Credit: Elton Anderson

Comedian, HBO Insecure actress, and InStyle contributing editor Amanda Seales is never afraid to say what's on her mind. Amanda Land is her take on sex, politics, and modern womanhood.

I recently found myself at a university talking to a room of young women about dating when a sophomore came to the mic and asked, “What even is a date?” This launched us into a Twilight Zone-level convo about Netflix and chilling, “talking” vs. “together,” spontaneous meet ups, and the ubiquitous, “U up?” text.

For these young women, and the men of interest around them, the concept of dating had left the real world and become fossilized as a plot point in romantic comedies, replaced by lackluster attempts from potential suitors to get to know them only by exuding the smallest amount of physical, mental, and emotional effort possible. And I quote, “I told him I’d like to go to the museum, and he said, ‘You doin’ too much’.”

Psh, college. But then it dawned on me that the concept of The Date wasn’t much clearer these days in my 30-something single woman existence and could use a refresher.

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Growing up, dating seemed pretty straightforward: If someone was interested in getting to know you on a romantic level, they approached, exchanged info, and proceeded to communicate with you in a consistent fashion between outings of various natures. I.e. “I like you on some level. Let’s see if there’s more while we’re out in the world together.” These days, not so much. Far too often, intentions are unclear, effort is at a minimum, and expected standards are considered “extra.”

The young university women asked me to provide some insight on where to start when establishing their dating bottom lines. Of course, everyone has their preferences and their own path, but for those looking for some guidance, here’s my take. Let’s start at the beginning.

Some first date assumed basics:

  • A first date is NOT at someone’s residence. Boundaries, folks. I don’t want you to be all up in my apartment meeting my cat, and I don’t want to be all in your apartment with you trying get “the cat.”
  • A first date is planned in advance. There are exceptions, of course, but typically, spontaneity is earned. Planning shows that you’re not only respectful of my time but that you actually give a damn enough to think this through.
  • A first date is not about sex. Now listen, if by the end of this encounter you’ve been so swooned by their smile, impeccable manners, and vast knowledge of ‘90s-era cartoon theme songs (Darkwing Duck was a classic!) that lust is a must, DO YOU! But setting out with the intention of objectifying/being objectified isn’t the best jump off point for a real emotional connection.

Of course, things can get a bit murky as time goes on, but, from jump, I try to be as clear as possible about what I am dating for. Ideally, we date the folks who are dating for the same reason we are. Keep an eye out for when that is not the case, so we can keep it movin’!

The bumps and bruises I’ve collected in this obstacle course of love have taught me that, even on a first date, when I overlook or accept behaviors that initially gave me pause, they inevitably reveal themselves to be symptoms of a larger problem—generally that I’m dating someone who is not interested in the same thing I am: a real relationship, with a real person.

After our talk, the young women and I came to the same conclusion: It’s up to us to be solid in how we want to be approached by suitors. It may seem old school, but regardless of all the social media interaction folks have now, I still believe in dates and what they do to build trust, reveal interests, and ignite passion between two people.

On the other hand, I blame this new trend of half-baked, laissez-faire courtship for creating confusion, enforcing lack of accountability, and a spike in vibrator sales.