In a time with ubiquitous communications and online chat and games, the word "date" has little meaning and significance to me. The first time that Jason and I went out on a date, it was clearly a date. We met in a restaurant to talk and evaluate the possibility of a romantic connection. Pretty quintessential. By the time we went on our third date, we'd been talking quite a lot for two weeks, and had gotten to know each other pretty well. By the end of it, we decided that we should be calling each other our boyfriend, updated Facebook, and so on. Even by then, the word "date" was beginning to get fuzzy for me. Was the third date a date because we saw each other in person? What about the dozen IM conversations before that, or the text messages, or the questing in World of Warcraft? What were those? How are those things so different from a "date" beyond the ability to see and touch the other person? (In World of Warcraft I can even have my character hug or kiss or cuddle with his. Sure, it's contrived, but I suppose it helps to fill one of the voids in instant messaging.)
Maybe they're not so different, and maybe that doesn't matter at all. What matters, of course, is developing an emotional and romantic connection with the other person. What form that facilitating communication takes is relevant, but not extremely so. Of course, the face-to-face and hand-to-hand physical contact from being in close proximity of your loved one is preferable—body language allows for alternate ways of silently expressing affection, and after experiencing what it's like to live across a lake from my significant other, I have great empathy for those who live in separate states or even countries.
Perhaps there's nothing wrong with the word "date," but rather just that "dates" are no longer as much of the way that people get to know each other. This isn't a new phenomenon with instant messaging; IM simply replaces the telephone for us. How long has it been since dates were actually the primary interactions between two people? Online gaming is a little more of a step in a new direction, but I suppose it's not much different than just role-playing over the phone (like "I'm holding your hand now"... "I'm looking in your eyes", which I think would actually be mildly creepy). As much as it shames me to say it, I think that the realization that I've come to is that my expectations and frame of mind were mostly just created by relationships in TV and movies. Dating there exists in this bizarre, disconnected world that intersects strangely with real life. In that world, two people go on a date, sleep together that night, and then their next interaction is their next date, either at a restaurant or a movie. Rarely is there anything in-between, other than perhaps the girl desperately waiting for the guy to call her.
But I always knew (or at least hoped) that my relationships wouldn't work like that—I'd have so much trouble accepting that. So why did I apparently subconsciously expect it? Curse you, mainstream media. In reality, things with my boyfriend are about as close to ideal as I could have hoped for. Though we may only go on a "date" once or twice a week, I think only one day has gone by in which we haven't had a conversation. These interactions, which rightfully could have been some of the most difficult and stressful of my life for an introvert, have been refreshingly easy. I am always nervous and confused in unfamiliar social territory, yet I'm completely calm and content when Jason and I are talking. It's pleasant and unusual.
I'd always assumed that my boyfriend and I would communicate on our own terms, and always hoped that we'd play games together. (This is good; I'd be terrible at following "the rules" anyway. I've only even called him a few times, and those were mostly just to tell him that traffic was terrible and I was going to be late.) How many "dates" we've been on is not relevant, and thus the definition of the word "date" isn't even relevant except as a convenient label in conversation. We can communicate any time of any day, and I think that as long as we stay in contact, see each other in person when we can manage it and talk through technology when we can't, and continue to develop a meaningful relationship, none of the things I've been musing about for the past couple of weeks matters at all. And that feels nice.
Currently listening: Snow Patrol—Take Back the City