So, do you wanna, like, hang out sometime?
I get this message every Friday night.
Girls, we've heard it all before. We've heard all of the variations:
"We should do something."
"What are you doing this weekend?"
"Want to hang out?"
"We should hang out soon."
I think I speak for most women when I say, "What in the heck is that?"
We grew up in the hang out generation. The Counting Crows song sums it up, "I've been hanging around this town on a corner. I've been bumming around this old town for way, way, way too long." I hung out in Taco Bell, at Walmart, Englander's, in my neighbor's backyard. My childhood was one long lazy hanging out.
But now that I'm nearing my mid-twenties, single hanging out is the "old town" of social dead ends. We've been here way, way, way too long waiting for something to change in the dynamics of the same old faces in the same old places.
Hanging out is nebulous. Asking someone to "hang out" without a plan or a purpose is disappointing, to say the least (I've said more). When a guy asks me out to hang out in a group of friends or just with him, I am forced to wonder what in the world he means. Will other people be there (if I am lucky enough to know where "there" is) or is this a pseudo-date? Is this a friend thing? If it isn't, how do I escape without having to have a talk? If I don't know where we're going or what we're doing, how do I know what to wear?
I "hang out" with my girl friends. It's great. I don't mind if I get a call from SBP saying, "You wanna do something later? I don't know what. Just come over and we'll think of something." I put on a cozy sweater, grab my car keys, and happily head off to hang out.
But when a guy asks the same thing I feel weirdly trespassed upon. I know that in the high stress world of "maybe I like her, I wonder if she likes me?" that an offer to hang out is like an olive branch: I come in peace. The problem with olive branches, though: nobody respects the person waving an olive branch. We tend to feel a bit smug and annoyed (think of how we treat France).
Somewhere along the way, the 20-something single crowd became incredibly afraid of getting caught in one-on-one situations with members of the opposite sex. Instead, we devised a system of group hanging out, wherein a group of friends of both genders regularly meet and socialize. This herd travels from watering hole to watering hole in a tight configuration: these three people are very close, those two are kind of arguing, he might like her....
And that's when the group dynamic sucks any life out of a flirtation. It's flirting in a fishbowl, flirting with training wheels, flirting for people with Social Anxiety Disorder. Little changes from week to week because the group absorbs most of the tension. If the conversation becomes a little too involved one party can simply begin talking to another person in the group.
And of course, if one person does something irrational like ask the other person out it is tantamount to a proposal of marriage, because after all: the health of the whole group is at stake here. If this fails, the group could split.
So, you've heard my opinion on hanging out. I pretty much hate what it suggests (I don't like you enough to risk rejection and be up-front and honest with you). But what do you think? Is hanging out a good social trend? After all, in my mom's chastity classes, step one of any relationship is "get to know one another in a group." Is the new "date" an invitation to hang out? Should girls accept such invitations?
And feel free to share any other opinions, such as, "Marianne, you're absolutely crazy." I love hearing that one.
I'll be hanging out in the comments section. Do you, like, maybe wanna hang out with me there?