It seems that the characteristic ‘indifference’ our generation often gets slammed for has followed us into the dating scene.
Now, I know that many of you are probably sitting, holding paper in one hand and religiously sipping your coffee with the other, so what I am about to write may be highly sacrilegious, but coffee does not a good first date make.
According to a Times article released online early this year ‘69% of singles have absolutely no idea if they’re on a date or just “hanging out”’ with potential love interests.
Of course many of us have fallen victim to what the coffee date has to offer. Short and sweet, casual and, dare I say it, inexpensive. The allure of the roast, the grind, the exotic blends. The sensorial overload of the hot cup resting in your grip, timing your mouthfuls according to your interest in the conversation whilst leaving just enough for any potential awkward pauses.
You suggest a familiar café but not your usual – as ancient wisdom tells us (PG version): don’t lay down your ordure where you slumber. All in all, the coffee date seems like a great setting for introductions.
However, too often we leave the place contemplating the relational capacity in which the other person invited us to coffee. The miniature wooden chairs, the streamline industrial machinery and the shabby-chic urban decor is aloof to intimate sparks. It denies us of emotional certainty. We are left in the lurch and frustrated.
Perhaps, this is what you’re going for. I see four main types of coffee dates.
(1) The coffee date for the ‘undecideds’, the ‘I think I like them’s. While it may be an undesirable setting for a date, you may be pardoned.
(2) You genuinely like the person and are scared to be rejected. Again, forgivable, but you also risk other person misunderstanding your intentions and friend-zoning you.
(3) You know that this type of date creates uncertainty and you purposely want to drive the other person mad. If that is the case, please do us all a favour, be considerate and get over yourself.
(4) You think it is a good first date.
Let us focus on category (4). Usually, unless you are verbally explicit that it is a date or express your desire to see the other person in more cosy setting, people are downright lost. You may be thinking, “But why else would I want to talk to a stranger? I have no other reason to invite them out!” Well, my unknown friends, some people don’t share your natural distaste for mingling with strangers.
In fact, some people also see coffee as a platonic activity, an opportunity for amicable exchange. It is for these people that an invitation to a coffee date might as well be an invitation to no-man’s-land, situated somewhere between Let’s-Be-Friends Street and Wait-You’re-In-My-Bed Boulevard.
Departure from such quasi-dates thrusts them into deep contemplation – often involving a friend or two – where they interrogate the juxtaposition between the un-enticing setting and the lingering looks. Here, the invitee assesses each moment, trying to draw delineation between what a friend would do at coffee and what a non-friend might do.
What you end up with is no distinction whatsoever. Humans tend to drink coffee in the same way and it is very hard to make that look seductive–unless you are into pouring scolding hot substances on your body. If so, safety first.
So why not save everyone the trouble and invite someone on to activities that indicate you are actually on a date. For those of you are stumped for ideas, here are 3 suggestions that cater to the short and sweet, casual and inexpensive flavours of the coffee date.
(a) Get dessert: Night is always more fun and who could say no to voluptuous scoops of ice-cream drizzled with chocolate.
(b) Get moving: Whether it be an art exhibition or a walk round the lake, the scenery provides you with easy talking points and if you are a particularly affectionate person you can hold hands. Yippee!
(c) Anything involving live music: At the very least you are supporting local artists. What is even better is that the good vibrations are bound to give the evening a little buzz. Plus, silence becomes perfectly acceptable, which allows for comfortable conversation.
So, for all you serial coffee-daters, next time you are about to blurt out the instinctive “Grab a coffee”, I dare you to take a mental pause, reconsider your intentions and suggest something new.
 Laura Stampler, ‘We’re All Going to Be Single Forever Because No One Knows When They’re On a Date Anymore’, Times (21 January 2014) online <http://time.com/1413/were-all-going-to-be-single-forever-because-no-one-knows-when-theyre-on-a-date-anymore/>.