Editor’s Note: Thirst Trap is a weekly column on dating and relationships in college.
I like to think I’m somewhat observant. I’m no anthropologist, but I do notice human behavior and try to make sense of it. However, sometimes reading signals and noticing cues in a romantic context can get a little tricky. Did I just smash Whiteclaws with a bro or a boo? Those words are very similar, and as a dyslexic, you can probably see my confusion.
What makes this kind of speculation difficult is confirmation bias. We want our conclusions to be correct as to not destroy our thin illusion of reality, so we look for the clues that proves us right. You think it was a date? You will likely see how their knees are angled toward you and cling to how they noticed you did something different with your hair, and tell all your girlfriends how there was totally a moment where you thought they wanted to kiss you. All that evidence aligns with your theory, and more importantly, your hope. You might not include details like how they brought up another girl at least four times or how they called you “homie.”
As humans, we kind of operate in opposition to science. In science, we have a hypothesis, then we find evidence, then we draw conclusions. In this case, it’s more like a conclusion, hypothesis, and then evidence in retrospect. I’m not saying you have to or even should conduct internal thought processes up to scientific standards, but bearing that in mind might give you stronger conviction in your claims.
That being said, look back at your time together with an open mind. Try not to hang on to those cute, romantic-comedy quality moments, and look at the big-picture things: beginning, middle, and end.
First, think of how this all started. It is not enough to be alone with a member of your preferred gender(s). Why are you alone? If it’s just the two of you because all your other friends bailed, it is not a date. However, if the two of you made one-on-one plans when you normally would not, that might be leaning more toward “date,” especially if it was not a special circumstance, like going to see a band that only you two have ever heard of or tagging along for an art show they were headed to anyway.
Next, think about the middle, the “meat” of your meeting. Think about the subject matter of your conversation. Relationship talk, so long as it is not about an ex, can be a pretty clear indicator of where their head is at. If they want to talk more about other people than they want to talk about you, chances are the interaction is platonic. If you have a solid friendship as foundation and the tone of this meeting seems to have shifted from what it was previously, that may be a sign. On the flip side, they could be having an off day and need moral support more than they need you overanalyzing their mood.
And now the end. Did they reach for the check? I know it’s old school, and regardless of the gender makeup of our relationships, we should strive for fair financial burdens, but if someone tries uncharacteristically to cover your boba, they might be in date-mode.
Take note of how the night starts to wind down. If they ask about your plans for the rest of the night, they might want to be a part of those plans. If they walk you home, count that as evidence that you might have been on a date all along. A good test is tell them to text you they get home safe. When I tell my friends that, they almost never text me, and I just have to assume they are asleep in bed and not dead. My friends usually forget to check in because they get distracted, but if someone does text you that they are home, you are still on their mind.
Regardless of how many of these signs they display, the only surefire way to know if it was a date is to ask. You can try to sneak around the question. You could assume it was a date and tell that you had a great time and that you should do it again sometime. You could get your friends to get the dirt, middle-school style, or you could just ask like an adult. That may sound way too risky and confrontational, but if you want to know for sure, it’s the only way.
Reach columnist Hannah Krieg at email@example.com. Twitter: @Hannah_krieg
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