Guy (in his mid 20s) asked, "when should I start dating? I haven't dated anyone seriously yet."
I replied, "Are you ready to settle down?"
Guy replied, "no."
I replied, "Until you're ready to settle down and marry (you have a stable job, you can be dependable, respectable, ...) - don't date. Hang out."
Guy asks, "What do you mean settle down and marry? Of course I'm not."
I say, "Well... in most cases, you date a girl, you like her, you guys start a relationship, ... 6 months... 9 months... 1 year... very soon if not earlier than that, your lady is gonna wonder, pressure you, want the big 'M' word. Especially if you're dating in your post college years in your late 20s, 30s, 40s... The older you get, the shorter the window of dating."
Guy says, "Oh. Hmm. I think some girls don't mind not having that..."
I say, "Really? If she's being true to herself, that's a major rarity. Major edge case."
Guy agrees, "Yeah... - then what do you mean by hanging out?"
I reply, "Hanging out - like go to the movies, hang out with friends, happy hour, dance class, pottery class, hikes, ... but be very clear with each other - that what you have with her is not a relationship that's headed anywhere. Avoid getting too physical - respect her. Keep it clean. At least until you are ready to --date-- her properly."
Guy says, "okay... I can't afford to take a lady out right now anyways."
Net net of the story is, don't waste your time in either direction. Be upfront, truthful and honest with people. And... women, as awful as this may sound, we have a shelf life. Shelf life with regards to when we can have children, our youth, our beauty. It's not forever - so let's not take it for granted if you're a woman reading this. If you're a man, don't take your lady-friend for granted - treat her right or let her go. Opportunities are passing by. Time's a wasting.