There are dates, which are events when you go out with someone with whom you share a mutual attraction with the implied purpose of getting to know each other to determine your levels of compatibility and exclusivity. Then there are undates, which are events when you go out with someone whose personality and/or company you enjoy just to have fun together, but without the compatibility/exclusivity component. Then there are beard dates, which are events when you go out with someone who is a friend specifically to give you the appearance of having a compatible, exclusive companion when you know you are facing an awkward social situation.
The purpose of having a beard is obvious to anyone who has been forced to to fly solo at a cousin's wedding where obnoxious relatives invariably spend half the reception trying to matchmake you with hopelessly inappropriate partners from the vast, gathered network of friends of the family. A beard means you do not have to deal with dirty Uncle Sal's hand on your bottom in the waiting line. A beard means you do not have to please your mother by dancing with the pimply college freshman son of her former college roommate. A beard means you do not have to suffer the indignity of making nice over the buffet table with last year's jerk who ran off with cousin Amy, sister of the bride & maid of honor, because she invited him as her date but she is currently parked next to the wedding cake posing for an hour's worth of formal pictures.
Beards are necessary and good. Beards are the lubricant that make being single tolerable when singles are forced into sticky, intolerable social situations. But not all beards are created equal.
Being a good beard requires three things:
- Being socially adept in strange situations,
- Being a good enough friend to read your date's feelings and provide the support she needs to get through the day/evening, and
- Being loyal to your date for the entire date.
An undate, by definition, means that either or both of you are free to scope the scene for future real dates, invite other friends to join you, and generally behave as friends do--pretty much anything goes as long as you're having fun and you know your friend has a safe ride home. A beard date, by contrast, must put the comfort zone of his date before his personal pursuit of fellowship and sexual company. After all, the whole point of asking a friend to be a beard is to avoid being left alone with people with whom you don't want to be left alone.
I know that last seems like a no-brainer, but for some reason, in practice, it isn't. I should know. I spent a very peculiar evening recently in the company of a beard friend who spent all his time hitting on another woman, which left me to be preyed on by a short, porcine, over-cologned salesman with pick-up lines circa 1979. Brown. Leisure. Suit. Hell.
I think I have identified something the Cville single scene sorely needs: Not an [wink] escort company, not speed dating at Rapture, not 3,000 adults surfing Match.com -- rather, a Professional Beard Service. All I need is a grant to get it operational.