Last night at FHE, I noticed that Joe, who used to come all the time, wasn’t there for the third week in a row. I voiced my observation to Alex, who said that he heard that Joe has been hanging out with a girl named Alicia a lot lately. Meredith overheard and asked whether they were dating or just hanging out, which lead to a long conversation about what the difference is between a date and hanging out, and how much it matters.

Questions that arose and were generally disagreed upon: If you hang out one-on-one, is that a date? If you hang out with multiple persons of the opposite sex, are you dating all of them at once? If you hang out rarely, is that dating, or is it more dating-like if you hang out frequently? Is there a sharp distinction between dating and hanging out, or is it a continuum? Is it only a date if you consciously have romantic interest? What if only one person is interested? What if both are? What if you’re secretly interested? What if you used to be dating in an obvious way, but are just friends now? (There was disagreement of whether that’s really possible or whether people are fooling themselves.) Is it possible to hang out with someone you’re dating, or once you’re dating, is it always a date? Does it even matter whether it’s hanging out or a date? (There was major disagreement on that one!) Is it better to hang out or date? If you’re hanging out at a resaurant and happen to eat dinner, should the guy offer to pay? (Gimme a break!) I spent most of the evening chuckling at how animated some of the participants in the conversation got.

Why, I wonder, do we use the word “date” to describe a romantic outing? Is it because one schedules (oh, wait, “two schedule”) the outing for a particular “date”? If one goes camping overnight with a person of interest (ignoring the question of whether that would be appropriate or not–let’s assume you’re going with a group) is that a “date” or a “dates”?

So many questions. So little importance. All that really matters is whether you have fun and whether you end up married or not. Call it whatever you want.