Ask Minda Honey: A Non-Drinker Needs Some Date Ideas

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Hey Minda,

I’m getting back into the dating scene, which is fun and hard and scary and exciting.

I’m trying to get outside the conventional “meet-for-drinks” scenario. I’ve decided I want to go into new dates with a sober perspective, and to better integrate dating in with some of my other interests. But, a hike with a person I don’t know yet, for example, seems ill-advised.

Any advice, or fun ideas, on how to navigate these conversations?

—Non-Drinking Dater

Why hello there, Non-Drinking Dater!

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When people fantasize about alternate careers, one of mine would be Romance Planner. I really do have this zest for date planning that I rarely get to flex. Mostly because I don’t want to overwhelm people with my over-the-top-ness, and, also, despite this being a peak interest of mine, I get all kinds of funny when dudes put it on me to plan the first date — I’m looking for someone who’s going to take some initiative! Which means, I generally end up on a lot of booze-based dates (I flat out turn down coffee dates. They’re a waste of an outfit. *Shrug*).

While I do enjoy hitting the Happy Hour trail hard on a date, I did refrain from drinking the entire holiday season last year from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, so I had an opportunity to get creative about how to socialize without drinking. This week, I also learned about a cool organization here in Louisville called the Mocktail Project. Their aim is to have nonalcoholic options in every setting that go beyond tea, water and soda. Nonalcoholic drinks should be fun and interesting to drink too! So, even if you find yourself in a bar setting, maybe guide your date in choosing one that has some mocktail offerings.

But if you want to get beyond the bar, I have some ideas for that too. We’re easing into fall, so this is a great time to get outside with a potential paramour. Like you, I don’t believe in going into remote areas with folks I don’t know (which made dating sooooo hard in Denver. Everyone wants to take you for a hike in the mountains. Pass. That’s how bitches go missing.). But you can meet up at a farm for some pumpkin picking, hot cider sampling or scarecrow building (Wait, is that not a farm activity?). Free outdoor concerts are also popular this time of year because the mosquitoes have died down, and if it gets chilly out, you have an excuse to cuddle under a blanket with a cutie. This also is an ideal time of year for a midweek date at the zoo, since families will probably be too busy shuttling their kids to after-school activities to harsh your romance vibes.

Studies show — Google it — that doing activities together make the heart grow fonder. They also cut out a lot of that first date awkwardness because they give you something focus on. That’s why there’s been this explosion of all those damn breakout rooms. You can also do something that veers more athletic such as dates involving an indoor rock-climbing wall, roller skating or a walk through the park, or do something that’s more faux athletic like ax throwing, bowling and kite flying. Yes, kite flying. It’s actually kind of cute and fun to go on a date with someone to Target to pick out a kite and then hit up a spot to watch them soar and prepare a little blanket picnic for after. There’s a reason so many movies have miniature golf dates — It’s cute AF. Go-kart racing, trampoline parks and zip lining can be solid choices, too.

Cooking classes make for great memories (but try to find one that goes easy on the wine pours). You can also meet a date for a walk through the museum, do a First Friday gallery hop or attend a lecture on a topic you’re both interested in. It’s now the time of year for plays, operas and other indoor activities involving a stage (Oooh! Maybe you all could take an acting class together?).

Even though most of these options are not centered around drinking, there’s still a strong chance that alcohol will be present because it’s so ingrained in our culture. Some activities you can do that are more likely not feature a drink of any kind are doing some kind of volunteer project together. I dunno because I’ve never done it, but I doubt Habitat for Humanity hauls a cooler of beers onto the job site.

Good luck out there,
Minda

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