The Curious Case Of The Sneak-A-Date
Ladies, has a guy ever asked if you want to “hang out”? Have you ever made plans and had no idea whether it was going to be a date or not? Have you ever been invited to a get-together, only to realize upon meeting him that the get-together comprised a party of two?
Congratulations, you’ve just been on a sneak-a-date!
The sneak-a-date is that ever-so-bewildering rendezvous that may or may not turn out to be an actual date. It’s an evening spent pondering potential ulterior motives. It’s an exercise in juggling multiple contingencies: if he tries to kiss you, but you don’t want to kiss him; if he tries to kiss you, and you want to kiss him; if he doesn’t try to kiss you, but you want to kiss him; if he doesn’t try to kiss you, and you don’t want to kiss him….
Most of the women I’ve talked to have no problem with the sneak-a-date. Although some appreciate the man who is willing to sack up and risk humiliation, many are sympathetic. As Denice, a personal trainer, acknowledges, “the sneak-a-date is simply a way of protecting yourself.” After all, you can’t be humiliated if you never actually ask out the other person, right?
So, other than protecting egos, what drives guys to attempt the sneak-a-date? Why can’t guys be upfront if they’re interested? Well, I can think of five reasons a guy may want to spend time with you without asking you out on an official date:
1. He’s too timid to ask you out.
2. He doesn’t think you’ll agree to a date, but he’s hoping he can charm your pants off—literally—if he can get you to spend time alone with him.
3. He’s not sure if he’s interested in you, and this is a pressure-free way to find out.
4. He really just wants to be friends.
5. He doesn’t actually want to date you, but wouldn’t be opposed to a random hook-up. Therefore, by not officially asking you out on a date, he gives himself an “escape hatch” if he does end up hooking up with you.
I believe the first four reasons are harmless and warrant the benefit of the doubt from you. After all, 1) there are lots of great guys who may be on the shy side; 2) you really might see him differently if you got to know him better; 3) if you hang out on a non-sanctioned, non-official date, and one of you realizes that you’re not interested, then you’ll save yourselves the potential awkwardness of the rejection talk; and 4) seriously, it can happen.
Now, if it’s Reason 1 or Reason 2, you’ll probably get plenty of signals by the end of the night. Then, you just have to decide if you’re interested. If it’s Reason 3 or Reason 4, why not just enjoy the evening? If nothing else, you might end up making a new friend.
So, that takes us to Reason 5. Well, if you happen to be okay with the casual hook-up, this could be an ideal situation. On the other hand, if you suspect that he’s looking to get laid, and that’s not your goal for the night, you may have a problem. So, what do you do now?
Katie, a city planner, acknowledges that there may be no graceful way to elicit an answer: “What are you supposed to do, just pause mid-dinner and say, ‘umm, it seems you may be interested in ending this evening naked, and if so, I’d like to point out that I have absolutely no intention of de-robing for you, but if not, please continue enjoying your pasta?’”
If you’re the upfront type, you might actually say something like this. However, your pre-emptive bluntness may backfire. By calling him out on something that he hasn’t overtly done, you allow him to respond with, “what makes you think this was a date?” And now, you’re the pretentious one. Even if it’s so completely obvious that he’s interested, you can never underestimate a guy’s ability to deny, deny, deny in the name of preserving his own self-image.
Instead, here’s a sly way to fly some reconnaissance on him. While you’re on your presumed date, flash your coyest smile, muster up your flirtiest voice, and say, “doesn’t this feel like a date to you?” If he smiles back and says, “yeah, I guess it does,” that’s definitely a sign that he’s interested. If he doesn’t respond, pretends that he didn’t hear, or bolts out of the room, leaving only a man-shaped cloud of dust sitting across from you, then it’s not a date.
Or, you can just follow the advice of Kate, a graduate student who has devised a cunningly effective gauge of a guy’s intentions: “Does he have his tongue down your throat at the end of the evening? Congratulations! You’ve just been on a date.”
The bottom line is, as much as people hate ambiguity, the sneak-a-date works. As Andrea, who’s in the Coast Guard, admits, “I rarely have a crush at first sight—those things need time to develop for me.”
Adds Laura the lawyer, “sometimes romantic interest just builds through innocent hanging out.”
Jasmine, a theater manager, has an even better story. She ended up marrying the guy who sneaked five dates before he even attempted to kiss her for the first time. “I suppose the sneak-a-date has proven to work as a non-committal, non-confrontational way to test drive a date without having to put yourself out there for rejection,” she acknowledges.
So there you go, guys. Sneak away.