The five stages of ‘Friend Dating’

How to turn a stranger into someone worthy of #bae

A friend date signifies the act of getting to know somebody or spending time together in a purely platonic way. It’s much like a date-date, but with a few key differences. 

My friend dating history had been quite conservative and gradual. I either met people through school or boyfriends and the relationship just gradually strengthened over forced contact. After a consistent number of group hang outs, I would suggest we catch up, just the two of us. And through this ritual, I would sometimes end up with a close friend. 

However, earlier this year I moved from Melbourne to Sydney for an internship. I knew absolutely nobody in this city and worked in an office of just two people. Therefore, my usual fail-safe way of making friends was now useless, and so I had to go bold or go home. 

This involved actually picking up a stranger and trying to charm them into hanging out with me. The logistics of this manoeuvre alluded me greatly, but after a few ill-fated attempts and one successful fluke, I now consider myself a master. Luckily for you, I’m prepared to share my new-found wisdom. With these five simple stages, you can transform a stranger into someone you would have put in your Myspace top eight….(probably). So let’s begin. 

Phase 1: Making the first move

Objective: add them on Facebook (it’s the most noncommittal form of correspondence) 

In this scenario, your self-esteem is walking a tightrope, so I like to test the waters first. I tried striking up conversations with retail assistants and baristas but quickly realised that they were paid to be nice to me. So I figured I’d only proposition people out of work hours for a more honest response. 

As luck would have it, I was invited to a party by my mum’s friend’s nephew. After grooving alongside a very stylish and cool looking lady, with the help of some liquid courage, I blurted out “Facebook?!” Luckily she was drunk enough to ignore my social ineptitude, and I got her details.

Phase 2: The follow-up

Objective: Finding an activity to do on this date

After waiting an appropriate amount of days (trying to mask my desperation), I sent her an aloof message on Facebook. The best thing to do here is to establish a common ground. Whether it be dancing to ’70s disco music or drinking elaborate cocktails. 

Example: you like pizza? I too like pizza. 

Simplicity is key. 

We quickly established that we both favoured red wine and lived in the Bondi area. And through this common ground, a date at a wine bar in Bondi was made. 

Phase 3: Guidelines and Managing expectations

Objective: To achieve attentiveness and avoid creepiness

It’s important to be prepared before hanging out with a virtual stranger. If the friend date is unchartered territory for you, you might want to liken it to your regular first dates. Having said that, you should keep the following in mind. 

Areas where friend dates and date dates overlap: 

  • Laugh at their jokes
  • Dress casually but still make an effort. You want to look like you’ve tried, but not too hard
  • Don’t come on too strong (telling them that your mum wants to meet them on the first date is considered forward).

Areas where friend dates and date-dates are different: 

  • Split the bill. You’re friends so there should be no weird dormant gender specific traditions. 
  • Creating excuses for physical contact is considered creepy on a friend date. Do not touch their arm too much or sit too close. 
  • If you’re drinking, offer to buy the first round, after all, you have bullied them into hanging out with you. 
  • Talking about an ex is fine on a friend date. But don’t abuse this privilege. Use sparing details so you don’t bore your burgeoning friend. 

Remember that casual friend dating is quite common these days. Visions of Sex and The City marathons and weekly brunch dates in your activewear might not become a reality. All they might want is someone to go dancing with once a month. And that’s OK. Just don’t let them call you last minute when they need an extra in their game of Taboo. You don’t deserve to be taboo-ty called like that. 

Phase 4: Conversation 

Objective: Appear to be totally comfortable in their company

Once you’ve gotten this far, the rest is just the same as any other interaction with a person. However, if you get nervous on dates, start super simple and just ask questions about them. You’ve got this. 

Phase 5: Ending the evening. 

Objective: Don’t over-extend the date and remember to just take it as it comes

Luckily there should be no awkward goodnight kiss or good night kiss-dodge to anticipate. The most important thing is to pick up on cues and know when to bring the evening to a close. Do not buy another jug of beer if your maybe-friend has been talking about his or her big day tomorrow or has looked at his/her watch more than five times in the past half hour. 

You might find at the end of this date you just aren’t feeling a spark. In this case, you can go back to being Facebook acquaintances for the next year before you clean out your contacts. But the experience of dating is beneficial no matter the outcome. If you’re lucky, you might end up meeting truly incredible people, and your friendship will go the distance. 

NB: My friend date with Cassie went really well, and I believe if we lived in the Myspace age she would be in my Top 8. I may not be in hers, but that’s not really the objective here…

Illustration by TwylaMae whose Seinfeld tees you can shop here.

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