What is a “practice date”? A few weeks back, I read an article on a webzine. A reader sent in a question about “practice dating” and I scoffed. What the heck is a practice date? If two people like each other, they can go on a real date. If they do not like each other, they do not go out on dates. Isn’t that how it is supposed to work? There is no such thing as a practice date. Silly question, reader.
Little did I know that I would be invited to go out on one a few short weeks later. The conversation was nearly over. I had already said “Good night” when the question arrived. Quick response (I think I’d like to date this guy): I agreed with his proposition. Conversation ends. Life goes on.
A few days later, we talk again. All of the sudden I think back to that previous conversation.
What the heck did he mean by “practice” date?
Maybe I am old-fashioned. Or simplistic. But I never realized that dating and rocket science are comparatively complex. As I said before, I thought people who are interested in developing a romantic relationship go on dates and people who are not interested in developing a romantic relationship do not go on dates. Notice, I did not mention people who are ready to commit for life. I said people who are interested. I cannot figure out what kinds of people would fit into this brand new subcategory called “practice dating”. I also cannot figure out what the difference is between a date and a practice date. What is the purpose of this thing called a practice date?
What if two people went on this practice date together and a friend came up to one of them?
“Hey! I haven’t seen you in forever. How have you been? Oh and who’s this cute guy you’re dating? We haven’t met before!”
*Coughcough* “Oh, we aren’t dating. He’s actually just my practice date. Don’t worry, though. You aren’t the first to be confused!”
Should money be exchanged? “I haven’t had a date in so long… I just didn’t want to forget how to go about it. So I don’t actually like you or anything, but I was wondering if you might like to practice date me. Just to ‘keep me fresh’. I could pay you! … Unless you think that’s too similar to prostitution…”
Then, of course, there is the whole issue of boundaries. In real dating, there are enough questions regarding boundaries. Who should ask who out? When is the first kiss appropriate? How soon should we go formal? When should we meet the family? After how many dates do we become exclusive? The questions go on and on. The answers fluctuate with each and every couple.
What questions need to be answered in “practice dating”? Does it matter who makes the request since it isn’t a real date? Should the family ever even find out about a practice date? Is kissing okay as long as it’s deemed “practice kissing”?
Is practice dating intended to perfect that art-form known as actual dating? There is that age-old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” Although, I’ve always preferred a quote I used to hear from one of my basketball coaches. She said, “Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.”
If I translate that concept over to dating, I could say that I’ve been practicing singleness for quite some time now. If I continue this way, I will likely wind up single permanently. I can deal with that. If I start dating, I will likely wind up in a relationship. But if I start “practice dating”, where will I end up? In an “almost-relationship”? I won’t really be single. I won’t really be in a relationship. I’ll just be frustrated.
Is practice dating like a safety net under the tightrope for real dating?
“I want to date this person but I’m not sure if this person wants to date me… I don’t want to face possible rejection.”
“I doubt things would work out between us… I’d rather not work at a real relationship with odds like this.”
“I find this person interesting and I would like to spend more time with her alone… But a date is a big leap.”
All of these thoughts bring me back to a guy I used to know. He pursued me almost immediately. I felt attached to him extremely quickly. He asked me out. I said that I would prefer to be his friend. He said that guys and girls cannot be friends. I told him that they could and that I would be his friend whether he liked it or not. After a few months I realized I could not be “just” his friend. As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. Once romantic interest has been established for either person, it is nearly impossible for a healthy friendship to exist. One person will always hope for something more, and ultimately feel disappointed.
So when I told Mr. Practice Date that I either want a real date or we need to back away from this close friendship, he said to me, “You realize that you’re doing the very same thing with our friendship as you do with your relationship prospects? You’re doing that same thing where you protect yourself from pain unless you’re unbelievably sure that it will amount to exactly what you want it to.”
In essence, I responded by asking why protecting myself is such a bad thing. At least I haven’t asked anyone out on any practice dates… 😉