Even though I'm not single, I still go on dates sometimes. With girls. Want to take a moment to digest that with your poached eggs and sourdough?
Great, let's continue. Because there's more. My husband is totally cool with my date nights and happily looks after the kids while I get dressed up, slap on some make-up and go out for cocktails or dinner with a girl I've recently met.
Many women regularly drink, dine or dance with other women, regardless of their relationship status or sexuality. Because two girls sharing a drink, a meal or a dance floor doesn't have to lead to sex. Or even a pash. It can lead to friendship, though. Among straight women, that's the whole point of a girl date. Well, it's one of them.
Once you're in a committed relationship, it becomes inappropriate to flirt more than passingly with members of the opposite sex (or the same sex, if you're gay). A red-card offence.
But, lest it whither and die, it's healthy to flex your flirt muscle occasionally, and doing it in a non-sexual context is ideal. Safe. Fun. Innocent.
You still get that buzz from having to be on top of your game, but without any of the boy/girl complexity and high stakes of being nude or unfaithful.
Girl dates are different from going out with your girlfriends, which is more like marriage. Girlfriends are comfortable and comforting. Like your favourite Converse. You've known each other intimately for years, you accept each other's irritating qualities with good grace, and you no longer need to make an effort. You can wear trackies and be in a crappy mood with greasy hair and that's okay. As in a marriage, girlfriends have usually seen each other naked – in change-rooms mostly, or breastfeeding.
But when you go out with someone you've recently met, you turn up the volume on your Best Self. It's like putting on high heels. You try harder.
You're funnier. More interesting. A better listener.
It's about banter and making each other laugh. It's about basking in the image reflected by someone who thinks you're fabulous, who is unburdened by the knowledge of how you look when you're drunk, crying or both. It's about feeling the glow of a new connection without any baggage.
One woman I know explains it like this: ''Girl dates are like regular dates without the sex.
Even though I'm not actively looking for more friends, I find it easy to connect with people. Sometimes I click with guys I meet through work but there's always that undercurrent of sexual tension, even if it only goes one way. It's the elephant in the room: are we going to hook up? And I have a boyfriend, so I could never just go out to dinner with a guy I'd like to be friends with. That would be uncool.''
Yes, it would. Ditto emails or texts with the kind of flirty banter that makes you feel alive and clever and perks you up when you see the person's name pop up on your phone or inbox.
However, you can get a similar feeling from the first flush of a new friendship. It's that slightly jittery energy that comes from wanting to impress someone. You try hard to make them laugh and you rush to share things about yourself as a way to quickly build history.
Women tend to be experts at fast intimacy. It's what we do. I'll show you mine and then you show me yours. This explains why we know so much about so many people in our lives, from the woman who makes our coffee to our hairdresser to the girl standing next to us in the nightclub loo queue.
I'm good at this because I am incapable of small talk and am forever asking inappropriate questions.
I like to cut to the chase. Naturally it goes both ways. I am quick to share, and you can't beat the power of a personal anecdote to turn on the tap of another woman's life. Combine this exchange of information with chemistry and you have good grounds for a girl date.
On her Facebook page, a friend recently wrote: ''Getting ready for a date – with a girl.''
''How did you meet?'' I messaged her.
''We were at a group dinner for someone's birthday and I sat next to her and her husband.
We've been emailing and texting for the last couple of weeks and tonight we're having a drink. If things go well, maybe dinner.''
As it turned out, they did have dinner but they couldn't quite replicate that initial chemistry. This happens. Because not all girl dates lead to bigger things. Sometimes, as with regular dates, that frisson fizzles out when you go one on one.
Other times, it can lead to a short burst of friendship until the novelty wears off and you realise you're actually not that into her. Occasionally, though, your girl date can sprout roots and grow into a long-lasting friendship.
Then you can get comfortable all over again.
This column appears in Sunday Life magazine every Sunday. Mia writes daily at mamamia.com.au, and you can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/miafreedman.