Octavia Sheepshanks: Week 2

In her second column, OCTAVIA gives her views on the baffling world of dating.

column columnist Corpus Playroom date Dating definition kiss love life Octavia Sheepshanks plato rejection socrates sorites Theatre week 2

Fresh from a scintillating supervision on Socrates’ pursuit of definitions, I would like to pursue a definition of my own, namely that of a ‘date’.

Have you ever been on a date? Have I? Has anyone? In my quest for knowledge, I shall paraphrase Plato and state: ‘even if they are many and various, all of them have one and the same form which makes them dates, and it is right to look to this when one is asked to make clear what a date is’ (Meno, 72c).

In simpler terms: what makes a date a date?

This query is highly relevant; I’m pretty sure I accidently embarked upon a ‘date’ last term, and am extremely keen not to make this blunder again.

I had happily agreed to go to the theatre with a boy (Or should I say man? Youth, perhaps. When does the change occur? Ooh, an example of the Sorites paradox. Observe how relevant Philosophy is to real life!) one evening in Week 4. I wasn’t keen on any romantic interaction, so it was vital that my intentions were not misunderstood.

Luckily, mild concerns about whether this constituted a date were soon put to rest, since (a) he didn’t try to pay for my ticket, (b) it being a play, there was no opportunity to get to know each other, however ‘intimate’ a venue the Corpus Playroom might be, and (c) neither of us suggested that we go for a drink afterwards. Instead, we wandered back in the direction of our colleges to the tune of some idle chatter.

On reaching my college, we said our goodbyes and went in for what I assumed would be a friendly hug. Suddenly, his face was millimetres from mine! I recoiled in shock, and then must have begun laughing, hands on hips, because he proceeded to imitate me doing so. This action must merely have suggested surprise on my part, as a second kiss was then initiated, at which point I found myself gabbling rebuttals that have no place outside American sitcoms: “I’m not really ready to date…I’ve got, like, a ‘thing’ with someone back home…But we should, like, hang out!”

I returned to my room in a state of embarrassment and confusion. Was there an underlying code in his original request that I had missed?

A friend of mine denies the concept of a date altogether, claiming that there is no difference between what I would cautiously refer to as a ‘date’ and the idea of two friends simply spending time together. There had undoubtedly been an extra element to this theatre trip – at least for him. I, too, have been guilty of inferring such an element. At the end of Michaelmas, someone I had briefly met and liked messaged me to suggest that we go for a drink sometime and I went into wild spasms of ‘Ahh! It’s a date! It’s a date!’ I replied in the affirmative, which he promptly read and ignored. Oh.

I had originally intended to conclude this column by laughingly proposing the introduction of a checkbox for virtual messaging, which could be ticked or crossed to inform a recipient of one’s expectations from a social activity. This week, however, I revealed my thinking to a new (male) friend of mine, and asked how I might avoid confusion when arranging to meet up with a guy with whom I just wanted to be friends. ‘Not be an attractive woman?’ was his touching reply. A text from him, mere minutes after his departure, read: ‘Would you let me buy you lunch, either tomorrow or Tuesday (that’s me asking you on a date by the way)?’ Clarity issue: resolved. Unwanted date issue: created. My initial response, ‘I wouldn’t let you buy me lunch on any day of the week, but I’ll buy my own on Tuesday’, was far too cryptic in its attempt not to hurt his feelings, so I was then forced to be more blunt.

‘Oh, poor you’, you sarcastically exclaim, ‘so many men’. Yes, fine, but I don’t fancy them (I have quite odd tastes) so all this palaver just ends in embarrassment on their part, guilt on mine, and the curtailing of potential friendships.

I should probably conclude my Socratic query, given that I’ve hit 715 words, but I’ve come no closer to understanding this debatable world of dating. Frankly, all I’ve grasped is that it’s a bit shit. Having ‘friend-zoned’ men in all directions, creating such awkwardness that I never want to see them again, I’m now too scared to suggest a rendezvous with those I might actually fancy, lest they do the same to me.