Two of the most stress-inducing words in the English language, at least as far as male/female relationships and dating go, have got to be “hanging out.”
Say you’re friends with a guy (o most common of scenarios in Christian circles!), and you’re somewhere on the sliding scale of never-in-a-million-years to straight-up head-over-heels in love and dying for him to reciprocate. Whenever you’re together (always in a group, of course), he’s friendly with you, gives you lots of side hugs, sometimes has one-on-one conversations with you about Important Things, and thanks you for praying for him/his friend/his unsaved relative/his mom’s operation. Now, one day out of the blue, he calls you up and asks you to “hang out.” (Sometimes this also takes the form of “maybe get some people together,” with “some people” being optional.) He sounds casual, but your heart starts to patter. What does he mean? What does “hanging out” mean? Good news! Nobody knows!
Here is where the folks at Boundless would step in and browbeat encourage young men to be intentional about women and to stop hanging out and start dating instead — all the while encouraging hanging out, usually via group stealth dates, to get to know someone. (How’s that for irony?) I generally think that hanging out should be confined to groups. If a man calls up a woman and asks her to hang out, and it’s just the two of them, then that’s a date. Even if it’s not intended to be a date, it tends to have the form of a date and be interpreted by others as a date. And, at least in my experience, there’s often a strange, quasi-date feel permeating the affair. I know, I know: you’re different, and your friends are aware of the delineations you’ve made in relationship status. But generalizations arise from commonality, and chances are that you are not quite the special snowflake you think you are. Someone, somewhere, is going to be misinterpreting something.
In sum: Men, be upfront. Women, be receptive (so long as it’s not of the “I’ll say yes to anyone” variety).
Since pictures are worth a thousand words, and stories are how we learn about ourselves, I thought the following scenes from the show Gilmore Girls would be a good example of what “hanging out” usually leads to. In Rory’s case, her object of interest is actually interested back, but he doesn’t make it clear before Rory goes through the emotional ringer.
[Background to the scene: Rory Gilmore was the beautiful, brainy daughter on the old WB show Gilmore Girls. Throughout high school she had the (g0od?) fortune of having two different boyfriends who liked to fight with each other over her. However, in college she met her match in Logan, a party boy who also happened to be the heir to a publishing empire. Early on, Rory didn’t know how to handle either her attraction to Logan or Logan himself due to never having encountered a boy who could either take or leave her looks charms.]
Emboldened from advice from the breakfast cereal girls to call up her crush and ask him to “hang out,” Rory dials Logan’s number. He answers.
RORY: Hi, it’s Rory.
LOGAN: Rory Gilmore, as I live and breathe.
They have a bit of badinage regarding their last run-in, and then Rory bites the bullet:
RORY: So, I was wondering if maybe you’d like to hang out, or something.
LOGAN: Sure, I’d love to hang out with you. Come on over.
Mission accomplished! “Hanging out” was such a great idea!
…she discovers that Logan is not alone.
LOGAN: Welcome to my night of humiliating defeat. Come on, be my good luck charm.
LOGAN: You look very nice tonight.
It’s clear that the poker game is not going to come to an end any time soon.
Ah, the joys of “hanging out”!
The next day, Rory returns to thank Logan for a favor he did her after the game. Annoyed that he did not ditch his friends for her at the way the previous night went, Rory makes sure to put some distance between them.
RORY: Thank you very much for your help.
LOGAN: You’re very formal tonight.
LOGAN: Just your tone. It’s formal.
He tells her that he ended up winning the poker game and that she should come to all of his games. Rory dishes out some sarcasm that she should. Logan is surprised at her tone.
RORY: Hey, did it ever occur to you when I called to ask you if you wanted to hang out that I meant that it should just be the two of us?
LOGAN: I actually wasn’t sure. The whole thing was a little vague.
RORY: It wasn’t vague.
LOGAN: No, “hanging out’s” a little vague. It’s not a specific boy-girl thing.
RORY: Well, I can tell you that I wasn’t expecting to be Fanny Brice to your Nicky Arnstein.
LOGAN: But I already had this game going, and I couldn’t just kick everybody out, so my choice is to say no and not see you at all, or say yes and do it the way we did it.
Rory clarifies that she wasn’t expecting there to be a group. Logan asks if she thinks he should have said no and not seen her at all? He tells her that he did want to see her.
RORY: I just thought it would be a little more intimate.
Logan teases that by intimate, Rory means sex, which she quickly clarifies is not her intent.
LOGAN: So, we can see each other under all kinds of conditions. Alone, in a group. Last night happened to be a group thing.
Message sent, message received.
LOGAN: Now, I’m going out of town for a few days, but I was going to give you a call to set up something for when I get back, but you called me first. I’m back next Saturday. It’s the first night I’m back. Want to — I don’t know, what are the kids saying these days? “Hang out”?
RORY: I’m never listening to the breakfast cereal girls again.
LOGAN: No group this time.
RORY: No group this time.
LOGAN: Good, so next Saturday.
So much better than “hanging out”!