together. Surrounded by colonial furniture and countless paintings of horses, you find out, quite literally, if you want the same things. "If I had a house, I’d want this," we’d tell one other, pointing to wooden ducks and portraits of long-deceased Victorians with interesting facial hair.
This led to talking about whether we’d ever leave the city, and when, and if we’d want a house, and whether we’d want kids. I learned more on this guy on the third date than I ever learned about someone I’d been seeing for months. When we finally did pick up a bottle of wine, it didn’t even feel necessary as a social lubricant.
Sharing plastic cups of wine on the train home, I was reminded of my relationships in college, may they rest in uneasy peace. They never started in settings where romance is encouraged (or expected) to flourish. It was on driving home for winter break, stuck together in the backseat for five hours. Van Morrison was playing, we were chatting about nothing. Or in the library at 2 a.m. during finals, wearing sweatshirts, strung out, hair askew, and distracted by one another. Post-college, it’s harder to recreate these moments; perhaps we never can.
When you’re out to dinner or drinks, you’re presenting a certain version of yourself. Your hair is blown out, your makeup is on. Maybe you’re wearing heels. At the very least, you probably showered. You sing for your supper; you know your party tricks. You tell that story about torturing your younger sister as a child (so relatable! But, also, kind of demonic?), and talk about streaking in Japan (so adventurous!). You present your job, friends, and interests in the most charming way possible. Anyone can perform for three hours, but how many can be on for 24? Inevitably, you become less guarded, more candid.
In conclusion, I implore you to embrace your inner basic and — in the immortal words of Avril Lavigne — stop making things so complicated. Fall may be drawing to a close, but there’s no shortage of basic dates come winter time, when cuddling becomes less of a luxury and more of a biological necessity. Go ice skating, see the tree at Rockefeller Center, get peppermint lattes. Doing these "basic" things together (much like the aforementioned cuddling) brings you closer. You'll have spent a full day (or several daylight hours) together, and you can assess whether or not they possess any of the qualities you’ve projected onto them from the moment you matched. By the end of the date, you will either be totally enamored, or totally bored by the entire affair. And wouldn’t you rather know that sooner rather than later?
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