Among the many time-honored questions that haunt the lesbian and bisexual community, including “is she gay or not,” “should I be friends with my ex” and “how do I keep things casual,” is whether or not any given hangout is a date or just platonic. These are urgent questions for straight people as well; as dating becomes more lowkey — and as, for some of us, the line between friends and dates blurs with casual dating — it can be difficult to determine whether the new person you just met is inviting you to get coffee as a date or not. While there’s, unfortunately, no way to be 100% sure besides asking (direct communication!), here are some ways to maybe feel a little more confident about your interpretation.
Are you talking about romantic/sexual topics?
If your convo is moving from light topics like music, TV, and movies to more intimate subjects — like sex, dating histories, and exes — that could indicate that the other person is interested in you (and more specifically, trying to scope out whether you two are looking for similar things). If topics include what you look for in relationships, what your type is, or dating in a very general sense, there’s a good chance your coffee partner is trying to feel out the idea of a relationship with you. Even talking about exes isn’t necessarily a sign someone isn’t into you – they might be sharing about what they know doesn’t work for them in a relationship, or emphasizing how single they are.
If someone is talking about all the other dates they’re going on, or talking about wanting to meet and date other people, it’s possible they’re doing the opposite, and trying to signal they see you as a friend (unless you and/or the other person are non-monogamous or poly, in which case they might very well be trying to get a sense of whether you fit into their dating life!).
Are you flirting, touching, and asking questions that show they want to get to know you?
With a new person, small talk to get to know each other is normal – but with platonic acquaintances, the direction of that small talk often veers more towards establishing common interests and shared values, whereas with a date they might be motivated more to get to know you deeply and share a lot about themselves in turn. If someone’s talking about their ex-partner, the movies they love that make them cry, the last time they went on a date, or their relationship goals for the future, it’ll probably feel pretty clear that this is a date. If not, though? It might still be a date! The topics people bring up on dates vary from person to person — and sometimes even from date to date.
Even if the conversation isn’t explicitly romantic or sexual in nature, are you flirting back and forth? One of the biggest signs that someone is interested in you romantically is if he/she touches your hand or arm occasionally when talking or lightly brushes against your body while moving through a space together. Do they touch your arm while making a point? (Or even better, lean in and put their hand on your shoulder while they explain something?)
Are you discussing plans for seeing each other in the future?
There’s a moment that’s consistent in almost every date, no matter who it’s between or whether it went well or not — as you’re parting at the end of the hangout, each party makes some gesture toward whether or not they’re interested in seeing each other for a second date. “This was fun, I’d love to see you again!” vs. a “Thanks, I had a nice time!” with no follow-up. This isn’t necessarily a facet of a friend hang, even taking into account nerves based on meeting a new person. It would be totally normal to end a new friend hang with a hug or wave goodbye, and maybe a vague reference to something you talked about or very general plans for the future: “I’ll have to check out that podcast!” or “we should watch that movie sometime!” If you or your new pal are closing out the hang with specific, direct declarations about whether you should see each other again or making concrete plans to do so with a time and date, especially if they seem a little shy or nervous doing so, you might be on a date.
When in doubt, ask!
Of course, these are just hints based on clues—but if they happen together they’re likely signs your first meeting was actually a date. Still not sure? As vulnerable as it may feel, the best way to tell if something was a date or just meeting up with someone for coffee is to ask, “Hey, I’d love to hang out again sometime — do you want us to meet as friends, or do you think this might end up as a real date?” If they say they’d like to see each other romantically, then congratulations! You’ve got yourself a date! If they say they want to hang out as friends, then that’s also cool — you’ve got another friend in your life!