You know exactly how to ace a first date.

But you’re not exactly swimming with invitations.

You meet men you like, but they’re content to “see you around” or bump into you sometime. Most don’t even ask for your phone number.

Dates have gone out of style. They’re too risky. It’s easier for many men to swipe on Tinder and arrange a hookup by text than officially ask a woman out to dinner and wear a clean shirt.

But both sexes miss out when relationships move from hanging out to hooking up, with no dating phase in sight.

Dates are not just a black hole down which men and women pour time and money in an attempt to get a callback. They serve an important purpose.

On a date, he’s more than just a guy. He’s supposed to act like a gentleman.

On a date, you are more than just some girl. You’re a lady.

Dates require men and women to show up differently. Higher standards of behavior apply.

The formal rituals of dating, such as opening the door for you or arranging a time and place to meet (and showing up on time), allow you to see how well he’s mastered some basic social skills. Your responsiveness tells him how comfortable you are with your feminine nature.

You can learn more about a man through his behavior on a date than you would in hours of just hanging out together. Hanging out helps you become friends. But dating turns you into potential romantic partners.

But what if the men you’re like are content with hanging out?

What if dating is obsolete within your social circle?

Then it’s up to you to change that.

Now, that doesn’t mean asking him out.

Although it would be faster to take the lead, asking a man out puts him on a receptive footing. He won’t get the chance to play the gentleman if you’re taking the lead. So don’t take that opportunity away from him just yet. See whether he can “man up” and ask you. (It will also tell you how much work he’s willing to put into a relationship.)

A better strategy is to plant the seed of a date in a man’s mind.

You can do this by seeding your conversation with date ideas. Tell him what you enjoy doing. Be precise. Include the music you listen to, the movies you watch, the food you eat, and the events you’re first in line for.

For example, you might say something like:

“There’s this restaurant I’ve been wanting to try. I’ll get around to it at some point.”

“I really enjoy anything Bradley Cooper stars in. He’s got a new movie coming out soon.”

“This café downtown serves the best coffee and food. If you’ve never been there, you’re really missing out.”

Not only do these comments help him understand you better, but they give him ideas for when he finally gets the courage to ask you out.

Some men avoid asking women out because they don’t have any idea what to do. They feel as if any date idea could be a potential failure. What if she doesn’t like seafood? What if she hates horror films? What if she thinks miniature golfing is only for kids?

Letting him know what you enjoy takes a big load off his mind. He knows you want to see the new Bradley Cooper film because you told him. He’ll feel he’s been quite clever, to have picked up on your comment and remembered it when he was casting around for date ideas.

But seeding your conversation with date ideas isn’t enough.

You also need to let him know that you want him to ask you out.

Fear of rejection keeps a lot of men silent. If they never ask a woman out, they get to avoid rejection entirely. They’re unwilling to bet on anything but a sure thing.

So remove all risk for him. Let him know you like and approve of him. You might say something like:

“I’ve enjoyed talking to you. Thanks for a pleasant evening.”

“I’d love it if you asked for my number.”

“I’d enjoy spending more time with you.”

Then leave it in his corner.

By letting him know that you want to see more of him, you’ve given him a clear invitation. It’s up to him whether he takes you up on it. If he does, he’ll have a number of date ideas, thanks to you.

Don’t miss out on the pleasure of dating simply because the men you like are too timid or wary to take the next step. Help them out. Chances are, they’ll never even notice you gave them a helping hand.

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