I think everyone should just accept that “hanging out” is the future of courtship. Actually, it’s not the future. It is right now. Just “hanging out” is the way millions of people are getting to know each other. This is the brand spanking new opening ritual that precedes intimacy and commitment. The traditional “date,” where a man calls up a woman or approaches her in public, then asks her to meet for dinner and then go to a movie, will be a thing of the past. Our kids won’t date the way we did. While many might bemoan the loss of the highly-choreographed “date,” there are a number of advantages to “hanging out.”
The ways men and women meet, get to know each other, and fall in love has evolved over the centuries. While there’s no scientific evidence to support that old notion that cavemen dragged their mates back to their caves, early mating habits were probably crude and involved some caveman wearing a meat hat tens of thousands of years before Lady Gaga did. The Romans didn’t date in a way we’d recognize, unless you want to try to compare our Spring Break to their orgies. Go ahead, I won’t mind. Romantic love was actually a very recent human development. For most of human history, women were property to be bartered by their fathers. But the advent of romance, that notion that marriage was more than just a financial arrangement or a necessary pact to ensure the survival of the family was overshadowed by the idea that love is a stronger bond that money or children.
Courting almost always involves a man asking a woman permission to spend time with her. Then the time is spent, and if all had gone well, more time would be spent. These outings were sometimes between a boy, a girl, and her entire family. Other times, they would be spent in public, but a much different public than our era. There was a time in the not so distant past, that women had acid skin, and if a man touched that skin, his fingertips would sizzle. That’s not true. But what’s true is the way men and women interact has changed and evolved over time. Thisfactwon’tchange.
“Hanging out” almost adds a prelude to what we have gotten to know as dating divided responsibilities more or less evenly. The woman has the power to reject a man’s advances. It is the responsibility of the man to make the initial overture. There was a time when a woman’s place was in the kitchen, and men were solely valued for their ability to make money. So maybe that’s where the tradition of men paying for the date came from. This grew to become a chivalrous and mandatory part of the dating script. Today, this is a hot topic of debate. Some women expect the man to pay for the bill, and others are insulted by the act. One of the unintended consequences of the long slog toward gender equality is that men and women are beginning to see how the other half lives. They want the greener grass. Men are demanding pursuit while women are taking the reigns. Of course, this causes all kinds of confusion. Not that the old system was perfect. Far from it.
The classic modern date we’re all familiar with had an old fashioned heart, hearkening back to the days when gentlemen would tip their top hats to ladies bedecked in furs who’d coyly bat their eyelashes. We’re on the cusp of a brave new world of polite seduction. If you had told your great-granddad that one day two people would flirt by “poking” one another via thinking machine, he’d spit his egg cream out and declare “I declare! Theautomatons of tomorrowwillwoo?”
“Hanging out” removes a lot of the social expectation from the mating dance. It is casual, and I realize it is too casual for some people. But I think that “hanging out’ is just one extra rung on the ladder to full on commitment. “Hanging out” is about being relaxed, not nervous. It’s an experiment where two people see whether or not they can stand to chill out with one another. I could argue that you can tell more about a person by how they unwind on a couch than you can when they’re wound up at a restaurant. On a night out, it’s easy for someone to put forth their best face. It’s a little more difficult when you’re eating a slice of pizza and watching Youtube clips of guys on motorcycles missing the ramp by painful inches.
“Hanging out” can then lead to “hooking up,” which is the new first kiss. But don’t hold a wake for the first kiss. “Hanging out” is like a screening process. There is a step after “hanging out,” and it looks like the dating we’re all used to. Only this time, it’s not a cold meeting between two strangers. This time, two friends who like how the other taste are sitting down to enjoy a nice meal and continue what they’ve already started.