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The Riddle of the Casual Lunch Date

I haven’t entered the workforce, and yet already I find my busy schedule narrowing my social circles. If I don’t live with them, share a class, or participate in an extra-curricular together, there is no guarantee that I will ever see friends on a regular basis. For my best friends, we overcome this through parties and general pre-planned nighttime activities, which is fine because we already know each other well and want to spend that time together. Yet that process cannot be used to meet new people – at best you will only have a few alcohol drenched shouted conversations with them at a party. How, then, do you truly get to know someone new?

My answer has always been to ask them to lunch. I eat lunch every day regardless of a companion, (reasonable to think they do too) which means we can both kill two birds with one stone and make our daily stuffing of faces a little more interesting. A lunch is just enough time to truly get a sense of each other without being strained, and you don’t have to shout to make yourself heard over the loud music that is so often present at  gatherings for my age group. Professionals use it all the time to fit meetings into busy schedules. It’s perfect, in my mind.

Yet what exactly does having lunch together mean? When I ask men who I want to know better to lunch, they are usually taken aback, but oblige after a few awkward laughs. Something about our society has impressed upon us that a social one-on-one lunch is by default a romantic encounter. To be sure, in my constantly running list of “people to have lunch with”, attractive females who I have a vested interest in get pushed to the top. But even they can’t make up their mind as to what exactly they are agreeing to.

I had a woman think I was gay, because I kept asking her to lunch “like a friend” and never to dinner “as a date”. I had a woman stand me up on the first date, despite giving me their number, finding the prospect of a lunch together “too creepy” upon later questioning, because the correct process in her mind was to try to tag along with her friends’ excursions. I’ve had women refuse lunches in favor of coffee, stating that the former was too much of a commitment. I even had a woman appear in my bedroom naked at a party, after only one lunch. And I coerced the woman who turned into my first serious girlfriend into a lunch date, the first of many. It is obvious, therefore, that the understanding of what exactly a one-on-one lunch entails varies wildly from person to person.

Yet what am I supposed to do to instead to get to know you? I find lunches to be casual, short but long enough to have a real conversation, and easily worked into your daily schedule. I don’t drink coffee, so I’m not going to ask you to coffee – plus then there’s nothing to fiddle with using your hands. Dinner is far harder to fit around evening schedules, and breakfast – forget it!

I try to go out of my way to flirt with the ones who are more than a friendly lunch, though if I have asked for your number, initiated the lunch request, and continue to text you I would think the conclusions are obvious. But I don’t find the lunch date alone to be indicative of sexual interest – it is but one part of the process, and a part that is doubles as a perfect tool for meeting interesting new people regardless of potential attraction.

Which brings me to another oddity – the women who I ask to lunch and immediately respond with “oh, I have a boyfriend”. This puts me in a difficult position. Let’s get one thing straight – if I ask you to lunch, it’s not based off looks alone. You think I’m going to sit there faking smiles and interest in your life just for a remote chance to get in your pants? If all you’ve got is looks, then it’s not worth the insipid conversation – maybe large chunks of the male population will put up with that, but I’m not pursuing you sober.

No, I ask interesting people to lunch – regardless of gender, and although it often is flirtation, it also means I think you’re worthy of at least a half hour of my life. Maybe you’re not, and in that case I’m not going to ask for a second date, but we’re not at that point yet, and nobody will know until you try.

How interesting you are doesn’t have any relation to whether or not you are single. But that rationale doesn’t go over so well with the ladies – they seem convinced that I’m trying to steal them away from the boyfriend. And I don’t like what that says about gender relations – that the only reason a man could ever want to spend time with a new women would be to sleep with her. I understand that sentiment is sadly all too common, but it’s not exclusive. By pulling out the boyfriend card and equating it with “no, I cannot have lunch with you”, you negate your entire personality, and worse still, are refusing to meet new people! I’d be perfectly happy with “Oh, I have a boyfriend, but as long as you’re okay with that I’d be fine with having a platonic lunch”, which I have received on occasion and which has led to several delightful interactions with women who I never would have met otherwise. But when you force me to say “Yes, well I’d still like to get to know you as a person” and then look at me with fear and discomfort in your eyes, I am disheartened far more than a clean rejection would have.

To paraphrase the matchmaking service, “It’s just lunch“! It’s just me trying to widen my social circle outside of a room soaked in beer and loud music, with 40 minutes (give or take) of your time doing an activity that you already do every day. And yes, oftentimes I am expressing a romantic interest, but if you don’t want to it to be that way just use your words like and adult and we can keep things platonic, jeez. Until that happens, I’m left ravaging a path through unwitting new peoples’ lunches, often leading to frustration on my part and confusion on theirs.

What does lunch mean to you? Is my quandary reasonable or ridiculous?

  • “I don’t drink coffee, so I’m not going to ask you to coffee – plus then there’s nothing to fiddle with using your hands.”

    You hold the coffee cup in your hands! More seriously, use your words. A lunch date can be a lower-commitment-than-dinner romantic encounter, or a friendly meeting — just specify which it is.

    • Misha

      More than likely, if the girl knows you well, and you have asked in a friendly, platonic way, you are getting rejected not because she doesn’t trust your intentions, but because her boyfriend doesn’t trust your intentions. She knows he might not even say anything, but will worry nevertheless. She’s just trying not to give her boyfriend anything to worry about unnecessarily, however unlikely anything might happen. Now, perhaps her boyfriend should start worrying less, but that’s a whole other question.

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  • Misha

    I often invite people to “coffee or tea” and get decaf tea myself every time. No one has ever made so much as a mention about my drink selection since both parties understand it’s just an excuse to hang out with little commitment.

  • prawda

    You shouldn’t be asking girls out for a lunch if you know that she has a boyfriend because you probably wouldn’t want your girlfriend to go out on a one to one lunch with her male “friend”. There is no friendship between a man and a woman exsisting and no man would want to invest his time on a woman whom he is not attracted to. There are plenty singles out there to hang out with and I don’t think there is a need to pick up ladies that are no longer singles. It’s not about stealing a girl away from her boyfriend but not choosing those kind of girls out of respect for that man whom she’s with as maybe for him it’s not okay for her to go out on lunches with bunches of guys here and there. Of course when it’s business meeting, then business rules apply. But casual lunches one-to-one with opposite sexes shouldn’t take place where one person is engaged in a relationship. To be honest I believe that for me it doesnt matter whether someone is or not in a relationship as one day you’re in and second you can be out. And that’s why a gentelman shouldn’t go for a casual lunch with not a single lady alone.

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