I am in a graduate program more than 2,000 miles away from my family, friends and boyfriend. I have been terribly lonely here and very much want to make new friends. One problem I have stems from the fact that a large majority of my peers are male (about 80 percent). This is fine in general. I don't mind having men for friends. But once or twice now I've been asked by a male peer if I want to have lunch with him. This sounds nice -- and I'd like to get to know people and make friends. But I don't want it to seem like it's a date.
I am in a committed relationship and have no interest in dating other men. I don't see why two adults cannot have lunch or coffee together without its being a date, but I don't want to give someone the wrong impression. But if I come out and say -- sure, let's have lunch, but it's not a date -- then it makes me seem arrogant for assuming this person wants to go on a date with me. If I say nothing, and this person does intend for it to be a date, then I will come off as misleading once it becomes clear that I'm not interested. What should I do?
Lonely Grad Student
Dear Lonely Grad Student,
You should ask if it is a date. In entertaining the possibility that it might be a date, you aren't being arrogant, just intellectually curious.
However, I suggest that you wait until you are having lunch to ask if it is a date. There's no reason to find out ahead of time. You're not misleading the person. Lunch does not have to be a date. It might be a job offer or just a way to get to know someone else. You can say during lunch that you wanted to have lunch with the person and you enjoy the company. And then you might ask if it is a date.
The other person might want to know why you want to know if it is a date. Then you would tell the person that you are romantically attached to someone in another city.
I would think that two intelligent people trying to figure out if what they are on is a date might be sort of amusing, if you can both have a sense of humor about it. And if you both remember the "Seinfeld" episode in which Elaine tries to figure out if she's on a date or not, so much the better.
The man who has asked you to lunch will appreciate learning the truth -- that you are not available romantically. I think he will still be able to enjoy the lunch. And the net loneliness in your particular grad school will have been incrementally decreased.
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