On a Sunday night whim, Chris and I decided to meet up for a drink at our local bar.  When I arrived, he was nestled against the wall nursing a half-finished pint.  The two of us had spent very little time together since the summer—those long and blurry days where I was recovering from heartache and we got into the habit of ordering too much whiskey on weeknights.  But summer was long ago, and Chris and I didn’t do that sort of thing anymore.  We were friends, and since then, I had gone through a beautiful take-off and a bumpy descent of another relationship.

“I haven’t eaten yet,” I said, while sliding into the chair across from him.

“It’s good to see you,” he responded while handing me a menu.

We ordered two grilled cheese sandwiches on brioche, and I stole fries off of his plate while he dunked his in my tomato soup.  Two hours later the bill arrived, and Chris swiped it off of the table.

“I’ve got this,” he said while sliding a credit card into the check book.

“You don’t have to cover me,” I replied while handing him my credit card.

“No problem.  This is a date.  I’ve got this,” he said.

This is a date?

After I got home that night, I began to wonder—what constitutes a date?  If the man pays, does that automatically make it a date?  If a man says it’s a date, is it a date?  If you happen to have kissed that man before, even though you weren’t dating him then, and you go out to dinner eight months later and he pays, is that a date?

Is there a dollar threshold where a meal with two people automatically becomes a date?  If a man asks you to dinner and you split the bill, is that not a date?  And what about all those Texans?!  I happen to have a lot of male friends from Texas who wouldn’t dare let a lady pay for a meal.  It’s just not in their blood.  Surely, those aren’t dates!

So what is a date?  For starters, there needs to be a mutual understanding of romantic intention.  I like my dates to have been prefaced by the words, “Can I take you out to dinner” so there’s no ambiguity.  It’s not a date if the evening begins with a text, “What are you up to?”  It’s not a date if he suggests you meet up for drinks and you arrive first, so you pay for your own cocktail.  That’s a networking meeting, or what my friend Brit refers to as the “LA date”, which is not a date.  I also refuse to categorize anything that starts with, “When are we hanging out?” as a date.

The man should offer to pick the lady up.  He should pay.  And yes, it should include dinner.  If a man suggests drinks instead of a meal, I know he doesn’t want to invest the time or money in getting to know me.  Consequently, I don’t want to know him.

The following week, Chris and I ended up in box seats at a Clippers game, where the invitation entailed, “Think I’m going to a Clippers game tomorrow, come with.”  Also not a date.  As Chris and I kicked back with a pair of beers, he asked me what I did the night before.  I told him I had dinner with a guy who I had become friends with over the last few months.  Chris turned to me and laughed, “That guy snuck in a date.  That was totally a date!”