A few months ago, an article in the New York Times about the changing nature of dating was the subject of louder than average tittering online. The article, called “The End of Courtship”, had all the hallmarks of we’ve come to expect from major print publications looking to understand the millennial psyche: an over-zealous headline, a cast of spoiled girls and immature boy-men, Lena Dunham references, twitter-bitching, and tons of stories about 20-something women based on the anthropological studies of a middle aged man.
While most of the article doesn’t deserve any attention, the writer did bring up an idea that I’ve thought about for a while—the idea that one-on-one dates have, partially, been replaced by “hanging out”—often in groups. This idea stuck with me, not because I think it is always true, but because I’m kind of on board with it.
Honestly, what’s wrong with a group-hang? It’s certainly not right for a first date, but after you get to know each other, I don’t see anything wrong with incorporating nights with your SO into nights out with your friends. Chances are, you’re going to end up in bed alone together later, and then eat breakfast alone together the next morning, so are you really copping out on romance if you do drinks as a gang on Friday night?
As most people are short on time and money these days anyway, the idea of seeing everyone you care about simultaneously is just economical. Also, maybe I feel this way because I watch too many sitcoms, but groups of 4-8 people are just better for conversation, hijinks, inside jokes, and breaking off into groups to live out different plotlines which come together at the end just like that time Kramer sold his opera tickets to that clown who was actually Crazy Joe. Group hangs are fun! So here are a few of my ideas for doing them right.
1. Ease Into It
If this is the first time your girlfriend is meeting your friends, keep the group small and give her lots of attention. She knows she’s being judged, so make her feel as wanted as possible, even if your best friend is giving her the cut eye because that bitch has been taking up so much of your time lately. But don’t worry about that hostility, now that you’re “group hanging” everyone is going to get their fair share of you. As long as they like her.
2. Let Her in on Jokes
To make them like her, give your date a chance to make fun of you. You guys should know each other well enough by now that she knows one, harmless, lame thing about you, so find a way to invite that criticism so she can bond with your friends about it. If you are a terrible cook, say that the bar’s nachos aren’t nearly as good as your macaroni and potato chip sandwiches. If you are a messy eater, let them hear you ask the server for extra napkins because you are going to get salsa all over that table otherwise. If your date has any sense of timing, that’s when bring up what an adorable slob you are and everyone will share stories about your disgusting pas. There will be bonding.
If you’re playing darts or pool or something, don’t be on her team. She’s one of the gang now, not some guest star who can only have spin-off plots with you.
4. Acknowledge That You are a Lucky Bastard
When it comes to you meeting her friends for the first time, the only advice I can give you is this: treat your girlfriend like a queen . . . but also make fun of her with her friends. When I meet my friend’s boyfriends, ultimately the only thing I care about is that my friend is happy with a guy who cares about her and realizes what a lucky bastard he is to even be gazed upon by my perfect warrior princess of a friend. You can demonstrate this by resting your hand on the curve of her back, laughing at her stupid jokes, and gazing into her eyes admiringly when she’s talking to you about the things that matter to her, like global warming, or that bitch at work she hates. That’s the sort of stuff that I, as a friend, like to see. Eventually, if you intend on sticking around, you can try and bounce some dialogue off the rest of the group, have some hijinks, form elaborate jokes, and eventually become a series regular. Maybe you’ll even play trivial pursuit with a boy in a bubble. Until then, just be a good boyfriend and even if her friends never do become your friends, they’ll at least be happy you’re around.
Mika Rekai is a Toronto-based writer, humourist, and self-designated sex guru. She does not feel the need to justify that last part to you. She asks that you just be cool and go with it.