I try not to make a habit of contradicting the men and women that God has selected to lead His church. However, Elder Oaks is wrong.
In his famous/infamous 2005 fireside (humorously listed as Dating VERSES Hanging Out on LDS.org, further limiting its credibility) he outlined that a date is 3 things: Planned ahead, Paid for and Paired off. These criteria are of course utter bunk. He mentions in the talk how he got them from an 18 year old. Do you trust anything you hear from an 18 year old? If you’re older than 18 the answer should be no. If you’re younger than 18 the answer should probably still be no.
Now I’m not going to tell you there is no such thing as truth or reality. But reality may not matter all that much. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet (let’s not get into the fact that Shakespeare may not have existed to even say that.) But if everyone in the world smelled a rose and decided they didn’t like it, it wouldn’t smell sweet. It would smell foul, because everyone agrees that to them, it does not smell sweet.
This isn’t an Emperor’s New Clothes situation. It’s not that the public en masse is agreeing to some lie in order to maintain social order. If everyone legitimately did not like the aroma of the rose, you couldn’t really argue that it smells good when everyone perceives it as not.
My definition of a date goes thusly: a date is when two people do something and consider it a date. Put another way, a date is in the eye of the beholder.
Now I fully understand why Elder Oaks did not give a talk about how reality is subjective and how crucial social processes can either exist or not exist depending on an individual’s thoughts and feelings. I get that. But my definition is the only one that matters.
It doesn’t matter if I plan, pair off and pay for an evening if the girl doesn’t consider it a date. If she doesn’t consider it a date, it wasn’t one. I can’t trick her into going on a date with me. I can’t count it as a date based on a technicality. And I can’t accidentally be on a date because those criteria were met.
And if I have a magical evening with a young lady but it was free, or we had friends with us, or it happened extemporaneously, but despite this the intimacy built from that shared experience brings us closer to romance, it would be ludicrous to disregard it as a date.
If it was a date to you, and it was a date to her, it was a date. Now here’s the rub: it may have been a date to only one of you. And if you discuss whether it was a date you run the risk of ruining it. You’ve violated the blinding of the experiment and the other participant is now being influenced by YOUR thoughts and feelings when their definition should only stem from THEIR thoughts and feelings. So I think it’s best to be avoided. Also it’s lame to ask “Was this a date?”
The trend of hanging out is alive and well seven years later. And I have no evidence of this, but I do suspect my generation of being significantly worse on average in the dating field than previous generations. I blame The Bachelor. But quibbling over what is and what is not a date is not the answer. I’m hardly one to be giving dating advice, as someone well into my menace years, but I’m going to do it anyway. What is/is not a date doesn’t matter. What matters is interactions that help you get to know others in a meaningful way, and help you learn to appreciate them. Even better is if these interactions are intentional, volitional and mutual.
So you could define dating as intentional interactions providing non-superficial information and building appreciation, but I feel that’s less accurate than a date being anything you consider a date. But if you promote those interactions, you’re promoting a breeding ground for, well, breeding. This can be done using dates, but can be done just as well from socializing and activities and discussions outside of “dates.”
But it’s much more basic and practical to give ten commandments than to say be good and hope it turns out ok. So I understand Elder Oaks giving a rough estimation of what would often constitute a date. But I often hear single folk (mostly single lady folk) debate whether an evening was a date. And my answer would be, it was if you want it to be one, and if it was a quality interaction, it doesn’t matter. I often hear single folk (exclusively single lady folk) bemoan their lack of dates. Well, we have a lucky loophole. Because if you can arrange intentional interactions providing non-superficial information and building appreciation, and you can, you don’t need to be asked out.
And when your family ask why you don’t date more, you can confidently state that reality is subjective and in your reality you’re dating up a storm.