Is it a date? Or are you just hanging out? At least 69% of daters in a new survey say that in the current dating climate, they sometimes aren't sure. / Jennifer S. Altman for USA TODAY
Is it a date? Or are you just hanging out?
Sara Svendsen, 25, has asked herself that question when she's been out with guys - and says she's been wrong "on both sides of that." So have her friends.
"A date is someone personally asking you out - that sometimes can get confused with a one-on-one hangout, depending on the way they mention it or which medium they use to ask you or if it happens to be a group hangout," she says.
Svendsen, a marketing manager who lives in New Lenox, Ill., is among today's singles trying to navigate dating with fewer rules. Courtship has become casual, with texts, hookups and hangouts. For Millennials in particular, who view a "date" as too much of a commitment - both in time and emotional connection - the vagaries of dating can be especially confounding.
New data, provided exclusively to USA TODAY, bear out just how muddy the landscape can be. An online survey of 2,647 singles, ages 18-59, illustrates that level of ambiguity: 69% are at least somewhat confused about whether an outing with someone they're interested in is a date or not. Although 80% agree that a date is "a planned one-on-one hangout," almost one-quarter (24%) also think it is "a planned evening with a group of friends," and 22% agree that "if they ask me out, it's a date." The survey, conducted in September, was commissioned by dating websites ChristianMingle.com and JDate.com.
"It comes up often. 'I hope she doesn't think this is a date. I just want to have fun,' " says Tayo Rockson, 24, a first-year MBA student at Fordham University in New York. "If it's someone that you just met recently and consistently have one-on-one hangout sessions, that's sort of a date."
New York City psychotherapist Rachel Sussman says getting past the notion that a date is a planned event between two people still leaves mixed signals.
"A planned evening with a group of friends or a 9 o'clock text - 'I'm at this bar. Want to come?' - that is now more considered a date or something romantic," she says.
Clinical psychologist Sonya Rhodes, also of New York, says a date today "transcends this sort of 'hanging out culture.' "
"A date shows some special interest in a special person. A date takes it to a new level," says Rhodes, author of The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match, to be published in April.
Being asked out means it's a date, but there is still uncertainty, says Emily Zurrow, 25, of Los Angeles, who works in retail.
"A lot of us date our friends, and that can be somewhat confusing. Anytime a friendship grows into something more, it's not an on-and-off switch. It's not so black and white. It's a friend with potential," she says.
For that first date, the survey found 69% of men believe the man should pay, while 55% of women agree.
"If I'm asking the individual out, I will be paying for it," says Aaron Atkins, 28, of Santa Monica, Calif., a recruiter for a consulting firm.
Among the survey participants, 23% said who pays for a date "depends on who initiates" and another 18% said costs should be equally split.
"I always offer just because I don't know whether they think it necessarily constitutes it as a date, but I let them know I don't expect them to pay," says Kim Soward, 24, of New York, who works in public relations and marketing.
But that kind of gesture also could be misconstrued. "I do it out of respect and just to be polite - not intentionally to send a signal that I don't want to consider this a date," she says.
Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Is it a date? Or hanging out? Survey reflects confusion